By Denise Mattia In New York, where restaurants close periodically, there’s a trattoria and enoteca in the heart of the historic West Village located conveniently at three Greenwich Avenue, that’s been popular for about five years. And from the waiting lines, Olio e Piu looks like it will be open for a long time.
Historically, the area encompassing the west side of lower Manhattan was a Dutch settlement pasture, cultivated by Dutch and freed-slaves before the Civil War. In what’s now West 10th Street the Village had been a penitentiary in the 18th century. The lovely Episcopal landmark church, and adjacent Gardens at St. Luke in the Fields were created in 1820 as a refuge from yellow fever victims, many of whom are buried in a potters field in Washington Square. In the mid 20th century, the site across the street from the peaceful gardens, now Olio e Piu, was thought to be the inspiration for the Edward Hopper’s painting “Nighthawks,” which depicts three customers sitting at a diner late at night. As an artist’s haven in the mid 1940s and 1950s and the East Coast center of the LGBT, Beat and the counterculture movements, the Village has been a pivotal spot in bohemian culture.
In keeping with the liveliness of the now upscale Village, Olio e Piu is open 24/7 and boasts hand-crafted wood burning ovens that provide authentic Neapolitan pizzas, breads, salads, antipasti, pasta and entrees. The wine repository at the restaurant is extensive, although some may not be always available, and the Head Chef, Dominick Pepe, changes the menu on a regular basis.
A colleague and I met one evening to sample the menu. The Patrizi Gavi di gavi Piedmonte 2013 was crisp and dry, with a zesty complex flavor, while the Tohu, Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand was aromatic and fresh. It was also the most expensive at $15 a glass. The Pino Grigio 2014 Friuli Venezia Giulia was bright pale yellow with a fruity perfume taste. We both preferred the Gavi di gavi.
For an appetizer, we shared a polipetti alla griglia – grilled baby octopus with fresh lemon, which was tender, nicely spiced and delicious. We ordered from what sounded marvelous on the menu – Anguria – compressed watermelon with prosciutto, tomatoes, ricotta cheese and microbasil, and, although excellent, was no different from a standard prosciutto and melon. We skipped the pasta course and I ordered the grilled Brazino (a European sea bass), which was dry and disappointing. My associate ordered the pollo alla risotto, which was tasty but too gigantic to consume at one sitting.
For my next visit I’ll choose what everyone else seemed to know: that the signature dishes at Olio e Piu are their creative pizzas with a fresh arugula salad and assorted mixtures.
The restaurant is the complete reverse of the three lonely characters lost in their own thoughts in a diner. Thanks to gentrification, good pizza, salads and some entrees at reasonable prices, Olio e Piu will never be empty of patrons.
About Denise Mattia
A writer and photographer, Denise Mattia’s works are published nationally and internationally and include all aspects of leisure travel: art , culture, resorts, spas, food and wine and sports’ activities. She's the founder of the soon to be launched Yum-Yum-Traveler, a site devoted to reviewing restaurants in addition to her travel articles from around the world. She lives and works in Manhattan, where she was born.