Critic's Notebook: Crafty Cocktails at Katie's Pizza & Pasta
Considering all of the hype that surrounds Katie's Pizza & Pasta (9568 Manchester Road, Rock Hill; 314-942-6555), I expected to be blown away, but I left a little underwhelmed by the food (read my review here). The cocktails, however, were a different story. These days, a creative cocktail program is standard at hip bars in the Grove or on Cherokee Street, but it's a pleasant surprise coming from a pizza and pastaria in the middle of a suburban Rock Hill strip mall.
I first learned of Katie's beverage program at Dishcrawl's Cocktail Wars competition this past December. One of Katie's bartenders, Matthew Osmoe, was a competitor, and I must admit that I did a double take. At a place like Katie's, one thinks of Chianti and prosecco, not creative concoctions dreamt up by mixologists. As Osmoe explained to the crowd at the event, owners Katie Lee and Ted Collier give the bar staff free rein to let their imaginations run wild behind the bar. He then pulled out a sprig of rosemary, lit it on fire and infused an ornate vintage cocktail glass with its smoke for his poetic concoction, the "Julieta Cabassac" (a drink inspired by Gustaf Sobin's melancholy book about lost love). I was intrigued.
Osmoe no longer works at Katie's Pizza & Pasta, but he left his mark on the drink menu. There are the Italian classics, like the negroni, but Katie's also features lesser-known Italian drinks. My favorite, the "Sgroppino," is a blend of prosecco, Italian vodka, lemon sorbet and fresh mint. If it tasted this good in the middle of winter, I can only imagine how fantastic it will be on the patio this summer.
And about that patio -- word has it that owner Katie Lee plans on planting an herb garden for use in her dishes and cocktails. Summer can't come fast enough.