Open since May 2008, Olives Eatery is
housed in the rear of what was originally a two-family residence,
located just south of the bridge over the Seneca River/Barge Canal.
Always dressed for the seasons, the venue currently wears gold, orange
and brown, matched by fancy flourishes in the building’s exterior.
Posters hawking turn-of-the-century nightlife in “Gay Paree” grace
walls in both small dining areas, along with a chalkboard listing
selections from the menu.
Vintage white gauze skirts and blouses
folded over a small screen conceal the miniature kitchen and pick up
the flowing fashions from surrounding posters. Wrought-iron soda
fountain-style chairs surround glass-topped dining tables, and instead
of floral vases, centered on top are fronds of greens spiraling from
carved-out Granny Smith apples. Cornered hutches display wine and beer
offerings in between antique pottery and, in the second dining area,
there is an alcove designated for elfin creatures peeking through
myriad branches. It’s an enchanting picture.
Festive finery: Lunch is a must at Olives Eatery, owned by Debra Case and decorated for the season.
Case’s prowess in the kitchen came from
family, mostly her grandfather, Mario Galluzzo. Syracusans will
remember the flamboyant restaurateur as owner of Lorenzo’s, on South
Salina Street. Former Syracuse Mayor Lee Alexander worked as a
bartender there to help pay for his law school tuition. Galluzzo also
owned Mario’s Piccolo Bistro on James Street, the back-entrance
restaurant with the miniature Eiffel Tower in the parking lot.
“I checked out many names before
deciding on this one,” says Case of Olives. The menu uses food from
both her mother’s French and father’s Italian roots, including olives
in a number of dishes.
Case put together the menu and hired
Lisa Mitchell, who at the time had her own catering business, to
oversee the kitchen. Robert Limburg, formerly with The Krebs in
Skaneateles and the Inn Between in Camillus, came on as server and Lana
Alley became general manager. She hires extra help for large parties
and catering. “We all work together as a team,” says Case, “and I hope
to be able to include profit sharing in the future.”
Piped-in background music, ranging from
the soulful Edith Piaf to gravelly voiced Louis Prima, laced in between
a host of opera singers, sets the scene for the French/Italian-inspired
menu. Start with a choice of hot dips of shredded chicken or
spinach/artichoke for $9, or order a half portion for $5. Six salads
are all $9 each. Citrus combines oranges, grapefruit, almonds, red
onion and capers over a bed of greens. Nicola combines romaine,
gorgonzola, carrots and walnuts. Mixed greens are topped with turkey,
ham, tomato and cucumber for the Juliette. Romaine, cucumbers,
tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta cheese is appropriately named
Mediterranean. Chicken salad combines mixed greens with roasted
chicken, oranges and almonds. Antipasto is romaine, peppers, salami,
provolone, artichokes and pepperoncini.
Dressings include roasted garlic
vinaigrette, olive oil/balsamic, lemon citrus, wasabi soy or raspberry
vinaigrette. True to offering something different, salads are served in
colanders, with dressing on the side, so as not to seep through the
A choice of seven paninis is offered for $9. The Popeye
has smoked turkey, Swiss cheese, bacon and spinach. Italiano is ham,
salami, provolone, red peppers and roasted garlic. VV’s Turkey also has
brie, granny smith apples and cranberry sauce. Ferro combines roast
beef, provolone, caramelized onions and horseradish. Vegetarian has
greens, cucumbers, tomato, feta cheese and black olives. Garden tuna
layers tomatoes, romaine, green apple and dill. And Cubby combines
chicken with spinach, tomato, Swiss cheese and dill.
Orzo is one of Olives Eatery’s specials,
which changes weekly. One combination included a mixture of peas,
mushrooms and mozzarella in the rice-like pasta. Ten dollars will get
you half a roasted chicken and orzo, a hearty dish big enough for your
French onion soup is always on the menu,
alongside another soup offering. Wines and beers are also available.
“Men enjoy coming in," says Case, "when they know they can order a beer
with their lunch.”
There is ample parking in the rear,
especially with the newly installed blacktop, but additional parking is
easily available along Syracuse Street. Summer boaters come over from
the Barge Canal, a short walk away.
Between the two dining rooms, there is seating for 38. In
season, outdoor seating expands to an additional 60, plus 36 in the
wine room. The spot is open for dining Mondays through Saturdays, 11:30
a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Takeout is available by calling 638-1955.
But food isn’t the only reason to visit
Olives Eatery. It is also a stopping-off place to shop for unique
jewelry, scarves and other gift items in the connected front room. “I
knew I wanted to open a restaurant, but also wanted to make use of the
other spaces,” Case explains. She hesitates to use the word
“restaurant” because dinners aren’t on the menu yet.
What has evolved is her own shop, Cottage Designs,
tastefully equipped with a series of wrought-iron tables and chairs,
for al fresco dining in season. A miniature wagon laden with bundles of
colorful artificial fall blooms sits in one corner. Swaths of green
drapery across the front balustrade combine in a theater-like
atmosphere. This fetching scene will no doubt change into a holiday
theme now that Christmanstime is close at hand.
There is more to explore on the second
floor. The Little Black Dress Boutique, an upscale consignment shop,
takes up much of the front space where you may browse through
everything from casual to holiday attire, along with jewelry, shoes and
other accessories, at affordable prices. Smaller spaces toward the
back, which were originally bedrooms, a bathroom and even closets, are
leased for giftables and crafts. The once master bedroom, to the rear,
holds some furniture for sale.
“This has become a nice arrangement for
my tenants and myself,” she says, adding that most have full-time jobs
and lease these spaces to exhibit and sell their handiwork, at the same
time bringing in additional income for the building’s owner. Their rent
helps pay her rent, so to speak.
Not only is the building almost fully occupied, but Case
also uses the former garage in the rear for small wine-tasting parties
for up to 38, and even additional seating, when needed. Speaking of
seating, more tables are arranged within a garden terrace dressed up
with plaster-of-Paris angels and other little folk, protected by an
overhead trellis. No problem disturbing the next-door neighbor, either.
Case lives in the house, which she bought in 2007.
“It makes things very convenient,” she
says. “I’m also a workaholic, and if I come up with an idea late at
night, I can easily go next door to work.” The tiny, feisty and
attractive owner also has a full-time job as an interior decorator,
boasting a list of both commercial and private clients. “My mother was
a designer and I learned from her,” she confesses.
Mark your calendar in the spring to take
advantage of all the outdoor activities at Olives Eatery. But for now,
do your holiday shopping in the building’s boutiques, as you enjoy the
pleasure of dining in such an engaging and festive setting.