Recently listed as one of the world’s 10 best new restaurants (by CNN of all places), Osteria Oggi’s culinary talent (Andrew Davies is Executive Chef while Press*’s former Head Chef Mimi Rivers is Head Chef) justifies the hype, as Paul Wood discovers.
It’s often said that you take the first bite with your eyes. This can extend beyond the plate as you consume the surrounds (especially the design) with that initial eyeful. With that in mind, the first bite of Oggi is delicious: traditional yet on-trend – perfect. At the bar we order wine to begin; a healthy dose of unknown Italian drops and the listed familiars are all top shelf. A glass of A Mano Bianco is mostly Fiano, with a little splash of lesser-known varieties – a little dry and suitably complex, while a slightly more local Chardonnay from Ministry of Clouds (SA brand using Tasmanian fruit) is a stunning start to lunch. First, the beef carpaccio. The freshness of the dish displays the simplest combination of ingredients at their full potential. Swimming in high-quality olive oil, the beef has been tenderly treated; baby rocket adds crunch, and generous amounts of freshly shaved Parmesan are sharp but not overpowering. A delicate aioli augments this dreamy dish and fresh cracked pepper is applied liberally – this is a kitchen that knows how to season and avoids that awkward “would you like cracked pepper?” before having a chance to taste. Parmesan flan sounds intriguing, and without quite knowing what to expect I’m delighted with this dish. Best described as a cheesy custard of sorts – silky in texture with just a splash of meat ragu, close to bolognese but with a hearty punchy flavour for such a small serve. The flavours meld beautifully and smiles of guilty pleasure ensue. The order-as-we-eat option is a good one, with wait staff eager to offer suggestions for the next course to complement our last. More difficult to pronounce than it is to demolish, reginette with prosciutto, green peas and a ricotta salad (balanced with a mustard flavour) is a stand out. While we’ve come to expect heavy tomato influences in Australianised Italian food, this is the perfect example of why we should teach ourselves to explore the opposite. The creamy green sauce grips to the pasta and crispy prosciutto. Gnocchi is served with zucchini at various stages of ripeness (no zucchini flower as prescribed on the menu). A herbaceous seasoned olive oil dressing is used scarcely on the plate and the gnocchi are pan-fried pillows of pleasure – barely crunchy on the outside with a light, fluffy and nicely seasoned interior. What is refreshing about all of the Oggi dishes is the honesty. No gimmicks, no bastardised elements to anglicise the dishes for the masses, just delicious, traditional food you’d be happy to eat again and again. The staff are the ultimate service professionals, knowledgeable but with a casual approach that feels like home in the nicest kind of way. Authenticity can be a tough challenge for a new restaurant, especially when leveraging centuries of traditional culinary heritage, while meeting contemporary expectations. In just a few short months, Osteria Oggi’s fusion of Italian cuisine with a uniquely South Australian influence delivers both, from your first bite to your last. Osteria Oggi 76 Pirie Street Monday to Saturday, 11.30am to late 8359 2525 osteriaoggi.com.au