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Two One Off Hospitality Stars Break Out on Their Own—Sort Of

Cosmo Goss and Erling Wu-Bower are taking over the former Tavernita space in River North.

(clockwise from top left) Erling Wu-Bower, Cosmo Goss, Joshua Tilden, Terry Alexander, Paul Kahan, and Donnie Madia   Photos: Derek Richmond, Marc Hauser, and Brian Willette

Last week, One Off Hospitality announced a unique new arrangement with two of its young stars: Cosmo Goss and Erling Wu-Bower (head chef for the Publican brand and for Nico Osteria, respectively) will leave their posts this year to form a new restaurant group with Joshua Tilden, One Off’s director of strategic operations. Taking the name Underscore Hospitality, the trio plans to open a new restaurant in River North by the end of the year. Goss calls the concept “California hearth cuisine”—heavily seasonal produce and proteins “kissed by the fire.”

Chef defections are a dime a dozen, but there’s no bad blood between the former business partners. Three of One Off’s big shots (Donnie Madia, Terry Alexander, and Paul Kahan) plan to partner with Underscore on their debut. Tilden will serve double duty, consulting on logistics and strategy for both groups.

The upcoming concept (which doesn’t yet have a name) will occupy the space that once housed Tavernita at 151 West Erie. Parts and Labor Design NYC, a New York firm specializing in restaurant rehabs, will overhaul the space. The floor plan is still a bit raw, but diners can expect an elegant, rustic atmosphere, with a big bar and an open kitchen with an unimpeded view to the restaurant’s beating heart: its twin wood-burning ovens.

Here’s where things get interesting: One of the ovens will be a “beehive,” which, true to its name, looks like a cozy little dome. In a beehive, Goss says, the fire lives right in the middle of the oven, which makes for artfully charred meats and veggies. The other will be a traditional, Italian-style wood-burner, ideal for pizzas, focaccia, and flatbreads. But, we ask, does pizza really count as Californian cuisine?

“Pizza,” Goss says, “belongs to the world.”

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