Rosa 2 Restaurant Theme Provides a Frustrating and Satisfying Experience

Screenshot of the Rosa 2 restaurant WordPress theme.

Rosa 2 is the sequel to Pixelgrade’s best-selling theme, Rosa. The new theme re-imagines its previous incarnation in the context of the block editor (Gutenberg). I was provided a copy of the theme for free to test and provide my thoughts.

The theme sells for $75/year, or you can pay a one-time fee of $95 for lifetime access. The product launch post could make anyone excited about this theme, but is it worth it?

TLDR; Rosa 2 made for a satisfying experience when building restaurant-style pages. However, the early learning curve and basic setup were frustrating. It also lacks some of the polish I’d expect at a premium price.

A Rundown of the Issues

Before I dive into the good things about Rosa 2 (and there are some nice things about this theme), let me dive into the frustrating aspects. There were so many pain points that I nearly gave up on the theme several times. However, I soldiered on in the hopes of understanding why this theme might be worth using.

Install the Required Plugins First

Let me save you some time right now. When the theme says that it requires the Customify and Nova Blocks plugins, it truly requires them. Otherwise, the theme looks and behaves nothing like the demo or screenshots. It may as well not be the same theme.

When first activating the theme, the front page of your website will become a completely white screen. It is not the dreaded White Screen of Death caused by an error. Instead, the theme is forcibly hiding the content with custom styles.

Why? Yeah, good question.

I see no reason to do so. Outside of changing some code (which I did), users must activate the plugins to make their content appear. There is no technical reason this should be the case when using this theme.

There should be no path in which a user installs a theme only to have their content disappear.

I get it. I was told these were required plugins. The theme even provides easy installation and activation links via the TGM Plugin Activation script. I also get that WordPress lacks any sort of real dependency system for handling this feature. That doesn’t make it any less of a poor user experience.

As a developer, I thought I’d trick the system and test the theme without those plugins installed. I wanted to see what the theme looked like out of the box, which you can see in the following screenshot.

Rosa 2 default homepage output.

Oh, and that big block of category links in the above screenshot, it never goes away. It just sits there on your blog posts page. It is hard-coded in the posts page template (home.php). Rosa 2 is billed as a restaurant theme, so it might be acceptable if you don’t plan on running a blog.

Header and Nav Problems

The default header looks nothing like the screenshots, demo, or video for the theme. After nearly two hours of using the theme, I was ready to throw in the towel and rule this theme out as a lost cause. Not being able to get the basic nav menu set up for the theme was an exercise in self-punishment that I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

It turns out that the Nova Blocks plugin really is required. Did I mention that you should install the required plugins first?

Stretched images

On blog and archive pages, expect stretched featured images that attempt to fill out the box next to the excerpt for existing posts. There doesn’t seem to be any remedy to this outside of uploading new images.

The theme uses the standard post-thumbnail size but does not define this size in the code. For those unfamiliar with the technical aspects when using this specific size, the theme should ideally define it via the set_post_thumbnail_size() function.

Sticky header

The large sticky header gave me a gut-wrenching feeling that walls were closing in on me. I became light-headed and dizzy. I found it tough to breathe. This is not hyperbole. I’m dead serious.

On a personal note, I’ve had some issues with claustrophobia for the last couple of years. I first had this feeling after being stuck indoors for two weeks while watching over one of my cats who had surgery. I typically work from the porch where I can get fresh air, but that was one of the worst periods of my life.

Since then, I often get this same feeling when sites have large sticky headers. It feels like the walls are closing down. I wonder if others have similar issues.

This feeling could be alleviated if the theme minimized the sticky-header height while scrolling down the page. Fortunately, the theme allows users to choose a static header, which I strongly suggest using. There are some other spacing and sizing options for the header area, which can help shrink some of this down.

Where the Theme Shines

Custom restaurant-style page created with the Rosa 2 theme.

If there is one thing this theme does well, it is making it simple to create pages for a restaurant via the Nova Blocks plugin. Within minutes of creating a custom page, I had a restaurant-style page set up and ready to go.

When coupled with Nova Blocks, the theme beautifully handles the process of creating custom pages with numerous unique outcomes. The integration with the plugin is brilliant. Each block has custom demo content that you can easily modify.

Some of the names of the blocks and block options were cutesy and fun, such as “Hero of the Galaxy,” but they became a slight nuisance when wanting to quickly figure out the purpose of a block. I could see some users becoming annoyed at the names, and they might not be ideal for some professional settings. They were kind of fun though. I have mixed feelings about them.

How Does the Theme Handle Gutenberg?

Screenshot of the Rosa 2 theme when used in the Gutenberg editor.

Rosa 2 is a theme primarily built for the block editor. It wonderfully handled core block output in my tests.

When using Gutenberg-ready themes, I view the pullquote block as sort of the theme designer’s signature. It is one of those blocks where designers can have a lot of fun and put a unique spin on the display. I’m a fan of the pullquote style in this theme (pictured above).

On the whole, it works well. When coupled with Nova Blocks, you have a lot of power at your disposal.

How Does the Code Stack Up?

Rosa 2 is lightweight in terms of custom code. Nearly all of the functionality is within the accompanying plugins. Because this is a theme review, I didn’t dive into the plugin code.

From a purely technical standpoint, the theme does most things according to standards.

There are some things I’d change from an architectural standpoint. For example, the file for its Customify plugin integration is over 1,100 lines of code. I would break that down to more digestible bits, which would help with long-term maintenance and bug hunting.

Some of the editor-related JavaScript code could be more efficient. Repeated patterns should be grouped together to make the code smaller. The editor JavaScript file is not large, but every byte counts in a world where developers assume everyone is running on Gigabit internet connections.

The primary stylesheet is 173 kb, which is OMGBBQ large, especially when you top it off with 100s of kb coming from the stylesheets and scripts loaded by Nova Blocks plugin. Unless you’re a user who is heavily optimizing your site, you can count on some slow page loads.

The Final Verdict

I’d only recommend this theme to people who have more patience than me. While I didn’t follow instructions right off the bat (as a reviewer, I’m trying to push limits and break things), the theme did have some pain points that simply made for a frustrating process.

I’m in the camp of people who believes themes should work out of the box. This theme doesn’t work without some setup. You’ll need to put in some legwork to get it going. However, once you make it over the initial hump, you can build some beautiful page layouts.

I suggest using it strictly for its defined purpose of building a restaurant website. The typography is designed well enough for blogging, but the overall theme isn’t well-suited to it.

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14 Comments


  1. If it’s that hard to get up and running, you can do the same thing in Divi in a few hours. See https://67biltmore.com. Built that in Divi with Open Menu for the restaurant menu system. Some light custom coding, but overall no reason to back yourself into a fixed restaurant theme that needs all those additional plugins and all that heavy lifting. I specialize in restaurant themes and wouldn’t use a theme like Rosa 2 – especially with all the issues you’ve described.

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  2. This is a good example of the theme that leverages the block editor to build content. And I think it’s encouraging. I’d expect the installation & setup easier, but requiring plugins is the common way today when building themes to sell.

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  3. How many times did you actually install a wordpress theme? And which one did “run out of the box”? Please do tell, I am genuinely interested as a freelancer. Usually they come with loads of required plugins. This has only TWO. I worked with Rosa and Osteria and they really gave me a breather in terms of installing, customizing, bit of custom CSS. Plus, I can totally make an “one page” website with this time. So to me this review makes me want to buy the theme cause all I’ve read, are the pros. Cheers!

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    1. How many times did you actually install a wordpress theme? And which one did “run out of the box”? Please do tell, I am genuinely interested as a freelancer.

      I’ve installed thousands of WordPress themes over the years. Most of them run out of the box.

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    2. I have around 100 themes in my local themes folder right now, and I’m pretty sure every single one of them works straight out of the box. I consider a theme which doesn’t work straight out of the box to be somewhat broken.

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    3. Check out the wp astra themes they work great out of the box with gutenberg

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  4. Considering this site is listed in WordPress dashboards I think this review is pretty unfair.

    The negativity is baked into the headline and slug, and when you read it, this is because you didn’t follow the instructions.

    Every theme I have ever purchased comes with an install section of the documentation where it explains the custom install requirements. The required plugins vs recommended plugins does exist as a concept so if you have skipped it then you should start again. What do you expect the theme author to do when you run half of the theme?

    Testing it on an install with a huge amount of content already in it so it breaks the limits of the design seems harsh as well.

    The best you can muster is to say that, when you set it up how it was supposed to be used, and tried to build a restaurant theme style page with it, the theme was amazing and got you sorted in a few minutes.

    That should have been the whole review.

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  5. Rosa 2 looks really sleek. Great job Pixelgrade team!

    I feel the ‘required plugins’ bits mentioned in the review were a bit harsh though, as the majority of real users will follow the instructions and simply install all required plugins from the beginning :P

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  6. I’m in the camp of people who believes themes should work out of the box.

    You lost me here.

    Most require setup and reading the manual. Default themes don’t even work that well without reading instructions.

    This review is a bit weird. A better approach would have been to perhaps expand on what you believe makes a theme good “out of the box” especially given how rapidly development expectations around them are changing.

    Devs reviewing products for real users sometimes misses the mark. This was one of those times.

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    1. Out-of-the-box:

      used to refer to the immediate usability or functionality of a newly purchased product, typically an electronic device or a piece of software.

      Setup, has nothing to do with that. ;)

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      1. immediate usability or functionality of a newly purchased product

        No theme fits this description. 🙃

        Most require setup or additional steps to make a site into a site. Semantics aside, I’ll put it this way: there’s not a single theme on the market that does not require additional steps to make a site look the way it’s intended to look by developers. And everyone knows this. That this is a point of contention in a niche theme review is silly.

        That’s why demo content and instructions exist. And it’s also why default content on the .org site makes most themes look awful – because they weren’t built for demo or one-size-fits-all content.

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      2. If that was the case, not a single theme would be approved at Theme Forest for example, since this is a requirement ;)

        To look as intended is still not what this means, sorry :)

        Out of the box

        Themes must work out of the box before any plugins are activated.

        Full advertised functionality is not required, but they must do everything a basic WordPress theme should do, such as display posts, pages, archive pages, home page, blog page, search, etc., and they must be styled as closely as possible to the full design as shown in the demo.

        https://help.author.envato.com/hc/en-us/articles/360000481223-WordPress-Theme-Plugin-Requirements#h_728123980861522301873249

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  7. The majority of this post telling a story about one’s own user error. A part of the post is about how one tries to break the theme even after reading the manual. Only the rest is about what this post should have been.

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  8. I see some discusion on the “Out of the box” terminology. There is a difference between getting a theme to work and to make it look like the demo (or as the developer intended the theme to look).

    After activating you should be able to use it, no matter how it looks.

    When first activating the theme, the front page of your website will become a completely white screen. It is not the dreaded White Screen of Death caused by an error. Instead, the theme is forcibly hiding the content with custom styles.

    When a developer goes as far as hiding your content (which really should work right out of the box), before the required plugins are installed; That’s locking in and should be avoided.

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