NEW CANAAN, Conn. -- American comfort food and a homey decor are hallmarks of a New Canaan eatery Rosie Bonura opened in 2004 after surviving breast cancer.
You might call it her "dream cafe," given the fact that the self-taught chef and caterer had always wanted to open a restaurant and went ahead with the plan after making a deal with God.
"I was working as a private chef for a family, and in the back of my head was I want to open a restaurant,” said the Brooklyn native, a Stamford resident.
“When I had the cancer, I said, ‘OK. This is my deal, God. If I survive this. I will do it.’”
"I should of wished for a pony," she continued jokingly, telling the highlights of her seven-day-a-week restaurant and catering business.
Interstingly, the ecelectic chef did not attend culinary school. Rather, she worked for the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens as sous chef, among jobs, and even spent a year in India, on a houseboat in Kashmir, learning the principles of Indian food and how cook curries.
"My parents are Sicilian, so when I started fully thinking about having my own restaurant, I really thought I was going to make it Italian. But my staff is from Guatemala, and most have been with me since we opened. One day they were making tacos for their own lunch. I said, 'What is that? They said, 'What? You never had a taco.' I said, 'not like that,'" she enthused.
Soon Bonura began to incorporate ethnic foods into her menu. "We started to delve into what their delicious home-cooked food was. Being from Brooklyn, it was very important to me to cook ethnic, comfort food and that's what I wanted this to be," she said.
The decor reflects a similar sensibility, Bonura noted.
A lamp from Morocco, large glass balls for Christmas, large cushions, and sheepskin rugs on benches pick up on the theme that going to Rosie's is a "homey and cozy" experience.
Rosie's serves breakfast and lunch every day and closes at 4 p.m. That's when the staff carries on with the second part of the business, which is catering, Bonura said.
Among previous jobs, she worked as sous chef at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens.
"I'm here most days from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m."
The Stamford resident likes downtown New Canaan.
"I love it. This is a very community centered place so we can see the same people every day. And on weekend we have lots and lost of tourists. It's a really sweet town."
In India, Bonura said she developed her "taste and passion" for cooking. "It comes from your heart. Not to bash cooking school, but it's a sterile kind of way of cooking. The idea of measuring and recipes. It's not that way for me."
Menu highlights include the huevos rancheros, pulled pork barbecue, fish taco, the Rosieburger, French fries, soups, grilled panini and decorated cupcakes.
Rosie New Canaan is at 27 Elm St. Click here for its website.