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Restaurant Visit: A Secret Roof Garden at Rosemary’s in Greenwich Village

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Restaurant Visit: A Secret Roof Garden at Rosemary’s in Greenwich Village

May 15, 2017

Walking into Rosemary’s restaurant in Greenwich Village, you would never guess there’s an edible garden overhead. But head to the back of the room to climb the metal staircase—and you will discover the source of many of the fresh herbs and seasonal vegetables on the rustic-Italian menu, including the lemon balm for that fizzy cocktail you’re eyeing (go on, order it).

Read on for a look at the restaurant’s secret garden, created by owner Carlos Suarez and designed by architecture firm ABA Studio.

Photography courtesy of Rosemary’s.

Suarez drew inspiration from Brooklyn Grange to design the \1,000-square-foot rooftop garden in \20\1\2. When he purchased the one-story building, it was an abandoned space that had suffered fire damage and required a serious remodel.
Above: Suarez drew inspiration from Brooklyn Grange to design the 1,000-square-foot rooftop garden in 2012. When he purchased the one-story building, it was an abandoned space that had suffered fire damage and required a serious remodel.

The original structure’s exterior brick wall and timber joists were salvageable, but the interior and rooftop needed to be rebuilt, providing an opportunity to lay a foundation engineered to support the weight of soil and gravel.

Rosemary’s is named after owner Suarez’s mother, and is inspired by her home and personal garden in Lucca, Tuscany.
Above: Rosemary’s is named after owner Suarez’s mother, and is inspired by her home and personal garden in Lucca, Tuscany.
Executive Chef Wade Moises (formerly at Babbo, Lupa, and Eataly) and his wife tend the garden, making use of a small storage and planting area off to one side, behind a trellis wall.
Above: Executive Chef Wade Moises (formerly at Babbo, Lupa, and Eataly) and his wife tend the garden, making use of a small storage and planting area off to one side, behind a trellis wall.

All gardening is done by hand. “We love the garden, and we love how it affects what we cook. While it’s too small to feed every single person who comes into the restaurant,” says Moises,  “it’s a projection of the care we put into our restaurant.” Rosemary’s also has a farm upstate, a source of additional produce (greenmarket partners also supply vegetables and herbs year-round).

In the garden, Moises grows herbs including basil (as shown), garlic, arugula, radishes, several types of beans, edible flowers, and smaller fare like snow and snap peas.
Above: In the garden, Moises grows herbs including basil (as shown), garlic, arugula, radishes, several types of beans, edible flowers, and smaller fare like snow and snap peas.

The spatial and temporal limitations of growing a garden on a New York City rooftop encourage constant experimentation. This year will be a first for growing such jewel-sized produce as micro carrots and turnips.

“Full-sized carrots and turnips grow too slowly, so we decided we can get a better yield out of really small ones,” says Moises. “When you harvest green beans at a tiny size, maybe two inches long and barely an eighth of an inch thick, they have a sugary sweetness to them that you can’t really buy anywhere.”

Heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil.
Above: Heirloom tomatoes with fresh basil.

Downstairs in the restaurant, Moises serves seasonal Italian dishes to highlight the produce grown up top. Rosemary’s makes daily use of its rooftop garden for a variety of fresh herbs, including mint, sage, thyme, oregano, marjoram, lovage, parsley, and, of course, rosemary (“Although,” says Moises, “ironically, rosemary is the one thing we have a hard time keeping alive.”).

The rooftop garden has a sunny southern exposure and fortunately the surrounding buildings don&#8\2\17;t loom over it or cast shade.
Above: The rooftop garden has a sunny southern exposure and fortunately the surrounding buildings don’t loom over it or cast shade.

Restaurant guests are invited to visit the rooftop and make use of the benches lining the greenery to enjoy the garden’s excellent sunlight, or at night, Rear Window-quality views into neighboring Greenwich Village life.

For more of our favorite New York restaurant gardens, see An Innovative Micro Farm at Olmsted in Brooklyn and Kings County Imperial: A Brooklyn Restaurant’s Heirloom Chinese Vegetable Garden.

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