New Haven’s new Italian restaurant, Olives and Oil, brings together the new and old in one venue. The large space at the corner of Temple & Crown features electric swing music, graffiti-style pop art, and a vintage moped. Erick, one of the founders, described how Olives and Oil hopes to fit into the New Haven food scene: “We’re not trying to compete with the traditional New Haven Italian scene, but add something new and fun.”
The menu mirrors this bridge between tradition and contemporary styles. Made to resemble 1920’s magazine ads, the menu offers old-style Italian dishes, along with some fun twists. Depending on the path you want to take for the night, you can choose between unique Italian small-plates, or go straight for classic Italian restaurant pasta and meat entrées. The pastas are all homemade, and you can taste it.
The menu boasts many delightful small plates or “cicetti,” Italian-style tapas. We tried the wood-roasted cauliflower which was perfectly crispy, with hints of lemon, pepper, and parmesan. The highlight of the menu is the pulpo, or octopus, which is cooked to tender perfection with a soft, almost buttery texture and a smoky after taste. The octopus was paired with farro sautéed with fennel and pepper, and it’s hearty enough to serve as a full meal.
In terms of pasta, we’d recommend the squid ink. The squid ink sauce was subtle enough not to overwhelm the entire dish, but added wonderful depth. For those feeling less adventurous, the Pomodoro is a warm and friendly choice.
Aside from food, the menu boasts a wide assortment of drinks for any occasion. “Grapes on Tap” is a rotating selection of white, red and bubbly wines (literally) on tap for those wine-inclined. For after dinner drinks, Olives and Oil offers traditional Italian “Amaro” — digestifs to help cut the food coma. For those still nostalgic for childhood and not yet ready to drink the same liquors as their grandparents, the restaurant also has fun alcoholic milkshakes and delicious desserts.
For those interested in exploring New Haven’s offerings, Olives and Oil manages to offer both trendiness and old-school Italian in their food, drinks, and scene.