Monday, April 15, 2024

A weekly notebook about dining options during the Covid-19 shutdown, with a focus on quality and ease of pickup and delivery.


The Jamaican jerk chicken sandwich at Oggi in Harvard Square. (Photo: Tom Meek)

Oggi has been around Harvard Square for more than a decade, first smack in the middle of the Holyoke Center just down from the old Au Bon Pan, where chess master Murray Turnbull once sat outside to take on all comers. Lots has changed in that time: The Holyoke Center is now the Smith Center, a sleek upgrade with more communal space but, some may argue, a more aloof, less inclusive air. Be that as it may, Oggi, a pizzeria plus, has persisted. While its former cozy digs are a spare sculpted stairway to a sky garden that overlooks Dunster Street, Oggi now has a patio at Dunster and Mount Auburn streets and a spot once occupied by Finale, a sweets vendor – which is semi-apt, as Oggi serves up monster cookies from an impressively arranged tower. And sure, Oggi serves whole ’zas and slices on the fly to work crews and Harvard staff. But the sandwiches are the go-to.

Everything at Oggi – Italian for “today” – is done with care, especially the Jamaican jerk chicken. Most places you get a big piece of chicken breast or a cubed-up salad version, neither of which fully work. Chef/owner Steve Welch and crew have that all figured out: The breasts are spiced and marinated, then sliced like what you’d get at a deli. It’s day-of fresh, which you can taste on focaccia toasted to golden on a grill, not a greasy griddle. For a chicken sandwich, weird as it may sound, it’s a total changeup. Also too, bet you didn’t know (I didn’t) Oggi serves beer and wine from a small bar stand inside. You can order takeout through Slice (a service like Toast), but call ahead; on my last visit I arrived to find a chicken avocado sando and lobster bisque pairing. I love the jerk, I do, but had I known?

Oggi Gourmet (30 Dunster St., Harvard Square)

Tom Meek is a writer living in Cambridge. His reviews, essays, short stories and articles have appeared in the WBUR ARTery, The Boston Phoenix, The Boston Globe, The Rumpus, The Charleston City Paper and SLAB literary journal. Tom is also a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and rides his bike everywhere.