FOOD- THE DISH- Italian vidalian: Albemarle Square welcomes Olivaté

What do ceramic tiles and Italian food have in common? Well, Italians are known for their skill in designing ceramic tiles, and plenty of pasta sauce has probably fallen on a lot of ceramic tiles, but besides that there's not much of a connection– except in Charlottesville. 

Olivaté, which opened in the old Fat Daddy's space at Albemarle Square in late December, is owned by the Oliva family, known for serving up baked goods of the inedible variety at the their Ceramico Tile Company. About a year ago, according to daughter Heather Oliva, the new restaurant's general manager, a long-held dream of her father's to open an Italian restaurant finally began to take shape. 

"My father has always loved to cook," she says. "We use family recipes and homemade sauces, all from scratch."

At one time, says Oliva, the family considered turning the showroom at their tile company, which is in an old renovated house, into a restaurant, but when the Fat Daddy's space became available they jumped on it. "Now my brother will have the tile company, and I'll have this," she says. 

Clearly, though, it's a family affair. Along with Heather, her father, Dick, her mother, Linda, and her cousin Jonathan Gianakos (yes, that's Greek) have all been a part of the venture. "My father likes to be here a lot," she says. 

Oliva says people have been raving about their sweet vidalia onion pasta and her grandmother's meat sauce, but mostly they're just digging the atmosphere only a true family run restaurant can create.



Coffee Émigré  in Crozet

In Crozet, another family story accompanies the opening of  a new coffee option, but this one started under a dictatorship over 20 years ago.

"Every time I leave the house I'm wishing Crozet had a little coffee shop," says Daniela Irion in a thick, beautiful Romanian accent. "I'm from Europe and I love good coffee."

Indeed, Irion and her daughter fled Romania 20 years ago, shortly after dictator Nicolae Ceausescu's regime fell in 1989. As Dish recalls vividly, Ceausescu was executed unceremoniously, along with his wife, Elena, after a trial by secret military tribunal. Videos of the couple arguing at the tribunal and then riddled with bullets were shown around the world.

Irion and her daughter finally made it to Baton Rouge, where her husband, a sailor, had relocated. Seven years ago they made the move to Charlottesville, where Irion opened a spa, Daniela's Day Spa, off Ivy Road. 

"Eventually, I'd like to find a place in Crozet with tables and chair," she says, talking about her Crozet Coffee Bar, which opened in the Brownsville Market on 250 West on December 1. "But this is going very well for now. We make our coffee, which is all organic, with a lot of love, and it's nice to see our customers becoming our friends."

Believe it not, Irion is also a big American football fan. Her son, who was born in the U.S., plays for Western Albemarle, and her small coffee station is adorned with Warriors hats, helmets, shirts, and other memorabilia.

"Every Friday we donate part of the money to the Western athletic department," Irion says.

Go, Warriors! Go, Irions!