Rosa Ristorante opened in on St. Rose just last month and brought some classic elements of its Brooklyn, New York roots and touches of vintage Vegas. Chef Robert Moore’s vision for the restaurant is evident in the design (including the art from the local mother-daughter team Doris Paessler Martinez and Cerissa Lopez) and the menu. We talked with Chef about the space, the menu of Italian classics and everything in between.
Inside Rosa Ristorante With Chef Robert Moore
What personal touches are you bringing to the space at Rosa Ristorante?
Moore: I was given a pretty blank canvas and a big paintbrush to create what I felt was right. I had an idea of the food I wanted to do and the feel I wanted to have. I definitely wanted it to be very comfortable, well, the things I felt comfortable being surrounded with; elements from my childhood, the fond memories of times with family and new memories of cooking for friends at my house, grabbing fresh produce from my garden and just having fun with it.
I miss having the big stainless steel table in the kitchen where I’d invite friends back and feed them little bites while they run to the service bar and get whatever they wanted to drink. They would run over to the broiler and pick the steak they wanted. The cooks loved it. They got to see the show, the madness of what we do on a daily basis. Super casual.
We got to pull back the curtain and show them what it takes. For them, it was awe-inspiring. It wasn’t something we were trying to provide but something that organically happened. Those are the dinners they remember eating. How do I do that here? We built a chef’s counter. It’s not the same, but it could be. We shall see, but it’s what’s important to me.
Are there any particular recipes that hold a special place in your heart (and on your plate)?
Moore: There aren’t any particular recipes that I hold dear, but memories from time with the family. It started with Grandma preparing the sauce in the morning. She would fold that foil square and put it on the stovetop.
She used it to diffuse heat; to me, it was the start of a day of stealing food. I thought I was sneakily snagging some sliced mozzarella from the plate on the counter, but grandma left it there for me knowing it made me happy, and she had fun chasing me away from it.
The simmering pot of tomato sauce on the stove meant hours of me grabbing wonder bread and dipping it in because it was so good. Gently placing meatballs into the pot, cutting the hot sausage small and the sweet bigger so we knew which one we were grabbing. I would stare at it simmering for hours, developing the flavors.
Watching her expertly make the antipasto salad. Every part of the salad had an equal amount of merchandise. She would layer all of the meats and olives, peppers, and pepperoncini. More mozzarella and provolone, herbs, sprinkles of red wine vinegar, and olive oil. A pair of what we called scissor tongs were used to serve the salad.
You had one opportunity to get everything in that pinch before you passed it on to your next family member. Macaroni and gravy, lasagna, then the 2-hour break where we would go watch football and a nap before we went back to the table for the main course. These are the things I remember. The food was always good, but the tradition was what it was all about.
Obviously, Las Vegas has so many different types of dining experiences, from the outrageous to the cozy “home-cooked” meal. What dining experience would you like your diners to enjoy at Rosa Ristorante?
Moore: My only goal at Rosa is to have fun. That’s what I want our guests to do as well. If we aren’t having fun, what’s the point? We are practicing casual elevated service. Everyone in this world is trying to one-up each other on social media. It is out of control.
We are going back to the basics. As David says, which are you most likely to repost 1-5 years from now? The picture of the food that you ate or that group shot of smiling friends and/or family that you were with? We want smiling faces.
What are your favorite items on the menu?
Moore: I’ve spent the last two years making pizza at home, lots of it. During quarantine, I made pizza every day, and when the world started opening back up, I spent two weeks with my culinary director from Jean-Georges, Greg Brainin, face timing, texting pictures, and cyber correcting his pizza dough recipe.
It was a master class, and I was having fun again. I never made pizzas professionally, but we are going to try it out here. So far, I am mostly pleased with the results, but we are getting better every day.
Can you tell us a bit about your beverage program and which drinks would best complement your favorite menu items?
Moore: Our cocktail program is great. David has worked really hard on doing the things he’s always wanted to do. I saw the twinkle in his eyes. The fun he was having being unrestricted in what was possible. We talked about the things we like to drink. There wasn’t an idea that was off the table. It’s fun, just like everything else we want to do here. Nothing is groundbreaking, but we are just trying to do things well and share that with others.
One thing I am passionate about is amaros. It is one of our focuses. Another area where we can share our love of something that not many seem to know about. I was fortunate to have started my experience with an expert. We would go to Singapore with the Jean-Georges team every year to work at the F-1 race.
My favorite part about the trip was having everyone sit at the long table on the Wednesday before the race and enjoy food family style. At the end of the meal, their beverage director would bust out all of the amaros he would find around the world. It was fun, exciting, and something I looked forward to year after year. I learned a while ago he is here in Las Vegas, and I was continuing the experience without knowing it.
I am very fortunate to have a few strip pros join the opening team. Tommy and I worked together at Aria years ago. I asked him for one of my all-time favorite cocktail recipes, the Midtown Manhattan. He said, how about I move back to Vegas and make it for you.
Chris was with me at Bellagio and was supposed to move out of town. He retired from the bartending world and thought he would be happy doing other things. He saw what we were doing here and what we were striving for and wanted to be a part of the team. We couldn’t be luckier to have them.
Are there any plans for a second Rosa Ristorante?
Moore: My focus right now is on making Rosa everything it is supposed to be, a neighborhood restaurant with a fun atmosphere. We definitely have plans for growth. I opened Rosa in 4 and a half months. It was an unbelievable collaboration amongst many different people to accomplish it. The outpouring of support from friends and colleagues at every point was overwhelming.
So many people wanted to help and take this journey with me. I honestly didn’t think so many people cared that deeply about me. The short answer is that we opened a hospitality group, not a restaurant. The core of the group is David Oseas, Andy Gomez and myself. We can’t wait to show you what we are up to next. Stay tuned.