Rosie General Comes to Kingston's Rondout District | Restaurants | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Rosie General Comes to Kingston's Rondout District 

Bakery, Butchery, Deli, Grocery...And Soon a Raw Bar and a Bar Bar Under Michelin-Starred Chef Anthony Sasso

Last Updated: 09/28/2022 4:05 pm
click to enlarge DAVID MCINTYRE
  • David McIntyre

Behind the mullioned corner windows of a one-time antique store on Broadway in the Rondout, Kingston’s most decorated chef is hiding in plain sight, playing baker in a backwards corduroy ball cap at the newly opened Rosie General. The spot—part bakery, part Italian-meets-Jewish delicatessen, and part provisions market—opened this spring and is rapidly garnering attention.

Raised in nearby Glasco, the second-oldest of four, chef-baker-butcher Anthony Sasso studied at the Institute for Culinary Education (ICE) in Manhattan before taking off to travel the Iberian peninsula and apprentice under some of the most renowned chefs in Spain. Back in New York, he stuck to Spanish cuisine, and the precocious, determined, and personable Sasso rose quickly. He began at Bar Jamon, but is perhaps best known for leading its sister restaurant Casa Mono to a Michelin star during his tenure as chef de cuisine.

click to enlarge DAVID MCINTYRE
  • David McIntyre

Hit the Road Jack

Working within the same restaurant group, Sasso moved from Casa Mono to Mario Batali’s La Sirena Ristorante in 2018. But as the group faced a rocky PR patch in 2019, Sasso left New York for new horizons and a much-needed break from kitchen life. “The restaurant was open 12 to 12. It consumed every second of my life—mentally and physically,” he says. “I knew when I was ready I would seek another project. But all signs pointed toward California.”

Setting his sights on LA and the vast empire of Nancy Silverton (“the queen of Western cuisine”), Sasso bought his first car (a four-door jeep) and headed cross-country on an ambling culinary road trip. The journey, which he expected to take three weeks, stretched into five months as he stopped in almost 30 states. “I stopped to see every cook that ever left me,” Sasso says. “I slept on their couches and went to their favorite restaurants. When you cook for that long and you hire that much staff, you lose that much staff also. I also stopped at every roadside shop, grocery, firework stand, everything that you could think of on the side of the road. I did it all.” It was a new world of wide-open vistas, American landscapes, and sunsets, which Sasso hadn’t witnessed in over a decade, stuck night after night, as he was, in kitchens.

click to enlarge DAVID MCINTYRE
  • David McIntyre

Silverton wasn’t able to take Sasso on immediately, so he found a gig baking bread during the graveyard shift at artisanal bakery Gjusta in Venice. Night after night, he’d show up at 2am, the only English-speaker in a crew of Mexican bakers slugging coffee and blasting Oaxacan bachata, only to be assigned the hardest tasks. No one cared about his Michelin stars or New York Times write-ups. “Over there, the only thing that mattered was, ‘How good is he with his hands? Can he roll a bagel? Can he shape a baguette?’” Sasso says. “They wanted to see me fail. But they appreciated that I didn’t fail and kept coming back hungry to fit in with the team.”

Despite this trial by fire, Sasso remembers the kitchen culture in LA fondly. “The camaraderie and love is amazing,” he says. “Everyone is your homie. You give everyone a pound. Everyone has each other’s backs.” He appreciated the process and the relatively slower pace of making bread. “I thought, ‘Maybe I can turn this into something better than the torture of what kitchens can be—the self-abuse you put yourself through,’” he recalls. “I just wanted to use good ingredients, not mess with too much. The Hudson Valley is the Napa of New York, and my parents have so much good will here. It made sense to come back home and look around. Then I realized Kingston was a booming town.”

Landing back in Ulster County in February 2020, Sasso looked at photo studios, auto body shops, and gas stations, searching for a home for his next project. He eventually found what he was looking for in the spacious corner storefront at the intersection of Broadway and Abeel Street that used to house Skillypot Antiques (the sign is still out front).

“After every friend and rich person I know said no, I realized pretty quickly that it was going to just be me,” Sasso says. He poured all his savings into the renovation, aided in construction by his contractor father and his sisters’ husbands. The historic tin ceilings are still intact, as are the original wood floors, except in the kitchen where he had to install tile. (The wood taken up was repurposed to make the banquettes, which sport red corduroy cushions that match Sasso’s ball cap.)

The Food

Rosie General, named for Sasso’s mom and staffed by him and his three sisters Andrea, Nicole, and Ashley, opened quietly on May 5. The sign reads “Bakery, Butchery, Pickles, Pie.” “[The Rondout] has always been self-contained. People never made it up the hill. This whole place was meant to fill a void of what the neighborhood was missing,” Sasso says. “We built a grocery store and stocked eggs and sliced bacon. We brought in fresh produce.” Nicole, an ICE-trained pastry chef, handles the sweet side of things, while Andrea does everything from espresso bar to checkout to cleaning. For the time being, Sasso is the only one in the kitchen, though he is hiring for every position.

Fresh baked breads include sourdough, baguettes, focaccia rossa, caraway rye, and walnut fig. But that’s not all the ovens turn out: there’s also bagels, pastries, pies, and fudge by the pound. Sasso calls the food menu a “greatest hits of his life growing up in the area.” The breakfast choices span classics from a bacon, egg, and cheese to an egg and chorizo burrito (an LA favorite of Sasso’s), while lunchtime picks include hearty offerings like the mortadella served with ricotta, pistachio, cherry bomb pepper, and Kingston honey on semolina hero bread. The turkey, a fast favorite with regulars, is served with baby greens, white onion, black pepper mayo, avocado ( a nod to his time in California), and deli vin on semolina hero. There are also soups and salads. Sasso, trained in whole-animal butchering by Josh Applestone of Fleischer’s, will be building out the meat case. He already smokes his own bacon, trout, and pastrami for Rosie.

At least for the time being, with only Sasso on the line, Rosie doesn’t do substitutions, so order carefully. “Just realize weeks and months and hours and days have gone into everything to get it to the table,” Sasso says. “If that is rushed, you’re losing the whole philosophy. I ran away from that life. Sit down, have a coffee, take in the scene. Hopefully people realize restaurant people are real people, putting extra love and effort and time. I’m even handwriting every sign. All our bottles are hand-closed, all our jars are boiled and hand-sealed.”

Raw Bar Ahead

Turning a gutted antique store into an up-to-code professional kitchen was no small feat. Sasso and his crew of family members had to add grease traps, hoods, ovens and grills, restrooms, and handicap access. The space has the cozy worn in look of a place that’s been around forever. The long marble bar is silhouetted by handpainted Hungarian floor tiles. Motifs, materials, and color palettes thoughtfully repeat throughout.

And as much attention is given to packaging as to the interior. Brown Boston medicine bottles and craft paper packaging give the grocery section an old-school feel. In addition to drinks and provisions, Rosie sells house-made granola, pickles and kraut, fermented hot sauces, house-cured mustard, salted lemon preserves, giardiniera, and other deli staples.

“I wanted to open the grocery store my parents would’ve gone to when they were 12, 13,” says Sasso. “Music selection, vibes, lighting, seating, everything is written on cardboard. It’s the kind of place where you would've come in and gotten whatever you wanted and at the end of the week your parents would come in and pay the tab.”

There are puzzles, chips, and Ziploc bags of goldfish below the counter at kid-eye-level; dog treats for pets, which are welcome in the shop; sweet treats for all ages; and soon beer and wine, both for to-go sales and for on-premise consumption. “By September, we’ll start with Happy Hour,” Sasso says. “It’ll be a bakery till 5, but from 3 or 4 o’clock on, oysters on the half shell and cocktails.” The beer and wine lists will be small, curated, and mostly New York State-based, with selections from the Finger Lakes and Long Island.

The final stops of his road trip in coastal New England towns stuck strongly in Sasso’s mind and he wants to bring that vibe and menu to Rosie as he builds out the raw bar and dinner menu later this year. “We’re not coastal, but next to the Hudson River there are things we can play with and be marine-adjacent,” Sasso says. “Sustainable fish and seafood and mackerel. I’m not scared of making people less scared of food—pig’s ears and tripe and razor clams. I can spoon-feed people those things and let them fall in love.”

The interior of Rosie General has seating for 49, and they’ll add another 10 to 12 spots outdoors. “We know the water we want to tread and have been treading,” Sasso says. “We want to stay at low tide for as long as we can.” It’ll take some more staff for Rosie to hit cruising altitude, but Sasso is nothing if not seasoned in maneuvering a bustling kitchen. As for expansion in this era of franchising anything that smacks of authenticity, Sasso says that is unequivocally off the table.

click to enlarge DAVID MCINTYRE
  • David McIntyre

“There is not going to be a Rosie Part 2. No Rosie Rosendale, as perfect as that sounds, no Warren Street Rosie,” Sasso says. “Rosie is a product of Kingston because we are a product of Kingston. Whatever happens in these four walls, even if it crumbles, well, that is the way we want it to happen. It’s one of a kind.”

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