Oggi Gourmet in Harvard Square

There are more than ninety restaurants in Harvard Square. This part of Cambridge, Massachusetts, is a crossroads for food as well as for education, with places featuring burgers, falafel, Irish stew, pho, tacos, steak, soy ice cream, and just about anything you could think of in between all those.

Of all those places around Harvard Square, Oggi Gourmet is one of the least conspicuous. In fact, unless you have business with Harvard Health Care, are looking for the Fine Arts Box Office, or seeking out the rather low key Harvard Visitor’s Office, you might not even know it is there. These offices, and Oggi Gourmet, are in the Holyoke Center Arcade, just a few steps from the MBTA Red Line stop at Harvard Square.

oggi gourmet cafe harvard squareGiven that it is in an arcade (read: passage way), you’ll figure it is not the most secluded or most quiet place to have a meal, and you’ll be right. Still, the lively flow of people through the building makes interesting watching at busy times, and it can slow down to be laid back on an early evening when there’s not as much hustle and bustle. Whatever time you come by, though, the food will be worth it.

The world oggi means today in Italian. Fresh high quality food freshly prepared is the hallmark of Oggi Gourmet’s vision, and they live up to it. Pizza, salads, sandwiches, and burgers rule the menu, with outliers including breakfast muffins and sandwiches, hot dogs, and the occasional burrito special filling things in. Pizza really is the star, and it has been chosen best pizza in Boston in several polls over the years. House standard combos include baby spinach,roasted eggplant, and feta cheese, roasted pineapple and ham with scallions, and spicy sausage with onions and roasted bell pepper. You can also build your own from a selection of about two dozen ingredients.

Rustic caesar salad shows that the Oggi kitchen folk now how to let good flavors and fresh ingredients speak for themselves. Also on offer are a roasted pear salad with goat cheese and walnuts, and a BLT salad double smoked bacon and vine ripened tomatoes. The sandwich menu holds about a dozen choices, and there are several ways of having a hand packed burger, as well. To this southern girl, it was a surprise to find a hot dog topped with coleslaw as a menu standard in Harvard Square– maybe there’s a southerner somewhere in the heart of Oggi’s menu prep.

In any case, the food is good and fresh, and for the Harvard Square area, prices are reasonable, with pizza coming in at around sixteen dollars for a sixteen inch pie and sandwiches, salads, and burger running about half that. There are several lower priced items, too especially on the breakfast menu, and pizza by the slice is available for lower cost as well. Also there’s a long standing tradition of having an early evening special (Oggi Gourmet closes at 8pm most days) on one day a week of a 16 inch tomato basil pizza for around five dollars. There are other daily specials at times as well.

Oggi Gourmet is a bit of a find that gets lost in plain site now and then. Harvard Square has several more places to eat like that, in fact. Have you found one?

–>Update: Oggi Gourmet has moved — slightly. It’s now in the same building but towards the rear of Holyoke Center, near the Harvard Information Office (which has changed location too). This means it can now offer outside seating. They’ve added a few things to the menu (smoked salmon caprese sandwich, quinoa salad of the day, for instance) and taken a few things off (no more slaw dogs) and raised prices slightly. The food is still good, it’s still in a good location, and it’s still a bargain.

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