By: Dale King Contributing Writer
There’s more to the Oliv Pit Grille in Boca Raton than just dining on tasty Greek delicacies prepared in an open kitchen where chefs cook up Athenian specialties with a modern twist.
Oliv Pit, open since December in the Shoppes at Village Pointe on SW 18th Street, imports most of its ingredients from Greece, and selects fresh produce from local suppliers. Superior grade meats arrive from Kassos Family Premium Meats in Ohio, and Greek beer and wine is served, along with vintages from Italy, France and California.
Owners Marcos Alexandridis and Emmanuel Vlahos have enhanced food preparation with a touch not obvious to casual clientele.
“The restaurant is the first in the United States to cook meat and fish using barbecue briquettes made from olive pits,” said Marcos, a Greek native raised in Montreal. “This process is popular in Greece and elsewhere in Europe,” he said, “as the olive pits do not contain carcinogens found in charcoal.”
Use of briquettes made from olive pits has other benefits.“There’s no smoke and very little ash. We can also keep cooking temperatures high, and there are no detrimental chemicals in the cooking process.”
The briquettes are produced by using pits left over from the process of making olive oil with Kalamata olives in southern Greece. Cooking with them doesn’t increase the planet’s carbon footprint and produces 30 percent less carbon monoxide than wood charcoal cookery.
Marcos is the exclusive distributor for olive pit briquettes in South Florida.
The two restaurant owners boast considerable Greek heritage. Vlahos, an Ohio native and son of Greek immigrants, recently moved here after spending the last 27 years in Athens.
Alexandridis hails from a family of soccer stars. His father, uncle and cousin all played for Greece’s team, Olympiacos. Marcos took up the sport himself and played for Costa Rica’s team Saprissa. He said his uncle was such a famous player that 100,000 people attended his funeral.
Though brought up in Canada, Alexandridis spent summers in Greece. “My parents wanted me to keep close to my Greek roots.”
He arrived in Boca about a year ago with his 16-year-old son, a star football and baseball player (quarterback and pitcher) who attends Spanish River High School.
Oliv Pit held its grand opening Jan.11. By then, the public had discovered the new dining establishment and were filling seats inside and out.
“We have been so pleased with the response we have received from our guests,” said Vlahos. “We are committed to serving them delicious and authentic cuisine.”
The 84-seat restaurant offers outdoor seating front and rear. Marcos said a Greek architect, Maria Mergoupi, was flown in to create the unique interior design, which includes a wall hung with kitchen utensils and painted in white.
“The recipes used at Oliv Pit have been passed down to me from my Athenian family and they go back many generations,” Marcos said. “The restaurant interiors follow in that same tradition.”
Looks are one thing; food is another. Patrons can select from a variety of appetizers: Eggplant spread (melitzanosalata), a light combination of eggplant, bell peppers, green onions, parsley, garlic and olive oil. Zucchini croquettes (kolokithokeftedes) are a delight – tasty, golden-brown fried pillows with a soft filling. Spinach pie, meatballs (keftedes) fava (Greek hummus, Santorini split peas, lemon, oil and sea salt) and triokafteri spread are delicious picks.
Salads embellish the menu: Authentic Greek (no lettuce, but lots of cucumber, tomato and feta cheese); green salad with romaine lettuce and Greek bruschetta from the island of Crete — rusk bread, vine tomatoes, red onions, capers, manouri cheese and Greek olive oil, for example.
Don’t pass up any specialties: skewers (pork, chicken, veggie), alone or in a wrap; gyro (beef or lamb) with pita or a lamb burger. Entrees include fish cooked whole, lamb chops, jumbo prawns and seafood platter.
Select any dish that comes with lemon potatoes. In the plate or as a side, they’re wonderful.
Desserts offer a grand finale. The orange cake is a sweet, tasty treat that goes down smoothly. Walnut cake, baklava and Greek yogurt are fine staples. Pastries are made specifically for Oliv Pit by a local woman in her home.
Oliv Pit is located at 6006 SW 18th St., Boca Raton. 561-409-2019. Check olivpit.com for hours and other information.