Olio in Groton is a marvelous dining destination
When we recently visited Olio, I didn’t realize that the restaurant was celebrating its 20th anniversary this summer. I only learned that later when I read a 2014 review ofthe eatery that noted it had opened a dozen years before.
We had made our reservation in advance, before the news that longtime Olio chef Jason Kowalski died in mid-August, although when we visited, our waitress told us that Kowalski hadn’t been cooking there for almost a year. She assured us, however, that the chefs in the kitchen had been trained by the talented Kowalski, and that Olio owner Carol Kanabis, a restaurant maestro, was on top of the food preparation.
Olio has been a longtime favorite of ours. There’s an expansive menu, daily specials, and creative entrees, appetizers, pizzas and salads. The desserts are always good, too.
On our most recent visit, we had two guests with us who bid for the chance to dine with a food critic at a charity auction for Stonington’s LaGrua Center. They had only eaten at Olio once before and were excited to help us critique the food, ambience, and service. Best of all, they made a very generous donation to LaGrua.
We enjoyed cocktails as we perused the menu and decided on three appetizers to start with. Two of us shared the Steak Tacos, $15.95, and they divided the dish on separate plates so we each got a soft-shell taco generously stuffed with tender chunks of steak, pickled cabbage, pico de gallo, and cilantro aioli.
Two of these delicious tacos would be a meal in itself. They were messy but worth every oozing bite as the flavors all melded together.
One of our guests ordered a special appetizer, the Duck Street Tacos, $17.95, prepared with goat cheese and pineapple salsa. When we told our waitress, Brandi, we were considering ordering them, she gushed and proclaimed, “They are best thing ever.”
They were very good, the duck plentiful and lean, and overall, it was a tasty combination of ingredients that earned a thumbs up. There were three tacos, in small, hard shells, and like the steak version, they weren’t easy to eat without slopping. A soft-shell version might have been easier to handle.
Our only disappointment was the Crispy Fried Calamari, $14.95. Yes, it was advertised as crispy, but the calamari snob deemed the dish too salty, overcooked, and lacking the promised banana peppers cited in the menu description. This guy always cleans his plate, but he still had half a portion when Brandi cleared our appetizer plates.
Next up, our main attractions. One of our guests enjoyed the Porcini Mushroom Dusted Grilled Swordfish, $31.95, served on egg pappardelle with lump crab, fresh mango, and white truffle butter. Over the top, right?
This dish was also advertised to include banana peppers, but there was just one ring in there, maybe, so we decided the kitchen must have been out of them the night we visited. The dish didn’t suffer. It too got high praise, with a generous wedge of lightly cooked swordfish over the house-made pasta with the chunks of crabmeat, mango and truffle butter.
Another star attraction was the Veal Francaise, $29.95. Simply said, it was mouth-watering good. It consisted of two pieces of thin pounded veal served with wilted baby spinach and lemon caper beurre blanc over white wine risotto. It was delivered at the perfect temperature, and the veal was soft enough to cut with a fork.
From the pasta category, we chose the house-made Gnocchi with Pomodoro Sauce and Pecorino Romano, $23.95. The waitress offered meat with it, but our guest wanted just the doughy little gnocchi dumplings with the sauce. She said it was very good and was a large enough portion to take half home for another meal.
Our final entrée was the Roasted Herb Statler Chicken Saltimbocca, $28.95, with crispy prosciutto ham, mushroom gravy, and asparagus over creamy cheese grits. It was not a favorite. The chicken was overcooked and the grits, salty. Perhaps the saltiness came from the cheese, or the ham, but overall, the dish was a disappointment compared to our other selections.
We did make up for it with dessert. We ordered two to share, the crème brule, $8.95, and a strawberry shortcake with vanilla ice cream, $9.95. How can you not like dessert? We had already eaten a lot – did I mention the delicious Italian bread served with a dipping sauce made from olive oil, garlic, balsamic vinegar and parmesan cheese? It was wicked good.
Every time we dine at Olio, I think afterwards, we need to visit here more often. The food and service are consistently good, the menu expansive, and the preparation and presentation, always creative. That’s the reason Olio has been in business for 20 years.
33 Kings Highway, Groton
Find their website at olioct.com and search their name to find them on social media.
Atmosphere: Simple, stylish décor, with indoor and outdoor seating, as well as at the bar. Once inside, it’s hard to believe this restaurant is located at a busy intersection in a commercial part of town.
Hours: 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday to Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 4:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday.
Service: Congenial and helpful
Prices: There is a wide range, with appetizers about $15 and entrees about $24 to $30, with the prime filet mignon at $40. Pizzas, salads and sandwiches, which are all very good, are always on the menu and most priced $15 to $20.
Credit cards: Yes
Handicapped accessible: There are two dining rooms inside and one is handicap accessible. The other requires taking a step down.