Food Fit for a Celebration

Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano is at once comfortable and homey, beckoning diners with warm woods, earth tones, and delicious aromas even in midday. The ambiance is upscale, yet relaxed—white tablecloths without a hint of pretension.

The eatery has found a unique niche here, serving regulars from all over Omaha whose lives include regular visits and celebrations marking important milestones. Patrons relish top-notch service, scratch-made dishes, and the satisfaction that comes from being in a welcoming, safe space surrounded by people who genuinely care.

Elkhorn native Zachary Link, Managing Partner, has been in the hospitality business in one form or another for 17 years, working in restaurants while pursuing a business degree, even spending a few years in Sioux Falls running a kitchen for another popular Italian spot.

When he heard about an opening in Omaha, he was compelled to return home to raise his family. Link recalls great enthusiasm for a chance to work at Biaggi’s, “If I wanted to impress someone, I’d bring them here.”

The affable and enthusiastic Link has no formal culinary training, learning instead on the job. It was a bit daunting to move into the kitchen in the Omaha location—the prior chef had been there 14 years (eons in kitchen time), but he settled in and quickly gained his footing. Ultimately, he took over the manager position in Omaha after spending about a year in the kitchen, that knowledge proving invaluable in a managerial capacity.

Ironically, Link despised spaghetti as a child, growing up with a limited menu and palate, “I didn’t even know what asparagus was,” he shared, chuckling. Given the rare opportunity to dine out now, he enjoys trying local spots and different cuisines, “Omaha is a great restaurant town, with so many options, and I love being a part of it.”

Privately held, Biaggi’s opened in 1999 in Bloomington, Illinois, and has since expanded to 17 locations in 9 states. Todd Hovenden, founder, is a detail-oriented foodie, constantly working to innovate and refine dishes. Per Link, Hovenden is hands on, meeting weekly with the corporate chef to keep things fresh, changing the menu at least twice a year to avoid stagnation.

Mentors over the years imparted to Link the importance of maintaining high standards in a nurturing environment for both staff and guests. This philosophy translates to the tactful handling of coachable moments, using the best products, and paying heed to the tiniest details.

The pandemic was hard on everyone, but Link expressed great pride in the way his team handled the unprecedented events of the past year. “We have a fantastic team, who really nurtured each other in many ways.” This location is unique in that many employees have been there for over 10 years—Robin White has been a server for 14 years—so the level of knowledge is high, enabling Link to run lean while maintaining high levels of service.

Dishes emerging from the scratch kitchen are hearty, appetizing, and creative. The establishment has been named Omaha’s Best Gluten-Free Menu multiple times, offering dozens of gluten-free dishes, including spinach fettucine, rice penne, and alfredo. Flexible with other dietary considerations as well, service staff boasts strong menu knowledge, and when unable to answer a question or request on the spot, they will take steps necessary to provide the most delicious solution.

Risotto, a traditional Italian dish with arborio rice, appears in myriad forms on the menu, scattered with simple roasted, seasonal vegetables for lunch and topped with more decadent scallops for dinner. A rotating soup menu is a smart lunch choice when paired with a salad.

Nebraskans love their steak, and Biaggi’s features a tender 8-ounce filet mignon that arrives at the table perched atop buttery mashed potatoes, ringed with a sundried tomato cream sauce, and accompanied by earthy asparagus, mushrooms, and roasted tomatoes. One of Link’s personal favorite dishes is the Bombolini (Italian doughnuts), bite-sized sweets similar to the impressive bread pudding.

Biaggi’s boasts two private dining spaces available for anything from weddings to wine dinners. The more intimate wine room seats up to 18 and the banquet room up to 72. One of the most cherished parts of Link’s job is hosting special occasions, “Our regulars celebrate here for big events in their lives, from first communion to weddings to funerals. It’s a privilege to be there for our guests throughout these milestones and the gamut of human emotions.”

When possible, the restaurant makes time for charitable community involvement such as the annual Art & Soup Fundraiser hosted by the Visiting Nurse Association. “It’s an honor to be in a position to help in any way throughout the community.”

Summing up his philosophy, Link mused, “At the end of the day, there is no better value for the quality of food and service. I want diners to leave here content with wide smiles on their faces.”

Leave a Reply