Olio and Elaia: Restaurateur Ben Poremba’s Distinctly Different Botanical Heights Restaurants

 In Food, Guide

These two Botanical Heights restaurants are so closely connected—both physically and conceptually—that first-time diners might be surprised at the very distinct menus and vibes each one offers. Olio—a wine bar housed in a former 1930s gas station—is full of hustle and bustle, with customers sitting elbow to elbow to enjoy Israeli-inspired dishes like charred tomato bruschetta, hearth-baked focaccia, cracked olives, hummus, lamb-stuffed pita or octopus with stewed eggplant. Elaia offers a more formal dining experience, where the focus is on classical cuisine influenced by contemporary trends and techniques. The prix fixe option on its tasting menu is arguably one of the best deals around, especially with pairings from the very strong wine list.

Both restaurants have seen changes in recent months, thanks to incoming executive chef Aaron Martinez. Restaurateur Ben Poremba recruited Martinez to inject new ideas into his two flagship restaurants— while still balancing the time-honored aspects that customers have come to love over the years.

Even with the new energy, there is no talk of shaking up the popular beverage programs. Olio’s cocktails, in particular, continually push into new territory, combining flavors in ways that would be daunting if they weren’t so delicious (bourbon, carrot, lemon and maple is a case in point).

Olio and Elaia
1634 Tower Grove Ave.

Olio and Elaia: Restaurateur Ben Poremba's Distinctly Different Botanical Heights Restaurants

Coming soon …

Find clothes and toys for children ages 0 to 10 at this new boutique, which will specialize in artisan, non-gender-specific lines and from international companies.

1641B Tower Grove Ave.

Prolific restaurateur Ben Poremba adds a corner market packed with deli food, oils, vinegars, spirits, wines, cigars, glassware and more, plus a tea and coffee shop in partnership with Kaldi’s.

1641A Tower Grove Ave.

This story originally appeared in GUIDED St. Louis: Shaw & Botanical Heights, available online and at these locations now.

Photography courtesy of Carmen Troesser.

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