Aioli Restaurant on Mediterranean Cuisine
“My mother used to send me to the market every day,” Chef Said Rhafiri said. “She only cooked with the freshest ingredients.” It was that kind of early training in Casablanca, Morocco, that shaped the direction of a young boy’s life. Eventually, it would lead Said to own Aioli Restaurant.
At 20, Said packed up his culinary passion and left for Florence, Italy. There he would study the culinary arts for seven years. It proved to be a worthy investment of time and energy.
Eventually, he moved to the States and landed in Charlottesville, working at some of the most prestigious resorts and inns in the area. Keswick Hall, Clifton Inn, and Boars Head Inn top the list of outstanding hospitality leaders where Said has worked.
He also designed and opened the kitchen at Veritas Vineyards & Winery. Chef Said prepared for 58 weddings each year at the Veritas, plus five-course meals for parties.
The Aioli Dream Comes to Life
But, as Chef Said said, “Every chef’s dream is to open a restaurant.” After 15 years of working in the Charlottesville area, the pull to create his own distinct culinary vision took center stage. That’s when Aioli Restaurant was born. Now, for the last 6 years, Chef Said has delighted area visitors and local residents alike with his passion for fresh Mediterranean food.
Of course, everything is homemade. From pasta sauces, vinaigrettes and pastries, it’s all a foodie’s delight. High on the list of tempting foods to sample is the paella. Stuffed with mussels, clams, scallops, and shrimp, expertly blended with traditional Spanish rice and house made tomato sauce, it’s a visual and culinary pleaser.
Other favorites include crab cakes and duck. Chef Said gets as many food ingredients as possible locally. The trout is from Monterey. Scallops, shrimp and yellow fin tuna are sourced from Seafood West Main in Charlottesville.
Compared to cooking for resorts, nightly cooking at Aioli as the sole chef pales in comparison!
Husband and Wife Team
While Chef Said does all the cooking for the restaurant, his wife, Donna, prepares the salads. She works as a part-time nurse for Augusta Health. The rest of her time is spent working along side of her husband.
And they are quite the team! The kitchen was absolutely spotless, even behind the cooking range and storage compartments. In fact, in the six years since Said and Donna have owned the restaurant, they have never had a single violation!
Not only is the food delicious, you can eat in total comfort knowing your chef prides himself on his food and his cleanliness.
Every third Thursday of the month, Aioli’s has live jazz with the Plumbley Quartet. It’s a truly relaxing way to enjoy an outstanding meal.
One more thing. The desserts are incredible, too. But you would expect that, right? Just feast your eyes on this creme brûlée.