Since their restaurant Cómodo closed two years ago following a rent hike, husband-and-wife duo Felipe Donnelly and Tamy Rofe had been reticent about stretching themselves beyond the confines of their beloved Fort Greene restaurant, Colonia Verde, and an accompanying catering business. That is, until they saw National Sawdust, the nonprofit Williamsburg performance venue.
“We took a tour, and it’s like you’re walking into another dimension, walking into a scene from Space Odyssey,” Rofe says. “We were completely moved.”
The National Sawdust team asked if they would consider opening a restaurant to replace the late eatery Rider, but Rofe and Donnelly suggested a bar instead — dubbed Cosmico and opening today — with small plates, natural wines, and a cocktail menu centered on mezcal.
“We thought the show should be the music,” Rofe says. “And that’s perfect for Felipe and me because we’ve always been about how food takes you somewhere else.”
For the most part, diners will find themselves in Spain snacking on sardine-fennel toast with slow-cooked garlic and oil-packed fish fillets. There are layovers in Japan in the form of a raw-salmon tostada with a smoky smear of habanero-and-onion-ash mayo, topped with mint-and-lemon kosho, a citrusy chili paste; beef carpaccio, meanwhile, features watercress, capers, Parm, and lemon zest. (The food prices top out at $15.)
“The menu had to be small; it had to be quick,” Donnelly says of the approach here as compared with a full-scale restaurant. “And the dishes had to be something we could turn around in less than five minutes.”
The cocktail program is equally streamlined: mezcal, and lots of it. The Lunatico features tequila, mezcal, and serrano pepper, plus cooling hints of lime and cucumber; the Cassiopeia is a gin-mezcal number mixed with pink-peppercorn syrup and garnished with basil and lime; and the Red Rising features chile-infused tequila, Campari, pacharán (an herbaceous Spanish liqueur), and, you guessed it, mezcal.
“We’ve always been intrigued by that intersection between music and food and wine and what can happen when they come together,” Rofe says, mentioning that many of the natural winemakers they’re working with are former musicians themselves. “This is a continuation of what we’ve been trying to foster at Colonia Verde.”