The Rapidian Home

Italian restaurant pushes to spring grand opening

Osteria Rossa's owner Chef Chris Perkey discusses rustic Italian fare, farm-to-table systems and accommodating dietary restrictions.
Temporary signage for Osteria Rossa is in place through construction.

Temporary signage for Osteria Rossa is in place through construction. /Hayley Grzych

Underwriting support from:

Where to find Osteria Rossa:

16 Monroe Center NE

Grand Rapids, MI 49503


Follow them on Facebook

Plans for a locally-sourced, largely gluten-free menu have been building for Osteria Rossa. The restaurant, situated on Monument Park at the central corners of the city on Fulton and Division, will showcase rustic Italian fare.

Each month will focus on a specific region of Italy. The series begins with Umbria, home to Grand Rapids’ sister city Perugia. Highlighting Umbrian wines and featuring a Thursday night family style dinner, Perkey is using regional themes, he says, to create a sense of enjoyment as well as education.

“It’s not just one style of Italian food, it’s in the spirit of Italy,” explains Perkey. “If you took an Italian family and transplanted them to Grand Rapids, how would they cook? They’d find someone to raise their lettuce, basil, tomatoes, pigs and cows, and then they would cook that in an Italian way in a wood-burning oven.”

Perkey’s training in Italian fare, including careers at both Spiaggia and Spago in Chicago, has thrived with the local farming resources of Grand Rapids.

“Italian is about the ingredient. Let’s taste it and figure out what the best thing to do with it right now would be,” says Perkey. A strong believer in local food systems, Perkey has seen incredible growth and cooperation with local farms in his 15 years working in the area.

Perkey praises the communication between chefs and farmers, the ability to sustain year-round harvests and experimenting with new crops.

“[Classic Italian food] fits with farm-to-table so nicely. It’s always the best ingredient first,” says Perkey. In addition to getting his regular meat supplies locally, he's been in contact with farms willing to look into specialty meats such as Berkshire pork and even duck.

“Where we’ve been is that locally grown is for your specials. It should just be run of the mill,” says Perkey. He hopes to eventually source all his ingredients locally.

“We need the farmers who are going to grow the onions for us, the carrots, the non-romantic, the not beautiful food, the workhorse food,” says Perkey. Reducing dependence on mass distributors is one of Perkey’s goals and he says he’s getting there.

“Frankly, the happiest day in my life would be when you don’t have to put ‘locally grown’ on your menus. That would be assumed,” says Perkey.

With increasing demand for vegan and gluten-free menu options, Osteria Rossa is working hard to accommodate all dietary restrictions.

“Vegan is not a problem because the Italians really do focus on the vegetables,” says the chef. Creating quality gluten-free pizzas and pastas has presented more of a challenge. Perkey says he has been able to meet the challenge and is looking forward to showcasing these items. With the exception of glutenous standard pizza, pasta and bread, Perkey says the rest of the menu will be gluten-free by default.

Opening for Osteria Rossa is planned for early March. All set menu items will be priced under $20 though featured specials may be higher.

Visit Osteria Rossa's website and Facebook page to follow updates on the construction and opening.

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.