Meet Rose Parrotta

Location: Philadelphia, PA
Age: 51
Marital Status: Single
Education: Undergraduate degree from SUNY Cortland

Not one to sit on the sidelines, this year has been somewhat of an anomaly for Rose. After running The Happy Rooster for nine years, she recently sold it and is taking the year to recharge.

What was The Happy Rooster like?

It was an institution in Philadelphia–like an old-boys club. It was there for 35 years before I purchased it, so I changed it. When I bought it, I just put an ad in the paper that said, “There’s a new cock in town.”

Did you get tired of it?

No, I loved it. It was a bittersweet break up. The landlord was going to increase the rent, and my lease was up. It was either, make a smart business decision and sell while I still had something to sell or end up working for the landlord. I put so many hundreds-of-thousands of dollars into somebody else’s building that to continue without getting something in return . . . I thought, ‘I gotta sell it.’

Do you think you’ll go back into the restaurant business?

I don’t know. It’s hard not to think about it everyday. I loved the restaurant business, but I don’t love the places that pay the best. I don’t like the overly large design and all the chef fame. Stop the nonsense. Restaurants should be mom-and-pop places where you can enjoy food. I don’t know if I’m leaning towards restaurants anymore. I don’t know what my passion is right now. Can I tell you in a few months? Actually, I’ll tell you in a year.

Were you always in the restaurant industry?

When I graduated college, I was teaching and bartending. I taught high school health: drugs, sex and nutrition–everything that goes on in the restaurant business. I was offered a general manager position at Apropos in 1987, here in Philadelphia. It was twice the teaching salary, I could be in one place, my son could be raised in a coat closet, it was all too good to turn down.

When did you move to Philadelphia?

It was September of ’86. My son was going to be five. I’m originally from New York; Long Island and Queens.

You grew up in New York, and then you moved to Philadelphia?

Yeah, I bought a house here and ran a business here. Philly has been really good to me but I’m not in love with the city anymore, I miss New York all the time.

Are you married?

No. I have a son, Dylan, who is 27. I was a single parent, and I raised him myself. He didn’t meet his father until he was 24. It was a brief encounter. His father lived in Washington State… I put 3,000 miles between him and I.

What was your life like growing up?

I have five sisters and two brothers. I was a tomboy. Everybody always says, “You have the same parents, how come everybody is so different?” But they all raised us within different times of their lives. My dad was this liberal democrat from Queens–so ahead of his time. He bought me the first Ms. Magazine that came out. Out of eight kids I was his favorite, and I just loved him. My mother came from a Catholic, straight, conservative upbringing. She was more of the ‘sit like a lady, stand like a lady’ type.

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How did your childhood influence your style?

I was totally into black leather my whole life and jeans and flannel shirts. My senior dress for graduation–because my mother insisted I had to wear a dress–was a dungaree jumper. If anything influenced my style, it wasn’t a person, it was rock and roll. My mother was pregnant for 20 years, basically. And I couldn’t relate to my two older sisters at all.

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And what about your style now?

I’m like retro, punk, ’80s. I just missed the hippie era. If I dress up, I tend to be more conservative than you’d think. My work outfit was just a black suit with a T-shirt underneath.

What designers do you wear?

Yohji Yamamoto and Rick Owens. I know those are not conservative designers, but if I pick something by them it’s a classic piece. My work outfits are more conservative–like a Jil Sander suit. I always say if I were reincarnated I would come back in Chanel suits since in this lifetime, Chanel doesn’t look right on me.

Why do you like shopping at Joan Shepp?

There weren’t a lot of shops in Philadelphia that I felt comfortable in when I first moved here. I remember going into some stores and I felt they were judging me even though I could afford to buy. Then Joan Shepp (the store) came, and there was all this black. I was so psyched. I mean before that, you had to go to Barney’s or Bergdorf Goodman if you wanted to get anything that was a little bit off the cuff. And I met Joan, the owner, personally within an hour of walking in.

What’s your beauty routine?

I wash my face with Biologique and then I switch between Valmont, Biologique P50 lotion or Sicily for my moisturizer.

Favorite lipstick?

I’m not comfortable in lipstick. I can’t put it on without feeling like a whore. But I do wear a natural glaze when I go out. And I can’t do eye shadow.

Signature piece?

This ring. It’s from this jewelry store called Cogdognato in Venice that has been there since the 1700s. But I lost a diamond in the eye. I also had a signature blouse that I wore everywhere. It was the perfect three-button shirt, blue with a fruit pattern and a Peter Pan collar. I wore it with side zip pants. It was one of the few colored pieces I wore and it made me look thin. I paid 25 cents for it from a garage sale but it was made in Paris. At the time, I was so broke and a single parent and I remember thinking ‘’m going to get to Paris some day.’ It started to fall apart and I brought it to Barton Donaldson, a men’s shirt store, and asked them to replicate it. They did it, but ripped the original one apart to get the pattern. I said, ‘You’ve got to sew this back together, I didn’t say you could ruin my shirt.’

Favorite restaurant?

I’m going to give it to Amada in Philadelphia. It’s hard for me really to pick. I would’ve said my restaurant a year ago.

Favorite book?

I loved What is the What by Dave Eggers. It was just so moving from the moment you open it. It’s so sad to see how an immigrant is treated when he comes here.

Signature scent?

Ombre. It’s kind of a mellow, nice and amber-ish.

Workout routine?

I do half-ass yoga. I know the sun salutations; I know Ashtanga yoga, but I don’t do it on a regular basis. I do weights twice a week with a trainer and something aerobic at least five times a week. Otherwise, I run, swim or bike.

Favorite place to rejuvenate?

Rescue Spa here in Philadelphia. I’ve been going to Donna. I’ve been to spas all over the world, and she’s really one of the best I’ve ever gone to. I feel like this whole year has been a rejuvenation.

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