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.
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.
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).
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.”
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.”).
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.