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Cheap Eats

A hidden gem

(John Blanding/Globe Staff)
By Bella English
Globe Staff / March 10, 2010

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Oggi Gourmet is a funny hybrid of a place, sort of hidden away in the Holyoke Center in Harvard Square. It’s not a sidewalk cafe, since there’s no sidewalk. And it’s not exactly in a food court since it’s the only restaurant around.

You order at the counter and eat at one of the two bars or at a table in the “courtyard’’ (for lack of a better word). There are small and large tables, and some cushioned chairs. There’s no alcohol, but the smoothies are terrific.

Oggi, which is owned by Steve Welch (with some of his brothers pitching in), opened in 2004 to raves in Jamaica Plain, then moved to the Financial District and, two years ago, to Cambridge.

The menu is fairly simple: salads, grill-pressed sandwiches, pizza, burgers, and hot dogs. Oggi is also open for breakfast and makes all sorts of coffees and teas. Homemade muffins are tempting, but we’re here for dinner. Roasted pear salad ($7.95) is a bed of baby spinach and a pear spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg, roasted, cooled, and cut into wedges. There’s ample goat cheese; candied walnuts add a nice sweet note.

The pan-seared baby brie salad ($7.75) has a generous slab of soft, not gooey, cheese, with a golden crust. It’s served over organic greens studded with dried cranberries and comes with a grilled slice of house bread.

Speaking of which, all the sandwich bread is made from Oggi’s stellar pizza dough. Try the turkey club ($7.20), with smoked bacon and Jack cheese pressed between thick slices of bread. When a friend counting calories wants the tarragon chicken salad sandwich ($7.20), Oggi offers to put the moist, fragrant chunks of chicken on greens.

We order a “small’’ 16-inch roasted wild mushroom and herb pizza ($15), but a waiter brings out a large. “We saw there were five of you, and figured you might want a larger pizza,’’ he says. No extra charge.

My friend swoons over her Oggi Burger ($7.75) and one bite tells why: It’s a thick, juicy patty cooked medium rare, as ordered. Packed between two slices of tomato and two of white cheddar, it’s served on a grilled sourdough roll with lettuce and pickle. Try a Steve Burger ($5.95), with different toppings every day: It might be Gorgonzola and dates, or cherries folded into goat cheese. It comes with fries.

We order a couple of homebaked saucer-size chocolate chip cookies ($1.75 each); they’re chewy with a nice crunch at the edges. But it’s the banana bread pudding ($2) that captures our hearts. Friends in Cambridge are already mad at me for spreading the good news about one of their favorite spots. BELLA ENGLISH below

OGGI GOURMET

Holyoke Center Arcade, 1350 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, 617-492-6444. All major credit cards accepted. Wheelchair accessible.

Prices $5.25-$17.95

Hours Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat-Sun noon-7.

Liquor None.

May we suggest Any pizza, roasted pear salad, baby brie salad, burgers, smoked turkey club, chicken tarragon sandwich, chocolate chip cookies, banana bread pudding (when available).