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This Houston Restaurant Fires Comfort Food with a Southern European Twist

Houston Restaurant Rosie Cannonball Dishes Southern European Comfort Food

Felipe Riccio, partner at Houston’s Goodnight Hospitality.

Felipe Riccio, a native of Houston via Veracruz, came to the hospitality business naturally. His parents were hospitality professionals, and when following in his grandfather’s footsteps as a lawyer didn’t pan out (according to Riccio, the lectures were boring), he turned to the next dream on his list: owning a restaurant.

Despite qualifying for a scholarship with the prestigious Culinary Institute of America, Riccio opted to attend the culinary arts program at Houston Community College and gained experience in kitchens at progressive Houston area restaurants. After college, Riccio opened Camerata at Paulie’s, an Italian wine bar in Houston, and became a certified sommelier via the Court of Master Sommeliers before embarking on a European sabbatical that would inspire the concept for his new restaurant, Rosie Cannonball.

During his three-year sojourn in Italy while his wife completed her degree, Riccio staged at some of Europe’s buzziest Michelin-star restaurants, including Osteria Francescana, Erba Brusca, and Belcanto. After his return to Texas in 2017, he became partner at Goodnight Hospitality, transitioning from the kitchen full-time to overseeing every aspect of Rosie Cannonball’s opening in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood, an area known for its contemporary, eclectic scene.

The core concepts behind Rosie Cannonball are the wood-burning oven and grill, and comfort food with a southern European twist. To set the mood, the eighty-five seat restaurant marries warm lighting with classic mid-century design elements such as glass, wood, marble, and rattan. By reworking the original seating partitions, Riccio created a sweeping panoramic view of the restaurant from the kitchen, which sits adjacent to the bar—a throwback to 60s Italian design with warm, dark tones.

Because pizza is a quintessential comfort staple on the restaurant’s menu, Riccio knew using high-quality cheese from a local producer was a necessity. Fortuitously, at the weekend farmers’ market in Houston, Riccio met Andrea Cudin: a Friuli, Italy, native and founder of Lira Rossa Creamery. Since 2016, Cudin has been crafting authentic Italian-style cheeses with the freshest milk possible from the milk parlor next door, Four E Dairy. After trying Cudin’s mozzarella, Riccio returned to the market repeatedly to taste Lira Rossa’s other cheeses and chat with Cudin. Between visits to the farmers’ market and the creamery (almost a two-hour drive away), the Rosie Cannonball team tested pizzas and perfected their recipes with Cudin’s expertise.

Cudin explained, “They were tweaking the dough and the amount of mozzarella that worked best together. And then they worked on a blend of cheese (mozzarella, latteria, and caciotta) that eventually turned into the Lira Rossa Three Cheese pizza.” At Riccio’s request, Lira Rossa began producing black pepper caciotta, a cheese that became one of Lira Rossa’s bestsellers. Cudin said he also makes a black pepper latteria exclusively for Rosie Cannonball’s Cacio e Pepe pizza base.

A key feature of the restaurant is its wood-burning pizza oven.

A customer favorite is the Focaccia di Recco, a warm flatbread studded with mortadella and robiola. According to Cudin, the flatbread traditionally calls for stracchino, but Riccio felt it was too runny. Instead, the restaurant makes its version with robiola, a firmer cheese with a similar flavor.

In addition to pizzas and four varieties of pasta, dishes range from cumin-spiced veggies to a protein-rich NY Strip Fiorentina entree. For those seeking indulgence, there is a caviar service with preserved lemon egg yolk, shallot caper relish, crème fraîche, and Rosie’s pizza dough. The extensive wine list showcases global offerings but specializes in European varietals.

Riccio says that a love of good hospitality is at the heart of Rosie Cannonball. “I love food. I love cooking, but it’s more important to give people what they came for, whatever that is. It can be a glass of wine, a cocktail, or a specialty cheese pizza, anything. It’s in the name: Goodnight Hospitality.”

Foccacia di Recco

This beloved Italian flatbread incorporates layers of mortadella and creamy, tangy robiola for a chewy pre-dinner treat.
Servings 8 people


  • 3/4 cup of olive oil divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of salt
  • 2 3/4 cups of bread flour
  • 4 1/2 ounces robiola roughly half a wheel
  • 2 ounces mortadella about 4 slices
  • 1 teaspoon Maldon salt to garnish


  • Combine 13⁄4 cups water and 1⁄2 cup olive oil in a stand mixer with dough hook attachment. Whisk in salt. Add bread flour and mix for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • When dough is pliable (stretches without breaking), remove from mixer and wrap in cling wrap. Place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 1 hour.
  • Heat oven to 450°F.
  • Once proofed, split the dough in half. Using a rolling pin, roll out each portion of dough until it is almost translucent.
  • Lightly oil a 10-inch metal pizza pan. Stretch half of dough over the pan, folding the sides over the edge pan edge so the dough doesn’t shrink.
  • Break the robiola into 1-inch pieces and evenly spread on dough. Thinly layer mortadella on top. Place the other half of dough on top of the mortadella layer. Press and pinch the dough layers to seal them, then trim off the excess.
  • Poke a few holes in the top layer of dough so steam can escape. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and season with Maldon salt.
  • Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden brown.

Penny Sadler

Penny Sadler is a travel, wine, and food writer based in Dallas, Texas. After multiple trips to wine country in California and the Old World, she studied with Wine and Spirits Education Trust. Since wine loves cheese, Penny began sharing stories of cheesemakers and mongers she met in her travels (Chef ’s Dish, p. 19). She’s currently honing her caseiculture knowledge at Cheese State University, and you can follow her on Instagram @adventuresofacarryon.

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