Restaurant News & Reviews

Osteria G will serve traditional Roman cuisine in former Little Hen space

Osteria G will serve a more traditional Italian menu in the former Little Hen space in Apex.
Osteria G will serve a more traditional Italian menu in the former Little Hen space in Apex. Gianni Cinelli

When we think about Italian food, what we often mean is Italian-American: red sauce, the Sunday gravy, perhaps chicken parm, perfected in New York and New Jersey and spread far and wide.

Roman-born restaurateur Gianni Cinelli will take diners back to the old country with his latest project, Osteria G, which opens this week in the former Little Hen space in Apex.

Osteria G is modeled on the seasonal dishes and simple pastas of Central Italy. In the Italian hierarchy of restaurants, the osteria is the simplest and least formal, though in recent years has become something of a misnomer or a wink as fine dining spots have adopted the name.

Osteria G resembles an old osteria outside of Rome, the new dining room dominated by a large stone archway, the walls covered with stone or wood, with chalkboard menus hanging here and there.

The menu is traditional Italian, with olive oil and herbs showing up more often than sauce. Starters include stuffed artichokes or beef carpaccio, the Roman mother pasta cacio e pepe, risotto with mushroom sauce, gnocchi with Gorgonzola and radicchio, but also a bolognese of beef, veal and pork.

Entrees include roasted branzino or salmon and chicken in anchovy caper sauce. The sausage and mozzarella are made in-house, Cinelli said, and chef Daniel Pelegrini comes from Florence, Italy.

Cinelli said Osteria G responds to the changing tastes he’s seen in the Triangle over two decades of opening restaurants. This one, he said, is made to appeal to a younger crowd, one used to eating and sharing smaller plates, not necessarily looking to leave with a to-go box full of leftovers.

“Any time someone wants to do real Italian, people don’t necessarily embrace it,” Cinelli said. “But I watch the trends. There’s a younger generation that doesn’t want to spend $20 on an entree. They don’t want to get filled up, they want a little healthier look, they want to be able to get more for what they’re spending.”

Cinelli said Osteria G will cook with the seasons and serve only Italian wines, pouring 14 whites and 20 reds by the glass nightly.

Cinelli owns popular Italian restaurant Vivo Ristorante Pizzeria in North Raleigh, but said he’s excited to serve more authentic dishes.

“I’m trying to do something from the heart, something passionate, something that people will like,” Cinelli said. “It’s everything I ever wanted.”

Osteria G is at 5160 Sunset Lake Road, Holly Springs. 984-229-7480 or Closed Mondays.

Drew Jackson; 919-829-4707; @jdrewjackson