OlivA Restaurant: A Little Bit of Italy in the Neighborhood

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BY KAREN YOUNG

The first note of worth about any ethnic restaurant is whether people from that country are patrons. Putting this theory to work, most any time I walk into OlivA in Sherman Oaks, the odds are that there are people at various tables speaking Italian — including  the owner and some of the wait staff.

OlivA is neighborhood Italian restaurant pushed up a few notches because it can be a choice for casual dining, a special occasion or for an event.  Plus it’s the perfect meeting place off the 101 and 405. With mural paintings depicting the feeling of an Italian village,  it’s comfortable, friendly and reasonably priced, serving regional northern Italian/Tuscan cuisine with a homemade taste.  Owner/Chef  Giorgio Pierangeli named the restaurant after the olive trees and the extra virgin olive oil his parents produce in Italy.

Fresh checca and focaccia bread are complimentary before every meal; Spaghetti Mare with Shrimp, Calamari, Mussels and Clams in a Spicy Tomato Sauce. PHOTOS BY KAREN YOUNG

Upon being seated, you are served a complimentary bowl of fresh checca and focaccia bread. The tomatoes are vibrant and mixed with good quality olive oil, basil and garlic.

Entrees run the gamut and include a wide range of choices with chicken, lamb, steak and seafood ($10.95-$27.95).  Important to note:  the pasta, gnocchi and ravioli are all  freshly made and not the boxed variety.  True to the Tuscan region, many of the  dishes come chock  filled with varieties of scallops, shrimp, calamari and mussels — try the Cioppino with clams, mussels,sea scallops, shrimp, calamari and half of live Maine lobster — it has it all.  Or try any of the seafood pastas or risotto.

Favorite dishes include the Terrina di Melanzane (Sicilian eggplant parmagiana baked to order)— excellent with a rich, authentic tomato sauce.  Pappardelle al filetto di Pomo is a delicious wide flat noodle with roasted tomato — authentic and simple. Anything with pesto is a good choice.  OlivA is famous for their Lasagna made with green pasta, béchamel sauce and ground beef ragout.    There are eight choices of individual pizzas that are prepared with a thin crust and various toppings. Soups are made with purely fresh ingredients and are all dairy free ($ 6.95).

All soups are dairy-free (Pasta E Fagioli seen above); Fresh Burrata Salad is listed on the Special menu and not to be confused with the Caprese Salad on the regular menu.

Salads and antipasti are diverse with an eclectic selection of greens.  Standouts are the Carciofi with Baby Artichokes, topped with shaved parmesan and walnuts. $9.95; Spinaci with Baby Spinach comes with crumbled bacon and warm goat cheese, $9.95, the Tri-calore is a mix of arugula, radicchio and endive with shaved parmesan and balsamic dressing,$9.95.  Perfect for a light lunch is the Insalata di Vegetali, a chopped salad with romaine, marinated tomato, white beans, fresh mozzarella and balsamic dressing.   Choose it with grilled chicken breast ($12.95) or grilled jumbo shrimp for $2 more.  The Burrata often offered on the  “special” menu is joined with tomato and basil and drizzled with olive oil  — a must if you are a fan of this classic cheese.

(L-R) Insalata Di Vegetali with Grilled Shrimp; Calamari Fritti with an Arrabiata Sauce

Specials are listed daily with local favorites  including the Branzino, a European sea bass which is baked whole with rosemary, garlic, lemon and olive oil. It can be de-boned upon request and accompanied with roasted potatoes and broccoli; and the Brasato, an Italian rib-eye brisket slowly cooked with red wine and spices and served with mashed potatoes and broccoli, $21.95.  If you’re a lobster and pasta lover, check out the Spaghetti with Lobster and Shrimp which includes half of a Live Maine Lobster and Fresh Rock Shrimp tossed in a light spicy tomato sauce ( $21.95).  If you want a special dish and you don’t see it on the menu, the chef may be able to prepare it for you — just ask.

There’s a full bar selection, plus a dozen wines by the glass $5.95-$20, as well as 100 wines by the bottle. Starting this month, OlivA is presenting a “special Wine of the Month” whereby  four to five mid to high end wines will be offered by the glass and bottle at very discounted price.  On a regular basis, wine and champagne are priced very fairly and lower than “over the hill.”  As an example, OlivA prices high end wines and champagnes such as Tignanello Antinori , Opus One and Dom Perignon at $110-$195, while these same bottles would sell for $250-$400 just a few miles over the hill. Don’t  miss  Thirsty Thursdays with martinis for $4.95 all day long.  The house special is their own version of the Lemon Drop Martini, made with vodka and a special “Lemon Granita” (a lemon slush-sorbet recipe made and imported for OlivA from Italy).

(L-R) Penne Arrabiata; Gnocchi Al Pesto

Last year saw the addition of a new room that seats 80 with a full bar and flat screen television.  It has a more modern feel than the original dining room and is ideal for private parties.

And what’s a good Italian meal with a cappucino and dessert? OlivA has an authentic selection that includes homemade Tiramisu, Chocolate and Zabaglione Tartufo Ice Cream, Cassata Siciliana (Spumoni Ice Cream) and Italian sorbets.

OlivA gets very busy in the evening, particularly on weekends, so make sure you have a reservation. If there’s a wait, you can always sidle up to the bar — you may just pick up a few words in Italian.

Oliva Restaurant 4449 Van Nuys Blvd. Sherman Oaks CA 91403 818.789.4490 olivarestaurant.com. Available for catering and private parties.   Open seven days a week 11:30 am – 11:00 pm. Check out Giorgio  Pierangeli’s other restaurant in Brentwood, Pecorino.

Karen Young is the Editor/Publisher of My Daily Find.  Got a suggestion, idea or just want to say ‘hey’? Email: karen@mydailyfind.com

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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