Ocean air (and good vibes) makes Rosalind Bakery’s bread distinctly West Coast.

Fresh-baked hoagie rolls at Rosalind Bakery in Pacifica. (Photo by Adam Pardee)

Dennis Cantwell was scrolling through Instagram one night, and his Philadelphia food antennae perked up.

He had stumbled onto Rosalind Bakery’s feed, where he recognized a very specific breed of doughy, dense pretzel that’s only found in his native Philadelphia. He clicked on the photo tags and saw the Eagles, the Flyers, the Sixers and Phillies pop up. He scrolled back further on the Rosalind page and was delighted when his hunch was confirmed with a picture of Rosalind owner Matthew Kosoy, proudly wearing a Phillies t-shirt.

“I just hit him up and was like, ‘Hey, do you have any interest in making us some custom hoagie rolls?’” said Cantwell, the owner of Palm City Wines in San Francisco. Kosoy’s answer — “yeah, Sarcone’s style?” — told him everything he needed to know. (Sarcone’s Bakery in Philadelphia is famed for its hoagie rolls.)

Clockwise from top left: Rosalind Bakery owner Matthew Kosoy shapes a hoagie roll; the Italian hoagie at Palm City; Customers purchase bread and other baked goods at Rosalind Bakery in Pacifica on Wednesday, February 3rd. (Photos by Adam Pardee)

This chance social media encounter sparked a sandwich partnership that would earn Palm City Wines serious recognition for its hoagies. Local media fawned over the sandwiches last year, generating hype and long lines. Palm City regularly sold out. Then, in November, Esquire named the Sunset eatery to its Best New Restaurants in America 2020 list.

But the baker making the bread — the foundation on which a truly great sandwich is built — has remained a quiet, though no less deserving, supporting actor. Kosoy’s unsung bread also plays a major role in the hamburger sandwiches made just down Hwy. 1 at the New York Times-celebrated Dad’s Luncheonette.

While the creations of these other businesses have been in the spotlight, Rosalind’s naturally leavened loaves, baked goods and growing food menu in Pacifica are deserving of attention in their own right.

Matthew Kosoy, the Philly-born baker behind Rosalind in Pacifica. (Photo by Adam Pardee)

Baking bread, breaking waves

Kosoy was born and raised in the Philadelphia suburbs. His first job was at McDonald’s, then at local pizzerias and hoagie shops. Later in life, books like “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” and “Tartine Bread” resonated with him deeply.

“I’ve always been a food person,” Kosoy said.

But he didn’t choose food as his first career. He went into software development and founded his own company.

Kosoy moved to Pacifica in 2012 and for years would spend hours driving, sitting in traffic, parking and waiting in line at San Francisco’s famed Tartine Bakery. On a whim, his mother sent him a link to a New York Times article on how to bake Tartine’s bread.

“I was not having a lot of career satisfaction being stuck behind a screen,” Kosoy said. But bread baking “was like just opening up a whole can of worms … to learn about bacteria and yeast and wheat. It was pressing all the right buttons for me.”

In 2016, he started baking at home, taking classes at the San Francisco Baking Institute and selling to neighbors and in front of P-Town Coffee. He was determined to bring high-quality, locally made bread to Pacifica. He eventually found a commercial kitchen and got a stand at the Pacifica farmers market, where he built a loyal following. Within two years, he rented the Manor Plaza space that would become Rosalind Bakery. He named the bakery after his grandmother, a strong female role model and a nod to his family roots, and opened his doors in 2019.

Morning buns from Rosalind Bakery in Pacifica, which in addition to sourdough bread makes pastries and savory fare. (Photo by Adam Pardee)

Kosoy’s bread is uniquely of Pacifica. The cool, foggy air and salt from the ocean, just a block away from the bakery, seeps into the DNA of the loaves.

“It shows up in the flavor of the bread. It’s slightly more salty and it isn’t because of the amount of salt we put in the product. We notice it as bakers in the way the dough ferments,” he said. (He can’t prove it but he also believes negative ions released from the nearby breaking waves make the bacteria and yeast “a little more active and happy.”)

Rosalind now makes several kinds of bread — including the classic Coastside country sourdough, an olive loaf, rye sesame, whole wheat and naturally leavened baguettes — as well as pastries, cookies and savory dishes.

Hoagie rolls are shaped and then topped with sesame seeds before baking at Rosalind Bakery in Pacifica. (Photos by Adam Pardee)

‘The bread, the bread, the bread’

When that fateful Instagram message came in from Cantwell, Kosoy’s Philly roots kicked in. It took him just two weeks to develop a hoagie roll they were all happy with.

Kosoy ferments the dough cold in the refrigerator for about 48 hours — the long, slow fermentation produces more acid and lactic acid in the dough, imparting a distinct flavor, he said. He turned his nose up at “tiny,” foot-long hoagie rolls and made his two feet long. “Each one is as big as your arm,” he said.

The rolls are topped with a generous sprinkling of sesame seeds, a nutty, textural must for the Palm City team.

A West Coast Palm City Wine hoagie on a Rosalind Bakery roll….in high demand across various species. (Image via Yelp)

Cantwell runs Palm City with his wife Monica Wong and chef Melissa McGrath, who also hails from Philly. They had planned to open a neighborhood wine bar and bottle shop, but pivoted to hoagies after the pandemic hit. They nixed the idea of sourcing frozen rolls from Philadelphia and came up short talking with local bakers who would need coaching on the essence of a great roll. They knew the quality of the bread would be essential to the success of the sandwiches.

“As a kid I remember debates with my uncles about hoagies. The thing that always comes up is the bread, the bread, the bread,” Cantwell said. “I certainly think they (Rosalind) deserve a lot more credit for Palm City as far as the quality of the hoagies. It’s the fresh bread baked every day. It’s the texture. That little crunch on the outside and the integrity of the sandwiches.”

The absorbency of the rolls allow for a saucy but structurally sound sandwich that doesn’t get soggy or fall apart. They travel well for takeout, which has been crucial during the last year. The Italian-American (Kosoy’s favorite), with mortadella, finocchiona, mozzarella, parmesan, shaved onion and arugula, oozes nduja aioli. On weekends, they sell as many as 150 hoagies on the rolls, delivered fresh from Rosalind.

Kosoy thinks his hoagie rolls could go head-to-head with any in Philadelphia. But they’re still unapologetically California-made.

“It does have East Coast roots because that’s where I’m from but … I’m physically present here in the Bay Area, and this is where that roll was born,” he said.

Run, don’t walk, to Pacifica for Rosalind Bakery’s toffeedoodles, a ginger sugar cookie with butter-toffee crunch. (Photo by Adam Pardee)

More than a bakery

During the pandemic, Rosalind has seen nonstop but “bittersweet” growth, Kosoy said. You can now buy Rosalind loaves at grocery stores in Pacifica and San Francisco, in addition to local farmers markets. But running a business during a public health crisis is not without its challenges, including when the bakery shut down for full week in January after an employee tested positive for COVID-19.

These days, Rosalind does a lot more than just baked goods. Kosoy is focused on growing the food side of things, and while many dishes are built around bread — including an excellent breakfast sandwich with housemade pimento cheese, savory bread puddings, focaccia and toasts — others draw on seasonal produce. The specials board is always changing, with dishes like delicata squash soup, citrus salad with pine nuts and balsamic dressing and a breakfast galette with sausage, leeks and blue cheese. Thursday and Friday, the ovens churn out Grandma-style pan pizza topped with tomatoes and ricotta made in house; on Fridays, look for challah and those Philly-style soft pretzels. You can also grab fresh butter, dips and pizza dough, plus sourdough starter and proofing baskets for home bakers.

Until recently, Kosoy only made the hoagie rolls for Palm City Wines and Flour & Water Pasta Shop in San Francisco (whose owner is also from the Philadelphia area). Happily, you can now get them at the source. The Pacifica bakery serves two kinds of hoagies every day — roasted turkey or roasted carrots with housemade aioli, caramelized onions, provolone cheese and fresh greens on a fresh-baked 8-inch roll.

Turkey sandwiches on Rosalind’s naturally leavened baguettes, which owner Matthew Kosoy claims are the best in the region. (Photo by Adam Pardee)

Rosalind Bakery, 450 Manor Plaza, Pacifica; 650-898–8636

Check out our recent tour of Pacifica eateries, including Rosalind Bakery, Pacifica Pizza Project and more.

Elena Kadvany

A writer with a passion for investigative reporting, telling untold stories and public-service journalism, I have built my career covering education and restaurants in the Bay Area. My blog and biweekly newsletter, Peninsula Foodist, is the go-to source for restaurant news in Silicon Valley. My work has been published in The Guardian, Eater, Bon Appetit’s Healthyish, SF Weekly and The Six Fifty.

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