When the business went bankrupt in the early 1980s they decided to sell their London home and move to Italy, where David could paint while Rose would try to write a cookbook. It was here that Rose began to take a serious interest in Italian cuisine, collecting recipes and learning about new ingredients.
Progress on the book was interrupted, however, in 1985 when her husband had an exhibition in New York and she was invited over to work for a few months as a cook in a New York nightclub.
She devoted herself to making the enterprise a success, sourcing ingredients, testing and adapting recipes and cultivating relationships with Italian suppliers.
She paid huge attention to detail, from the design of the restaurant and staff uniforms to the characteristic uncluttered look of the River Café cookbooks.
What made the difference was their determination to provide the kind of "truthful" home cooking which they enjoyed eating on visits to Italy.
As a result River Café expanded to become one of the most talked-about and fashionable restaurants in London. The restaurant was depicted as serving up "Italian peasant food that no Italian peasant could ever afford", and labelled the "New Labour" hang-out of choice (in happier days) of Blair, Mandelson, Brown and cronies.
An Intimate, Acoustic Show with Tony Lucca aboard the Schooner Woodwind, a beautiful sailing boat (from the movie Wedding Crashers).
Talk of the family tragedy was taboo and it was only when she was in her sixties that Rose learned the truth, after discovering some old newspaper cuttings which had been hidden for years.
Interviewers noted that they tended to talk over each other, laugh together, finish each other's sentences and admonish each other.
In an affectionate account of his time at the River Café, however, Jamie Oliver credited Rose Gray as the genius loci: "She seems to bring every last flavour out of things.
In 1962 Rose married Michael Gray, a trainee film editor with whom she had three children.
To make ends meet she and a friend went into business making self-assembly lampshades which sold to Habitat, Liberty and Heal's.