Olives, opened in 1989, was a legend in its time. Chef Todd English won fans with big flavors and a rustic Mediterranean focus. In more recent years, the restaurant has spent a lot of time with its doors closed. A grease fire shut it down in May 2010, and it struggled to reopen. Earlier this month, it finally succeeded. In Charlestown, Olives is back in business.
The restaurant has been renovated. The bar, which previously sat 15, can now accommodate around 45 people. These days, English feels, diners are often more interested in eating a few snacks at the bar than sitting down for a full meal.
Olives’ current menu reflects this shift in the way we eat. It devotes more real estate to small plates and flatbread tarts. “It’s kind of like a mille-feuille meets pizza dough,” English says of the latter. These might be topped with tomato sauce and mozzarella di bufala, rock shrimp and herbed ricotta, and other combinations. Small plates include a sweet pea panna cotta with Parmesan cream, veal meatballs agrodolce, duck with carrot risotto, and scallops with parsnip puree and salmon ceviche. Olives’ carpetbaggers — fried oysters with beef carpaccio and truffle mashed potatoes — are here, along with yellowfin tartare and other raw dishes. There are a few larger plates, such as spit-roasted chicken, a double-cut pork chop, and an Olives classic, butternut squash tortelli with brown butter and sage.
English has other restaurants to attend to (although former Faneuil Hall spot Kingfish Hall is not among them), and Olives will be in the hands of executive chef James Klewin
. Still, English says, he will have a presence in Charlestown. “I’ll definitely be there to get the place open and make sure it’s on the right path,” he says.
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