The Rose Cafe, the long-awaited project from chef Jason Neroni and restaurateur Bill Chait, is finally opening — or rather reopening — its Venice doors Tuesday for breakfast, lunch and quick service. They're pretty impressive doors, it should be said, which open through a giant painting of a rose and into a massive compound of a restaurant.
As you may remember, particularly if you live near the Rose Avenue location of the restaurant and feel strongly about the issue, the original Rose Cafe closed about eight months ago. Long both neighborhood hangout and local landmark — the original Rose Cafe opened in 1979 — the reboot of the restaurant, unsurprisingly, caused some backlash.
Also unsurprisingly, the new Rose Cafe is kind of stunning. Neroni, who is also chef at Catch & Release in Marina del Rey (and who has two pizzerias in New York City) and Chait (Bestia, Republique, Broken Spanish, Catch & Release and others) have assembled a team of cooks, bartenders, pastry chefs, bakers and managers that to properly recognize would make this sound like somebody's Oscar speech.
Two of the more important members of that team, at least for many in the neighborhood, are the original owners of the restaurant, Kamal Kapur and Manhar Patel, who are partners in the new project. "It's a major blooming of the Rose," said Kapur the other day, looking around the new space. Also returning are about two dozen staff members of the old cafe, and Neroni says that more have found jobs within Chait's Sprout L.A. company.
Also on the new team: Julian Cox and Nick Meyer, who are overseeing the bar program, and bar director Casey Irving; wine director Nathaniel Munoz (110 selections, about 2,500 bottles); and pastry chefs Jacob Fraijo, Christina Hanks and Katherine Benvenuti (who is also pastry chef at Catch & Release). There's also a big coffee bar, overseen by Ruth Valdez, which will have not only espresso drinks but Verve nitrogen-infused cold brew on tap.
That team is running a compound that will seat some 240 people throughout a main dining room; a beer garden patio; a bar that includes counter, standing room and communal seating; and another large outdoor patio.
"I've been working on this for two years," Neroni said recently, looking over all that space like a weary general, albeit one lightly dusted in pizza flour.
Neroni's menu features the market-driven food we've come to expect from him, and he's going all-out at the new restaurant, given its scope. The opening menu includes dishes that span breakfast, brunch and lunch: burrata beignets with candied tomato jam; Brussels sprouts with fried egg and kale pesto; polenta and sausage ragu with over-easy eggs; lamb schwarma pizza; fried oyster omelets with remoulade and Tabasco butter; bagels with smoked fish (both made in-house) with caviar cream cheese; and red quinoa with pumpkin seed guacamole and roasted vegetables. One could go on, as the breakfast and lunch menus are massive.
(Dinner will start the first week of December, and includes dishes such as: yakitori bone marrow with toast, fermented turnips and herb salad; a whole chicken with Little Gems and charred bread; and oxtail lasagna with ricotta, Castelvetrano olives and tomato butter. Again, one could go on.)
Neroni has been able to ratchet up his market-driven food, given what's inside that enormous open kitchen. "This is the mother ship," is how Neroni puts it. The Rose Cafe has some 42 offerings in the deli and pastry cases that greet you, more or less, when you walk in the doors. These cases, not unlike those at Republique, will flip to house cheeses and a raw bar at night. (The deli cases, by the way, are also a purposeful reminder of the old Rose Cafe, which was known both for having them and for the volume of food that went through them.)
Now for the kitchen geeks among us. The equipment in the open kitchen that's at the center of the restaurant was custom-designed by Anaheim-based Hestan for Neroni. There's also a Berkel for the charcuterie program (all made in-house except for one Kentucky-made prosciutto); a Texas-made J&R rotisserie grill (the wood is oak and almond); a large Italian-made wood-burning oven for pizza and other items; flattops that heat to 1,000 degrees; a massive steamer from Spain; a MIWE three-deck, self-proofing oven that's on wheels, just in case; a tilt skillet; a steam-injecting oven where Neroni can poach 300-400 eggs at a time; three walk-ins; two ice machines; a cold and hot smoker (that's actually outside); and some pasta-makers and other gadgets that Neroni probably forgot about in that surfeit of riches.
All of the above is jigsawed into a space that is about 5,000 square feet inside and 3,000 outside, which doesn't include the 50 parking spaces. And to decorate that space? Artist C.R. Stecyk, who used to come to the original Rose Cafe as a kid, has created an installation of his prints that date to the Dogtown days of the neighborhood. There's also a vegetable and herb garden. And, eventually a fire pit in that beer garden ("because you're in Venice," says Neroni).
If you're concered about you or your order getting lost in all this, Neroni and his team have thought of that. There are table trackers, gadgets that look kind of like too-big TV remotes, that will track you so that your servers can find you. These go on tracker mats, made from vintage Venice post cards. (Yes, we think this all sounds a lot like something from "Mockingjay," too, but that's a good thing.)
These match nicely with the neon-colored skateboard wheels in which your check will be presented. Because, again, you're in Venice. Welcome back.
The Rose Cafe, 220 Rose Ave., Venice, (310) 399-0711, rosecafevenice.com.
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