A marriage of cultures: New Greenwood restaurant offers a twist to traditional Mediterranean tastes that are 'part of social fabric'

Marinated lamb, wine, pastries and lattes - oh my!

Olive You, which opened in January, specializes in Mediterranean cuisine and is also part café, part espresso stand, part winery, with a dash of bakery thrown in.

Timur Leno, Olive You's owner, was raised in Istanbul, where meals are a part of the social fabric and each course serves as a warm-up for the next.

"I come from a live-to-eat culture," Leno said. "Antipasto, wine, main course, dessert, coffee - it's a chain that signifies a good, traditional Turkish meal."

A twist on the traditional

Taking the concept of traditional Mediterranean meals and adding twists - such as combining seafood with various succulent herbs and caramelizing vegetable dishes with honey - has created a buzz for this Greenwood restaurant. Leno said business has been brisk and that he already has several devoted patrons who have visited more than a dozen times each.

"The reception we have received since opening has been exceptional. I even had one customer who thanked me for bringing him civilization, because he feels the space is so beautiful and inviting," Leno marveled.

A welcoming atmosphere

Formerly occupied by Gotrocks Gallery, the entire space was personally redesigned by Leno, with a warm and welcoming atmosphere.

Decorative tiles from Italy, Portugal and Spain adorn the entryway.

The walls are a sparkling white with a royal-blue trim, and the large entrance, similar to an open garage door, provides an inviting breeze.

Several distinctive items are ensconced on the walls: An old-fashioned bicycle featuring a basket loaded with two loaves of bread, a bottle of wine, grapes and a checkered tablecloth overlook the main room, and a rustic wooden boat is displayed on the back wall.

Choices galore

Hungry visitors have an abundance of choices. There are 17 appetizers, four types of salads and four side dishes. Sandwiches are available in five cold varieties, two hot ones and four panini options.

One of the most popular items has been the Olive You Platter, which consists of hummus, grilled vegetables, marinated feta cheese, pita, cheese spreads, olives and more.

Leno said many of the items are imported from Italy, Greece, Spain and France. Eventually, he plans to import products from Turkey as well.

Some of the delicacies offered include stuffed squid and octopus, house-marinated prawns, and soujouk, which is a seasoned, dried, beef sausage.

A combination restaurant and grocer, many diners try a dish and, enticed by the exotic flavors, decide to purchase additional portions by the pound from the cold case.

Catering is also available, and services run the gamut from platters for business meetings to servings for hundreds of wedding guests.

A mantra for customer service

Olive You is more than just a name; it is also a mantra for the customer service that Leno and his staff of 10 employees provide.

"It is important that everyone is greeted with respect. This restaurant is designed like a home for the loved ones around us," Leno said. "Our staff is warm and friendly, and you might get a hug from me. We act like we love you, and if you don't like it, we'll try again. And if you still don't like it, well that's OK."

Leno chose Greenwood to open his restaurant because of its sense of community and appreciation for art, a form that he compares his food to. Helping to publicize the works of local artists, he displays paintings on the walls and invites musicians to perform in the open air portion of the market.

A renaissance man of sorts, Leno also plans to offer cooking classes, is interested in displaying artwork of all disciplines, is in the process of providing free Internet access and will soon offer free delivery to Greenwood and the surrounding neighborhoods.

Eventually, Leno would like to open additional Olive You locations. But for now, he is content to have established a neighborhood sanctuary where people can eat healthy food at reasonable prices and converse while relaxing and unwinding from life's daily pressures.

A place where one can experience the marriage of different cultures, admire the work of local artists and feel like part of an extended family.

A place where it is possible to sample delicious dishes and beverages from around the world in a single sitting.[[In-content Ad]]