Joe Flamm didn’t want to open another Italian restaurant. The former Spiaggia chef learned much as executive chef at the Michelin-starred restaurant overlooking the Magnificent Mile along side mentor Tony Mantuano. But for his first solo restaurant, Flamm wanted to carve out his own destiny, and his wife provided the inspiration.
Rose Mary, which opens today in Fulton Market, is one of Chicago’s most anticipated restaurant openings. Restaurant delays are normal, but COVID-19 pushed Rose Mary’s opening date back several times. At one point it was scheduled for April Fools Day. Flamm would say the joke was on him after the latest delay.
While Flamm’s 130-seat restaurant will serve fresh pastas, as a clear connector to experience with Italian food at Spiaggia, Flamm’s wife — Hillary — introduced her husband to Croatian culture. Croatians have a long history in Chicago — the most famous might be Toni Kukoc, a lanky Chicago Bulls stretch forward who starred with Michael Jordan in the ‘90s winning three NBA championships. But despite those civic roots, Flamm was a rookie when it came to dishes like items made in a peka, a metal baking dish with a bell-shaped lid. This is the path for Flamm to introduce Chicago to dishes including a “peka style” baby octopus. After visits to Europe and research, Flamm is ready, and after initially marketing the restaurant as an “Italian-Croatian” mash up, Rose Mary has refined that label to “Adriatic cuisine.”
Croatians have also augmented Chicago’s long history of sausage making. Balkan-style cevapi is a popular summer treat around the city, and at Rose Mary. The meat goes well with a crisp lager — Flamm has pursued Croatian beers to pair with his menu. The risotto section is also of note. For those excited to forage for seasonal crops, the opening menu features a ramp risotto with trumpet mushrooms. Flamm also explores the traditional Croatian side with a tribute to the small riverside town of Skradin. The Skradin risotto features veal, parmesan, chicken thigh, and tomato.
A patio should open in May. Flamm, who gained a nationwide following after Top Chef crowned him a champion in 2018, is teaming up with the owners of BLVD Steakhouse. This is Sancerre Hospitality’s second Fulton Market restaurant.
Look at the menu and look through the space below. Reservations have been a hot commodity; the next available booking is June 1.