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Stanford Report, October 9, 2002

Olives features Mediterranean fare

BY BARBARA PALMER

At Olives café, which celebrates its grand opening in the basement of Building 160 this week, salads and sandwiches are advertised as "grab 'n' go."

The word "grab," however, doesn't seem quite lofty enough for most of the café's menu items -- the "On the Riviera" tuna sandwich is topped with baby spinach, pancetta and caper aioli, for instance, and "The Athenian" salad is tossed with Kalamata olives and feta cheese. The Moroccan-spiced beef skewer, grilled on a patio outside, is accompanied by three sauces, including one made from ground almonds, tahini and roasted red peppers.

  Nadeem Siddiqui, executive director of Dining Services, oversees residential dining as well as retail operations, including the newly launched [email protected] 160. Photo: L.A. Cicero

"We didn't want to be a cookie-cutter" café, said Eric Montell, assistant director of Dining Services, of the café's menu, which is based on regional Mediterranean cuisine. "We wanted to give people choices." They also wanted to offer speed -- as many as 200 people an hour go through Building 160, said café manager Amanda Gotthold.

Olives (its official title is [email protected] 160) is the second retail café opened by Dining Services. The Café at the Arrillaga Alumni Center opened last fall and Dining Services will operate a café in the Clark Center when it opens next year, Montell said. Retail sales, including catering, now account for about 20 percent of business, said Nadeem Siddiqui, executive director of Dining Services.

Both Olives and the alumni center café are "concept" restaurants, where every detail -- from the chef-created menus to staff uniforms to the brand of coffee served -- is meticulously considered in order to create a unique experience. The two cafés don't even sell the same brand of bottled water, Montell said.

Along with the cuisine, hand-painted Italian plates, terra cotta pottery and ceramic olive jars give Olives a vaguely Tuscan flavor. Built where the old Poli Sci Café once operated but in a slightly smaller space, Olives has caramel-colored checkerboard floors, blond furnishings and yards of gleaming chrome. "It has an energy," Montell said. "It's a fun environment."

The café, open from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, will be even more fun this week during the grand opening celebration. Vendors -- of olives, gelato and pastries -- are scheduled to distribute free samples each day from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; a different vendor each day, Gotthold said.

Prices range from $2.95 for the daily soup specials to $6.75 for a beef combo plate. Pastries, fresh squeezed orange juice and coffee drinks are available at breakfast.

Olives is located at 450 Serra Mall, Building 160, and is accessible from a back patio behind Building 160; phone 724-3160.