Karen’s Pick: L’Oca d’Oro
A culinary passion project puts Mueller on the food map
by Karen Spezia
Photographs by Knoxy Knox
IN TODAY’S WORLD of celebrity chefs and dining as theater, it’s hard to find a chef who cooks from the heart, for the pure joy of it. Chef Fiore Tedesco is that rare breed. You hear it in his voice when he talks about his food at L’Oca d’Oro. There’s a soulful, gentle tone when he describes a pasta dish inspired by his grandmother. And a deference when he speaks of fresh produce changing with the seasons. His partner, General Manager Adam Orman, is equally passionate, insisting every guest is comfortable and happy. The duo’s dedication to quality is no surprise considering their combined pedigrees: stints at Roberta’s, Prune and Gramercy Tavern in NYC, and Bufalina and Franklin Barbecue here in Austin. Their decade-old dream of opening their own restaurant is finally a reality: L’Oca d’Oro recently debuted in the Mueller development, specializing in contemporary Italian with a nod to the classics.
Unsurprisingly, it’s a personal venture, starting with its moniker honoring Tedesco’s young daughter. Tedesco’s mom helped design the interior, including the whimsical curio cabinets above the bar, filled with quirky memorabilia reflecting the owners’ varied passions. A welcoming 30-seat bar invites diners to pull up a stool around the open kitchen and its crackling wood-burning oven that looks straight out of Tuscany. For those preferring a table, there’s an adjacent barrel-vaulted dining room, plus a couple of funky private dining spaces. Glass envelops the whole restaurant, overlooking Mueller Lake Park and its burgeoning entertainment district.
THERE’S A SOULFUL, GENTLE TONE WHEN CHEF FIORE TEDESCO DESCRIBES A PASTA DISH INSPIRED BY HIS GRANDMOTHER.
The food at L’Oca d’Oro is inspired by Tedesco’s immigrant Italian grandparents, who made elegant food out of simple ingredients. The Daily Bread plate, a rotating selection of three warm, fresh-baked breads served with house made jam and cultured butter, is comforting in its humble simplicity. The Omnivore Plate showcases the restaurant’s variety of house-cured charcuterie and homemade cheeses. And save room for pasta, Chef Tedesco’s true amore. Selections change with the seasons, but they’re all made with incredible care. A recent favorite was the Trenette, thin sheets of pasta layered with pork ragu, ricotta, and green onion purée. For entrees, the Pork Milanesa was crispy, light and tender, complemented by a citrusy spinach and faro salad, plus a side of roasted sweet potatoes dusted with fennel pollen. Brick Chicken, Fried Rabbit, and Eggplant Parmesan also caught our eye. Desserts range from simple cookies and gelato to the show-stopping S’mores Tartufo, a beehive-shaped dome filled with hazelnut caramel, graham crackers and gelato, then encased in toasted marshmallow.
To whet your whistle, there’s a serious cocktail program of tasty, unique libations, plus craft beers, on-tap wines, and lots of funky Italians by the glass. And although it has an active bar scene, the restaurant sits next to the Thinkery children’s museum, so it wisely welcomes families by offering a dedicated children’s menu that goes well beyond chicken fingers. It’s those thoughtful details that prove Tedesco and Orman’s high standards at L’Oca d’Oro. They’ve obviously put their heart and soul into it.
1900 Simond Ave
Austin, TX 78723
Read more from the Architecture Issue | October 2016