A recent afternoon visit to Italian-centric bistro Osteria G was punctuated by frequent phone rings. One patron after another called to make a dinner reservation for that night or the following evening.
“I’m convinced we have the best clientele in the state,” says convivial proprietor Joe Reinis, a Long Island, New York, native who runs the casual fine-dining restaurant along with his wife, Ashley Startek. “We’re a regulars-driven restaurant built on word of mouth.”
It’s easy to see why so many folks enjoy dining at Osteria G, which is situated in a small strip shopping center straddling the border of Apex and Holly Springs. For starters, the seasonal menu features locally sourced ingredients, and inventive weekly specials draw a crowd.
“We have a minimum of five food specials daily, and they are always rotating,” Reinis says, adding that the eatery sources essentials from Raleigh-based Ford’s Produce and Charlotte-based Inland Seafood, among other purveyors.
Executive Chef Manny Lozano, who received his culinary training in France and has worked at high-end restaurants in New York City, finesses pasta, seafood and beef dishes with creativity and skill.
“He’s truly special, and all of his dishes are layered and well-composed,” says Reinis.
Evidence of Lozano’s prowess is witnessed in practically everything that emerges from the kitchen. Consider the popular starter called Chowder Baked Oysters involving mollusks sourced from Prince Edward Island stuffed with a light cream sauce, diced bacon and an oyster cracker crust.
Signature appetizer Meatball Wellington features puff pastry filled with a house mixture of veal, beef and pork and topped with a Madeira mushroom sauce.
When it comes to entrees, order the Black Garlic Shrimp (owner Joe’s favorite dish), which comprises aged garlic that is slow-roasted for 27 days and tossed in a basil pesto sauce served with spaghetti and shrimp.
A deconstructed chicken pot pie shows off more of the chef ’s gastronomic wizardry.
“He wraps white meat around dark meat with sous vide chicken and waffles made of puff pastry, and then there’s a fantastic demi-glace,” says Reinis.
Be sure to try the house-made butters – especially the honey and sea salt variety – with Italian bread. On Wednesdays, Osteria G offers a special four-course menu for $32 a person.
“This allows chef to be even more creative and innovative, and it’s something unique that no one else (around here) is really doing,” says Reinis. “Since our menu is seasonal, sometimes even changing twice each season, we like to serve the freshest items possible.”
Four-Course Prix Fixe Sample Menu
Prosciutto, asparagus & arugula salad
Chianti-braised chicken with bacon and mushrooms over egg noodles
Rolled eggplant over spaghetti
Diced steak with sauteed mushrooms over cavatelli
Chocolate chip cannoli
Don’t miss dessert. The classic, airy tiramisu is always on point. But you’ll fall in love with the chocolate Napoleon featuring mousse-filled French puff pastry crowned with hazelnut pralines.
Osteria G offers a full bar stocked with white and red wines from California and Italy. A rotating selection of locally brewed beers are available on draft. With more than 30 varieties of whiskey on hand, notable craft cocktails include a Smoked Old Fashioned and an espresso-spiked martini.
A certified sommelier, Reinis capably guides guests in pairing wine with the cuisine. Half-priced bottles of vino are offered every Tuesday.
“We are port tonging nicer bottles of wine,” says Reinis. “We also host a chef and sommelier dinner, usually the last Thursday of each month. Chef prepares dishes from a particular geographic region, and I incorporate it with wine. It’s always well received.”
Service at the restaurant is friendly and efficient. Reinis says the staff ’s dedication to helping each other and serving others is commendable, and he is committed to ensuring that guests feel like they are coming to his home for dinner.
A way to cleanly open bottles of vintage port and wine with red-hot iron tongs, ice water and hot wax, avoiding any breakage or chipping that might occur with the use of a corkscrew on an old cork.
“In the restaurant business, it’s known that there’s the ‘front of the house’ and the ‘back of the house,’” he explains. “We consider it one house because we’re one family, and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Closed on Sunday and Monday, Osteria G is open Tuesday through Saturday for dinner. Reservations are strongly encouraged and are accepted online and by phone.
5160 Sunset Lake Road, Suite 101, Apex