“Pizza and pasta, it’s what I want to focus on for the rest of my career,” says Osteria DOP owner Rocky Maselli. “Something I know and love and feel like I can share with Eugene.”
Osteria DOP is a southern Italian restaurant that opened its doors on Oak Street on Jan. 17. The DOP part of the name stands for Denominazione d’Origine Protetta, or Protected Designation of Origin, the authentication stamp that the Italian government puts on wine and food products to show that the products are traditionally produced and legitimate regional products of Italy.
“DOP is important to me because what I do is somewhat traditional,” Maselli says. “I think DOP fits with my philosophy.”
Maselli graduated from culinary school in the Bay Area in 1991. After graduation, he immediately started working in kitchens. A few years after graduation, he met his future wife and local Eugenean, Leah Pearl. In 1998 the couple moved from the Bay back to Eugene to help Pearl’s mother, Stephanie Pearl-Kimmel, open Marché restaurant in 5th Street Market. Maselli was executive chef there for 12 years.
Despite Marché’s French menu, Maselli admits he often secretly cooked Italian food there.
In the mid-2000s Maselli worked with Slow Food International, a grassroots organization focused on the prevention of the disappearance of local food cultures and traditions. Through Slow Food, Maselli took his first trip to Italy and came back “super energized about Italian food.”
He later returned to Italy, specifically Naples, and earned a Verace Pizza Napoletana (VPN) certification meaning he is certified in the traditional art of Neapolitan pizza.
“It’s so specific that I fell in love with it — managing the dough, managing the woodfired oven, using the traditional techniques to stretch the pizzas and top them and cook them,” Maselli says.
After moving back to the Bay Area to work at a restaurant there, Maselli returned to Eugene and started planning Pizzeria DOP, an 18-foot trailer with a pizza oven and a fryer that began making its rounds in July 2020.
Maselli’s twin daughters were his first two employees. He says he feels lucky that by the time COVID hit, the plans for the truck were already well under way. And unlike trying to open a sit-down restaurant during COVID, he just had a truck with a window.
The truck sold pizzas and arancini, small fried rice balls with various fillings, as well as salad. But it was a limited menu compared to the new storefront on Oak Street.
The paternal side of Maselli’s family is from the Apulia region, the heel of the boot of Italy, so Maselli wanted Osteria DOP to have that southern Italian focus.
All the wines are focused on southern Italy, but there are also cocktails offered like Negronis or Aperol Spritzes. The menu consists of antipasti dishes such as burrata, pizzas, including the Amalfi, topped with tomato, garlic, oregano, sea salt, olive oil and anchovies, and the Puglian, topped with fennel sausage, spring onions, mozzarella, pecorino and olive oil.
The menu, of course, features Maselli’s new love, pasta. Some of the pasta dishes include house-made garganelli with pork sugo bianco, and rigatoni with fennel sausage, tomato sauce, burrata and fennel pollen.
Maselli has “osteria” in the restaurant’s name to pay homage to the Italian establishments similar to taverns. An osteria offers liquor, wine and regional dishes with a warm family ambiance. He remembers his first trip to Italy and visiting an osteria, where a father and son were cooking, the mother and daughter were waiting tables and the grandfather was polishing glassware. In the middle of the restaurant, there was a sunken area with an open fire. Everyone was cooking and serving and hosting. Maselli was inspired.
“I designed this space to be open, so we can’t really hide,” Maselli says. “The cooks not only cook their dishes, but they take the food out to the guests. I think there’s an important connection there.”
Osteria DOP is at 1122 Oak Street. Hours are 5 to 10 pm Tuesday through Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday. PizzeriaDop.com.