The Black Olive, a new Greek and
Mediterranean restaurant, located in what was formerly a Quiznos sub
shop at 316 S. Clinton St., opened Feb. 27 with great fanfare. No
ribbon-cutting ceremony here but owner Bill Koumanidis,
surrounded by Syracuse Mayor Matt Driscoll and other local dignitaries,
christened the place with the Greek tradition of smashing plates. It’s
a little messier than simply cutting a ribbon but much more effective.
All things Greek: Nathan Babb (left) and Basilius “Bill” Koumanidis of The Black Olive serve up a dish of Saganaki. MICHAEL DAVIS PHOTOS
Koumanidis also wisely planned the
opening to be a part of the downtown Dining Week, giving visitors to
Armory Square another restaurant option. “I just went to Armory Square
and saw the ‘for lease’ sign and thought it would be a good spot for my
place,” says Koumanidis. His parents closed their Greek emporium,
Santorini on West Seneca Turnpike, at the end of March; they will now
assist their son in his new venture.
As a result of helping out his parents
during Santorini’s four-year run, Koumanidis gained valuable experience
in the restaurant business. Still, he originally set his sights on
being a police officer, earning an associate’s degree in criminology at
Onondaga Community College in 1994 and bachelor’s in criminology at the
University of South Florida in 2002. After graduating, he worked in
Tampa for JP Morgan Chase & Co. in retirements investments. Bored
with sitting behind a desk all day, he returned to Syracuse, and the
rest is history.
Koumanidis collaborated with building
owner Tom Fabbioli to rent the 1,800-square-foot space for $2,500 a
month, and hired architect John Rose to help design the interior. Stone
flooring and an interior wall divider are handsomely crafted from stone
that came from a quarry in Vermont owned by Fabbiolii. “Part of the
floor is also ceramic, left over from Quiznos,” notes Koumanidis. The
warm and charming interior seats 50 patrons and is decorated in
colorful tapestries from Dubai, along with large paintings depicting
Greek scenes, painted by Koumanidis’ mother Olga.
The Black Olive has a full liquor
license, a very important part of the operation, since Koumanidis plans
to build a mini-stage for presenting weekend entertainment like Latin
nights on Fridays and international nights on Saturdays, which may
feature a belly dancer and either Greek, Arabic or Spanish music.
The Black Olive menu takes you on a tour
of countries in the Mediterranean, with an emphasis on Greek fare,
including some dishes that cater to the American palate. Like the
former Santorini, portions are generous and prices are reasonable. The
dinner menu lists a number of classic Mediterranean entrees, all of
which are served with a choice of roasted potatoes or orzo and Greek
salad or cup of soup.
Already a favorite, the Greek Platter
for two allows you and your dining partner to enjoy a varied sampling
of moussaka, pastichio, two skewers of pork or chicken souvlaki, along
with pita points and tzatziki for $24. Shish kabob—skewered, seasoned
chicken, beef or pork with peppers, onions, tomatoes—pita points and
tzatziki is $15.
Tarpon Springs is a Florida tourist
attraction noted for swimmers who dive into local waters for sponges.
But the area is also known for its mild and sweet-tasting grouper,
which is featured on the Black Olive menu. Here it is lightly breaded,
pan fried and seasoned with Greek herbs for $16. Another version is
Grouper Plaki, topped with sauteed tomatoes, onions, Greek herbs and
Feta cheese for $16. Florina Bifteki is a pair of seasoned and grilled
beef patties, topped with tomato and red onion for $15. Cyprus spicy
shrimp is char-grilled and skewered for $14. Samkeh Mahi Mahi is
another fish choice for $17 and, for the chicken lover, a half-bird
cooked with the eatery’s special blend of spices costs $15.
A melange of chicken, shrimp and spicy
sausage, sauteed in red sauce over rice, is called Makedoniko and sells
for $16. Shrimp Santorini, sauteed shrimp, tomato, scallions, garlic
and oregano over rice with Feta cheese, is $15, and if you want an
individual order of moussaka or pastichio, each is priced at $10. These
four items are served with a choice of Greek salad or cup of soup.
Hellenic-style steak and chops are
char-broiled with the Black Olive blend of spices, served with potato
or orzo, Greek salad or soup. Steak is $26, pork chops are $15 and rack
of lamb is $25.
Gyros and souvlaki sandwiches are $8;
make any of the items a platter which includes rice, a side Greek salad
and pita points, for $13. Eight specialty sandwiches are served on
ciabatta, with choice of potato or orzo, from $8 to $10, and run the
gamut of salmon, grouper, mahi mahi, chicken, roast beef turkey or
roasted vegetables. Burgers have a Mediterranean twist as well. How
about the Athena Burger, topped with fried egg and bacon for $7.50?
Traditional-burger lovers can order theirs plain or with cheese, and
without the spices.
Lunches include all the Greek specialty
sandwiches and platters. There is also falafel for lunch; all choices
come with grape leaves, Greek french fries or Greek salad. For a hearty
noontime meal, moussaka or pastichio are options.
Mediterranean mood: The dining area of The Black Olive comes with an old-country feel.
Mediterranean menus always feature a
bounty of appetizers, which, when choosing three or more, can comprise
a satisfying meal. Surprise your group with an order of Saganaki, a
blazing presentation of
kefalograviera cheese, flambed with Greek brandy and lemon, for $8. The
list goes on with pan-fried eggplant; various traditional Greek spreads
with pita points; tzatziki, cucumber and garlic-flavored yogurt;
crushed peppers, Feta, olive oil and garlic; or order the peppers
roasted. Fasolia are baked giant beans in red sauce; or try the
familiar dolmades—rice-stuffed grape leaves—or spanakopita stuffed with
spinach and Feta
Fish appetizers include broiled octopus,
smelts or fried calamari. Souzoukakia, ground meatballs, is the one
beef offering. Order traditional french fries to go with your burger,
or try eggplant-strip fries. Greek fries are sprinkled with oregano,
Feta and lemon wedges.
The Black Olive is open Mondays for
lunch only from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Tuesdays through Fridays, 11 a.m. to
10 p.m.; and Saturdays, 5 to 10 p.m. Call 399-5599.