If you’re in search of the perfect restaurant for Homecoming dinner, the sophisticated ambiance and familiar, yet modern menu of the Rosebud make it an obvious choice. But despite the appeal, some poorly-executed dishes and innovation hold it back from being that magical meal you were hoping for.
A HOMECOMING HOTSPOT?
With classes back in person and football games once again drawing their usual crowds, many students are eagerly anticipating the fall’s most awaited night: Homecoming. Between the late-night dancing and that classic coming-of-age experience, students planning their perfect night have a lot to consider. While dress-shopping or party-prep might top that list for many, it’s time to turn the attention onto something which can make your night even more magical: the food.
Tired of the overdone Olive Garden or Biaggi dinner dates, Rosebud Italian Specialties & Pizzeria, located in the heart of downtown Naperville, may be a pleasant change of pace for some looking for a traditional Italian meal. A few steps past the entryway reveal an intimate dining set up with the hardwood furniture cast in a warm hue from the chandelier overhead. Between the white tablecloths and buzzing chatter of hushed conversations, it’s that upscale yet casual Italian charm Rosebud so effortlessly captures.
Aiming to serve a revitalized, modern take on the classics—everything from artisanal pizzas to housemade cannoli—you’ll find their menu offering a smorgasbord of options, many familiar-sounding. From the handcrafted menu items to the timeless ambiance, Rosebud sets the expectations for a satisfying meal early on.
Do they live up to them? Depends on who you ask.
A MIXED MENU OF A MEAL
The first dish presented before us is their stuffed mushroom appetizer—oven-roasted mushrooms stuffed with a garlicky breadcrumb filling and poached in a delicate lemon-butter glaze. The presentation lacks a sense of composition, with the mushrooms placed with no real purpose about the plate, though the silky sheen of the sauce and golden brown crust are quite inviting. The texture of the mushroom is, put bluntly, what really elevates this dish to the level of satisfaction it evokes. Between the succulent, tender mouthfeel that offers just the right amount of chewiness and the smoky undertones, it’s the perfect segue into the filling and sauce.
The filling itself is a somewhat ambiguous mixture of what appears to be garlic, breadcrumbs, and cheese. There’s a lovely briny, salty flavor that cuts right through the fattiness of the mushroom and offers a welcome contrast to those deeper, caramelized notes — and albeit a bit mushy, not a major point of concern. Paired with the lemon sauce which offers a break in color from an otherwise achromatic plate and breathes freshness into what could be a heavy dish, the combination is nothing short of heavenly. For such an unassuming appetizer, it’s a bold, fresh, and flavorful plate to share and kick off the night.
No meal at Rosebud would be complete without an artisanal pizza fresh from their in-house brick oven. Their eagerly-awaited margherita pizza comes out looking extremely promising between the rosy reds of the tomatoes and vibrant greens of the basil. Upon taking a few bites, the lack of seasoning is just one of many poorly executed elements of this dish that make it fall short of that textbook pie you may be for.
Compared to the perfectly melted and browned mozzarella, the raw tomatoes create an unusual hot-cold dynamic. If you don’t like biting into a large piece of tomato, it’ll likely feel like they were added to the pizza without any consideration or thought. The crust also appears to be very doughy and undercooked, lacking that satisfying crunch and instead offers a tough mouthfeel. The cheese and basil are perhaps the only redeeming elements, offering an herbaceous aroma and richness. If you don’t look at it too critically, the pizza probably isn’t that bad—maybe good even. Especially if you’re coming in a big group, it’ll take effort to really notice these smaller shortcomings, but they exist nonetheless.
The gnocchi bolognese shared a lot of the same flaws, with a chewy texture that just coagulates in your mouth as opposed to offering a delicate, pillowy mouthfeel. The sauce lacks the dimension or elegance warranted by its price, amounting to not much more than a plate reminiscent of a school cafeteria.
Though the modern flair and charm of Rosebud are undeniable, some dishes—like the pizza—miss the mark with unthoughtful composition and messy execution. As much as you may want to love their dishes, you might find yourself searching for redeeming qualities. You would be better off venturing to nearby Francesca’s or Lou Malnati’s for more consistent quality, cheaper prices, and similar menus.
Despite the missed opportunities, Rosebud manages to end the night on a sweet note with their cannoli, a light, crisp pastry stuffed with whipped ricotta and served with pistachios and strawberries. Between the chocolate-caramel drizzle and vibrant colors, the dessert had the perfect sweetness, just enough to balance the ricotta’s saltiness without feeling oversaturated. The pistachio crumble and crispy shell brought a new element of texture which–paired with the fluffy filling and juicy strawberries–made for a refined take on the staple, one which speaks to Rosebud’s high potential for skill and precision.
Rosebud offers a classic Italian feel with an intimate ambiance and high-quality dining fit for that perfect Homecoming dinner. But factor in the underwhelming entrees and proximity to restaurants offering a better culinary experience, and Rosebud’s timeless charm ultimately doesn’t make up for an underwhelming night.
Rosebud is located at 22 E Chicago Ave in Naperville. Learn more by calling 630-548-9800 or by visiting https://rosebudrestaurants.com.
Aryav Bothra is a food critic for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl