When Juan Imeroni and Alfio Gulisano decided to team up and embrace their Argentinian roots at a new restaurant, they opted for the name Ché. The word, a colloquialism in Argentina along the lines of bro or sup, perfectly summarizes the restaurant’s setting.
The Walnut Street spot has been open for only two years, but it’s quickly developed a collegial atmosphere. Many of the recipes used by Gulisano, who grew up in Buenos Aires and manages the kitchen, come from his mother’s kitchen, including the empanadas. Choose from at least a dozen different crispy, perfectly cinched dough pockets, with fillings ranging from more traditional, like a mixture of cumin-spiced beef, egg, and olives, to the more experimental, like mushrooms and artichokes drenched in béchamel. There are also five different dipping sauces to choose from, but you need not stray from the house chimichurri. In Argentina, where chimichurri was invented, recipes tend to include the same core ingredients: oregano, parsley, garlic, and olive oil. Ché has perfected the form. The sauce is equal parts herbaceous, rich, and deftly acidic, with a touch of spice from crushed red pepper flakes. It complements practically every item on the menu, but particularly the grilled meats, another Argentinian staple. Instead of classic steak offerings, Gulisano opts for marinated beef skewers and sausages that would make the city’s German brethren blush. Each carnivorous bite is cooked on an open-flame grill, imparting welcome bits of bitter char to the juicy meat. The technique, an ode to South American tradition, is even more proof that Imeroni and Gulisano have done their homeland proud.
Ché, 1342 Walnut St., Over-the-Rhine, (513) 345-8838, checincinnati.com, lunch Tues-Sun, dinner seven days.