One big, fat Greek-filled belly: Pittsford restaurant turning 20
By Christopher Malone
The plaza of Northfield Common in Pittsford is a unique little nook which locals can call convenient and travelers can thoroughly enjoy and easily remember.
Not only does it feature Olives Greek Taverna, at 50 State St., but a variety of other shops like a letterpress company, a Pilates studio, clothing stores and a tailor, a woodshop, and a coffee and cupcake spot, among other eateries.
This Pittsford plaza is as easily walkable as one of those towns that drifters pass through in westerns, but, of course, not located in a desolate area.
Instead, this is a historic area and features a waterway that was once part of the Erie Canal. Olives Greek Taverna along with the neighboring Label 7 Napa-inspired restaurant get prime spots of the scenic view.
Olives is celebrating its 20th year in business. Not to get ahead in this text, but the Greek restaurant feels like it has more years invested into the area than the reality of the Mourgides family opening its doors in 1998. It goes to show how some hospitality and Old-World quality and atmosphere don’t have monetary value.
The cash-only restaurant (an ATM is available on premises) features two rooms with several tables dedicated to patron seating. There is a spacious patio with vibrant green umbrellas to complement the color scheme. The décor is faux Mediterranean in a very homelike presentation. Plastic table covers drape over the tables, all of which were in great condition, and the silverware was spotless.
We kicked off the meal with the village platter ($12.99). The easily sharable starter featured four generous-sized pieces lightly breaded, crispy-coated eggplant; dolmades (grape leaves filled with rice and topped with feta); skordalia (potato spread), hummus and pita bread.
The eggplant was perfectly cooked. The breaded coating didn’t compromise the eggplant, which wasn’t mushy inside the crispy shell. The grape leaves may be an acquired taste for some, but I enjoy them. The oil, rice and feta were wonderful ingredients for the finger food. Honestly, of all the familiar dishes I’ve had, these bite-sized delights were the best I’ve had.
As for the spreads, the skordalia proved to be a flavorful and lighter cousin of garlic mashed potatoes. This paired well with pita bread but better with the eggplant, a suggestion by our server. The hummus was dynamic. The balance of garlic, tahini and lemon were very well balanced. Again, our informative waitress schooled us about the restaurant and ownership: she noted this hummus is a family recipe and that the owner sometimes makes it a little chunkier.
After devouring most of the food on the platter, there was a little hummus leftover — we wanted to be conservative for some unknown reason — and we were provided with more pieces of pita.
Next, the spicy feta gyro ($6.70) arrived at the table, halved. Since my partner and I were sharing most of this evening’s dishes, Olives’ staff took it upon themselves to physically split our food items. It was a thoughtful gesture and a welcomed surprise.
The gyro meat was flavorful, far from dry. Although I expected more, the spicy feta spread had enough heat. The curious-minded and spice -sensitive consumers don’t have to fret.
We split the chicken phyllo special ($15.99), which was the poultry version of the standard kreatopita dish found on the menu. The phyllo firmly hugged the shredded chicken, artichoke hearts, pine nuts, pesto and goat cheese. The phyllo was cooked well, showing singe marks, and the inside ingredients were very hot. The crispy dough coat flaked when the knife cut into it, but it didn’t shatter to the point where pieces of the phyllo flew everywhere.
The artichoke hearts weren’t overcooked and the chicken wasn’t dry. The pesto didn’t overpower the rest of the flavor of the dish. The kreatopita was very filling as well. With our approach to the evening out, opting for another entrée would have proved to be too much food.
Instead, we compensated. After briefly debating dessert, the coconut bread pudding ($3.99) sounded too good to pass up. There was a good balance of sweet and savory, and the sweetness definitely pulled from the bits of apricots. Yes, apricots. The medley of prominent and shredded coconut with the fruit added up to be a great team.
Before tip and without hard beverages, the bill fell just under $43.
Olives Greek Taverna kept the hot, Mediterranean food coming as it set a bar for service. Plus there must be a lot of regulars. Our server looked at us at the end of the meal, and said that we didn’t look familiar. We shared a good laugh about the comment.
Although our night out was on a Monday, it’s easy to imagine the place getting packed, especially in an area where there is a close proximity to the highway and there are several colleges. Reservations are accepted, if patrons want to play it safe. Be sure to bring an empty stomach.
Olives Greek Taverna
50 State St., Shoen Place, Pittsford, NY 14534
Monday – Thursday: 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday & Saturday: 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.