photo: courtesy of Cru
During ancient Greek and Roman times, olive branches were commonly used as a sign of surrender. They were a symbol of peace and an indication of courage. Today, when most people think of olive branches, the sentiment hits their stomachs, rather than their hearts. From breads and pastas to cocktails and tapenades, the bitter fruit has found its way into a wide range of dishes. Here are a handful of restaurants where olives triumph.
Tapenade at Cru Cafe and Wine Bar
Cru Cafe proves that tapenade isn't just for smearing on slices of bread. The restaurant's made-from-scratch olive spread gets rolled into sashimi-style salmon and served with brown butter-toasted coriander vinaigrette and micro greens, $9. There's also a bit of chorizo (Spanish-style sausage) thrown into the mix, which stacks up quite nicely with the salmon's buttery flavor. Cru's staff recommends pairing the dish with a Luca Chardonnay from Mendoza, Argentina.
Olives and Cheese Enoteca Piattini
Sometimes you just want olives without all the fancy fixin's. That's when it's time to head to Enoteca Piattini. This Lincoln Park restaurant serves the fruit in its most basic form in an appetizer called the olive piattini. This small plate is nothing more than a mixture of marinated gourmet olives and assorted cheeses, $7. Enoteca Piattini also makes its own tapenade, which you'll get to taste for free in its complimentary bread basket.
Puttanesca at Anna Maria Pasteria
You know a restaurant is fluent in Italian when it offers puttanesca on its regular menu. Anna Maria Pasteria takes great care with the classic dish. The restaurant uses tube pasta, fresh tomatoes, onions, capers and black olives. It all gets thrown together in a light marinara sauce to create a delightfully salty mess, $12.50.
Seafood Salad at 3 Olives Restaurant
Given its name, you might expect 3 Olives to go a little crazy with the star ingredient. But this restaurant doesn't actually incorporate olives into the majority of its dishes. It does, however, bring out the best of the stuff in its seafood salad, complete with steamed octopus, calamari, seppie and shrimp. It all gets tossed together in 3 Olive's signature green olive salad dressing, $9.95. This healthy dish might seem like a great start to the meal, but it's one you'll want to share. That is if you want if to save room for another olive-fueled plate—and you will once you see the baccala with codfish. The authentic Italian dish is prepared with spaghetti, capers, plum tomatoes and black olives, $19.95.
Dirty Martini at Blue Stem Martini Lounge
Once you've had your fill of olive-heavy spreads, sauces and salads, top it all off with something dirty at this North Side lounge. The classic cocktail, made with gin (or vodka, if you must), dry vermouth and olive juice steals the spotlight from Blue Stem's signature drink list—which consists mainly of sweet and fruity cocktails. Blue Stem's dirty martini is served in a glass so large you'll need to hands just to lift it. Once poured, the drink gets garnished with three hand-stuffed blue cheese olives.