OGGI – “oh-jee” – means today in Italian. That’s both a nod to the pastas and desserts made in-house, and an interesting irony, when you consider how old-school the place is.
It’s run by chef-owner Eloy Roy, a native of Argentina who left accounting and began working in restaurants when he came to Miami in 1984. He learned to cook and eventually started making his own pasta and selling it to restaurants. That business grew, leading to selling his pastas and sauces to the public, then to his own restaurant by 1990. That continued to grow, too.
He and his wife, Gabriela, sold their Miami OGGI and moved to Charlotte last year, seeking a different pace and different atmosphere – but they knew they’d open a new place, says niece Natalia Flores, who does public relations for OGGI. (She notes that the 6-month-old business has so far grown by word of mouth: “That’s what they’ve always been about. And if my uncle was cooking at his house, this is exactly what he’d cook.”)
“This,” for dinner, is a range of gorgeous pastas – paper-thin, tender round ravioli filled with portobellos or crab or another daily offering; delicate black linguine tossed with clams, mussels, squid and tiny shrimp; meaty lasagna – along with a short selection of chicken, veal and fish entrees, and a handful of health-focused choices such as gluten-free or whole-wheat pasta, grilled vegetables or grilled veal paillard with portobellos.
Lunch brings a range of salads and small plates, plus pastas and a few entrees.
At both times, there’s a list of daily specials, which might include chicken sauteed with figs (watch for that one; it’s restrained and terrific), or salmon with mustard-maple glaze, or an additional ravioli.
Servers, all in black, greet diners warmly and get them out of the tight entryway quickly. Seating in the small room ranges from window-side tables to booths without cushioned seats that prove a little uncomfortable over the course of a leisurely meal. Vibrant contemporary art dots deep red walls, and uses the interior’s black-red-gold-gray palette; there’s also one striking stone-tiled wall ruled by a red-backlit logo.
Plates emerge from the kitchen pretty but not overdone, simply garnished and hot.
An appetizer called boconccino is actually croquettes made with risotto and a filling of mozzarella, served in a pool of marinara and ribboned with pesto: Crunchy, rich, compelling.
A daily salad with greens, endive, shavings of parmesan and strawberries is dressed with a bright and simple vinaigrette.
Tiramisu is rich yet effortlessly light – enough to redeem this Italian classic that’s been overused and corrupted elsewhere. (Our server offered us a piece one night, explaining the kitchen was sending one to all diners as a complimentary nicety – and we’d begun our meal with two tiny, garlicky and lovely bruschette, also complimentary to all.)
Simple, classic, vibrant dishes, served with warmth in a small family-owned place. Good for today.
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