Daniel Jackson returns to Chapel Hill after 18 years to head new Italian restaurant Osteria Georgi as chef/partner.
By Madeline Taylor
The restaurant industry was significantly rocked by prolonged government shutdowns and restrictions – and that’s putting it lightly. Dining out feels like it may never be the same again.
Osteria Georgi hopes to combat that feeling when it opens at 201 S. Elliott Rd. in late April.
“Opening in the spring felt almost like a little bit of a rebirth and awakening,” says Daniel Jackson, chef and partner of the modern Italian restaurant. “I think we just hope to bring a little light to the party.”
The Chapel Hill native and UNC grad began his now-illustrious culinary career in high school, working at The Loop in Eastgate Crossing. He ventured north to New York after college to become the classically French-trained chef he is today.
Daniel grew his experience through the fine dining scene at Michelin-starred restaurant Eleven Madison Park in Manhattan before honing his expertise in Italian pasta at Union Square Hospitality Group’s cafes at New York’s Museum of Modern Art. He was most recently the culinary director at Fields Good Chicken’s fleet of six restaurants.
But behind his impressive resume is a person who cares deeply about his community. At Fields Good Chicken, he prepared meals for hospital workers in New York City at the start of the pandemic. But he lost his job two months later and returned to North Carolina with his wife and children – a blessing in disguise. He touched down and made contact with famous local restaurateur Giorgios Bakatsias. Giorgios had an idea for an osteria in the works, and when a different chef fell through, “I jumped at the opportunity,” Daniel says. “The fact that [the job] was in Chapel Hill was really important to me, growing up here and never really being a part of the food community here. I’ve done all of my chef work mostly in New York and a little bit in Virginia. So the opportunity to open a restaurant with this Italian concept was a natural fit.”
Daniel uses a particular pasta-making process with specific logistical measures regarding his flour choices, batch sizes, how it should be stored and so on. He also tries to incorporate seasonal, local ingredients into his dishes when available. Some of his favorites include Boxcarr Handmade Cheese and North Carolina seafood. With his modern approach to Italian cooking, customers can expect dishes like insalata di mare, charcuterie, a rotating crudo and a whole branzino on the menu – plus other chicken-, beef- and braised lamb-focused dishes.
The restaurant will also feature a market, a trend that seems to have grown in popularity during the pandemic, Daniel says, so patrons can take home their favorite aspects of the meal, too, whether it’s handmade pasta and sauces or quality imported ingredients like Italian olive oil.
Giorgios – the guru-like, fedora-wearing chef – named Osteria Georgi after his late friend, George Tarantini, who was an N.C. State soccer coach for more than two decades. The two met when George became a frequent patron of the now-shuttered Bakatsias Cuisine. They bonded over their similar childhoods, a love of soccer and a belief that food service was an extension of one’s heart and home.
“[Food] becomes medicinal in a way,” Giorgios says. “A lot of genuine things happen around the table with good food. And Dan has an amazing ability to cook.”
Even amid the pandemic, Daniel looks forward to bringing his talents back to the community that gave him his start.
Osteria Georgi is slated to open in late April at 201 S. Elliott Rd. with indoor and outdoor dining and an Italian-centric menu and wine list. The restaurant will start with dinner and later expand to include lunch and breakfast. Market items, coffee and family-style meals will be available for takeout.