I love the idea of eating outdoors, but in Western, NY we don’t get that chance as often as we would like. That’s why I like to take advantage of al fresco dining when possible. A local greek restaurant, Olives Greek Taverna, has a pretty outdoor seating area, in a mixed retail space called Schoen Place in Pittsford, NY. Although they have been in business since 1998, the outdoor patio seating is relatively new. Owners Nick and Gayle Mourgides definitely know how to prepare delicious and authentic Greek dishes. I have visited this eatery for dinner many times and I have always enjoyed their food. Finally, I decided to write a review to share the experience with all of you.
Nestled in the front corner of a parking lot directly across the street from the banks of the Erie Canal, Olives Greek Taverna is a bit hidden, but not forgotten. This area has experienced a resurgence in the past several years, due to the opening of new restaurants and retail establishments. Each summer, as the weather turns warm and ducks eagerly await treats of bread from visitors, this canal-side gathering place comes alive.
A variety of parking areas surround the restaurant, but it shares the available spaces with several other nearby restaurants and retail establishments. On a warm summer evening, it can be difficult to find a parking space, so be sure to allow extra time to find a spot in the somewhat rough and rolling lot.
Usually very crowded on a Friday evening in the summer, we were surprised to get a table on the patio, with no wait. Perhaps the overcast skies kept al fresco diners away, but not us! The outside patio offered a casual, yet quaint dining area, decorated with the colors of rich greens and warm earth tones. It is surrounded by low brick walls and features wrought iron tables and chairs, topped with large green umbrellas. Although situated very close to the entrance road into the parking lot, it still felt safe and offered a nice breeze.
The noise level can be a distraction, due to the restaurant’s location across from a larger eatery, which often has music escaping from its front doors and offers its own outdoor space around the back. Unlike it’s more trendy neighbor, Olives Greek Taverna does not offer valet parking.
Although I did not go inside during my most recent visit, I recall that the indoor dining area is small, but comfortable, with wooden tables and chairs and blue checkered tablecloths. A few of the walls feature grand murals of beautiful Greek landscapes and water views.
The combined lunch/dinner menu offers a variety of authentic Greek cuisine. Appetizers (Medezes) include six mix-and-match dips ($6.99 each or 3 for $10.99), traditional Greek starters such as stuffed grape leaves (Dolmades), baked cheese (Saganaki), and coconut shrimp, as well as breaded calamari and a few salads. There is a section dedicated to Gyros, which are rolled sandwiches of pita bread, served with meat, usually with tzatziki sauce, tomatoes and onions. The gyros options ($5.99 – $6.99) included versions featuring feta, olives, chicken, buffalo chicken, codfish, eggplant, veggies, and artichokes.
Dinners ranged in price from $12.99 – $16.99 and the variety didn’t disappoint. Traditional Greek choices included Moussaka (cinnamon seasoned beef with eggplant in a béchamel sauce), Spanakopita (spinach and feta wrapped in phyllo pastry dough and baked), and Arni Yuvesti (stewed lamb and noodles). However, other interesting choices included Fish and Chips, Fish Fry and a few noodle dishes with chicken and feta cheese, or meatballs in an olive sauce.
I was surprised to see a Pizza section on this menu, as I didn’t recall seeing that on previous visits. The choices included a variety of Greek flavors, transformed into pizza toppings…olives, feta, gyro meat, grilled vegetables, and a variety of cheeses. To round out the menu, Olives Greek Taverna offered a few kids’ options, sides orders of fries, pita chips, and pita bread, and four desserts (Epikotnion) ranging from $3.99 – $4.99, including Baklava, bread pudding, rice pudding and baklava ice cream.
They also offer a separate wine menu with selections of red and white wines from around the world ($7 – $9 per glass). Patrons may also order from a selection of craft bottled beer. Catering services are also available.
As you might expect, we started our evening meal with beverages and appetizers. My dining companions each chose a dry wine called Fumaio Banfi, which was a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, priced at $7 per glass. They both enjoyed it and said that it was good enough to inspire each of them to purchase a bottle for home.
We chose the Melitzanosalata Dip appetizer ($6.99), prepared with grilled eggplant, feta cheese, tomato and onions, served with pita bread triangles for dipping. The dip was tasty, very fresh and had a chunky consistency. The grilled eggplant lent a smoky flavor, while the feta cheese gave it a sharp and salty taste. A cool finish was provided courtesy of the finely diced tomatoes.
The large serving of accompanying pita triangles was a nice surprise, as I often find that we run out of chips before running out of dip. I especially liked that these chips were heavily spiced and somewhat crispy, allowing them to stand up well to the hearty dip.
Our server was kind enough to bring us a small plate of raw veggies for dipping, to accommodate the gluten-free diet of one of my dinner companions. She did this without us asking, after discussing various gluten-free menu options with us. That’s great service!
After enjoying our appetizer, we were excited to dig into our entrees. I ordered the Chicken Portobello Gyro ($6.99), made with grilled chicken tenders, sautéed seasoned baby portobello mushrooms, and kasseri cheese, with a herbed mayonnaise. Served in a roll of pita bread in aluminum foil, this dinner looked rather bland at first. However, once I opened the foil, the wonderful aroma and beautifully melted cheese made my mouth water.
I attempted to pick up this delightfully rolled gyro, but the filling was overflowing the top of the pita. So, I ate the majority of the filling with my fork, before finally being able to eat it like a sandwich. I liked that the thick pita bread was warm, but still light and fluffy. The tender chicken was moist and well-seasoned. The portobello mushrooms (one of my favorites!) were sautéed perfectly, adding an earthy taste and meaty texture. The kasseri cheese added a tangy richness and melted nicely into the chicken mixture. The only drawback to this dish was that there was too much herbed mayonnaise, resulting in soggy pita bread on the bottom of the rolled gyro. I generally prefer less sauce and condiments on my food, but perhaps others might enjoy a more highly sauced entre.
Along with the gyro, I also ordered the soup special of the day, which was a Watermelon Gazpacho ($3.50). One of my dinner companions also ordered this gazpacho, telling us that she isn’t usually a fan of cold soups. I too was hesitant at first, but decided that a warm summer night was the perfect time to try something cool and refreshing. We both loved it!
Served in a mini-mason jar and topped with tangy, crumbled feta cheese, this watermelon and tomato mixture resembled a loose salsa more than a cold soup. I even used the veggie sticks garnishes as dipping vessels. The chunks of tomatoes and watermelon blended surprisingly well. This gazpacho had quite a spicy kick though, due to the chopped jalapenos, cilantro and onions hidden within. The feta served as a nice palate-cooling chaser. It’s too bad that this soup isn’t a regular menu item, because I would order it throughout the warmer months.
One of my dinner companions ordered an appetizer special for her dinner – a Greek Empanada ($7.99), described by our server as a “Greek-ified Empanada.” She said that the chef brought together the flavors of Greece in a traditionally Mexican dish. It consisted of pita bread stuffed with grilled vegetables and topped with chipotle sauce, and tzatziki. Our server customized this appetizer by adding a side of white rice. My friend described it as “a delicious mix of flavors” and very filling.
Another dinner companion ordered a dinner special – Marinated Pangasius Fish ($14.99) served over white rice, with a side of grilled pita bread. I had never heard of this fish, so I did some research and found that it is a type of imported, fresh-water catfish, native to various Asian nations. This fish is gaining popularity in the United States, and is an example of the increasing demand for aquaculture.
The Pangasius was marinated and seasoned with lemon, rosemary and spices. The lemon slice garnishes were nicely grilled. She described the fish as flaky and tender, declaring that it was, “melt in your mouth delicious.” I tried a bite and agreed with her assessment; this whitefish was mild and tasty, not overpowering or the least bit “fishy.” She also said that the rice was perfectly cooked. However, I think that serving this fish with both rice and pita bread is an overload of carbs. Perhaps substituting either side for grilled vegetables or a small salad might have resulted in a more balanced meal and colorful plate, as well as providing a wider range of textures and tastes.
Unfortunately, we were all too full from our appetizers, dinners and soup to order dessert. Next time, I’ll be sure to skip the appetizer to save room for a Greek pastry (or two?).
We were very happy with the service we received from our server, Michelle at Olives Greek Taverna. She was attentive, efficient, friendly and knowledgeable. She also happily inquired with the chef about our gluten questions and graciously accommodated our requests. Our food was served in a timely and pleasant manner and our server checked in with us several times throughout the meal. Our water glasses were continuously filled and we enjoyed pleasant conversation with our server.
Since I had visited a few times previously, I was aware that they do not accept credit cards; only cash and checks are honored. However, I did not see any signage or menu notes about this restriction. Unaware patrons would be happy to know about this quirk before ordering, lest they find themselves in an awkward situation once the check arrives. At the very least, there should be signs and a note on the menu about acceptable payment options. Also, the closing time may be a bit early for some patrons (8pm weekdays, 9pm weekends), so plan your visit accordingly.
We enjoyed our visit, and this affordable eatery is on my list of summer al fresco dining options. In addition to a strong regular menu, I really like that Olives Greek Taverna regularly offers several creative and delicious specials ranging for appetizers to lunches, dinners and desserts. For example, during this visit, my party ordered two soup specials, an appetizer special and a dinner special. We enjoyed great food and service on a warm summer evening by the canal.
Have you visited Olives Greek Taverna? If so, how would you describe your visit?
If You Go…
Olives Greek Taverna
50 State Street
Pittsford, NY 14534
Phone: (585) 381-3990
Email: none available
Business Hours: Mon-Thurs: 11am – 8pm, Fri-Sat: 11am – 9pm
Meals Served: Lunch, Dinner, takeout and catering
Children’s Menu: Yes
Accepts Credit Cards: Yes
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Requires Reservations: No, but recommended
Table Service: Yes
Take Out: Yes
Outdoor Seating: Yes
Parking: Free in the adjacent plaza lot
Valet Service: No
Bar Seating: No
Coat Check: No
Date opened: 1998
Date visited: Friday, August 5, 2016 for dinner