What’s Cooking on The Village Green

Meet Chef/Owner of Cafe Olio, Steve Conti

January 04, 2012    

Talk to us about the history of Café Olio…when did you first open…when did you arrive at The Pinehills?

I had been working on and developing a business plan for Cafe Olio, but to open in Cambridge or Boston, with the idea/plan to open a future location at The Pinehills. My father, Rich, came across our space being built in April 2005 and we decided to skip the Boston Area all together and take a leap of faith and open at The Pinehills.

We opened on Wednesday, August 31st, 2005. We expanded (into our lunch counter space) on January 15th, 2007.

We worked pretty much around the clock from April to August of 2005 to hit our open date. It was a very exciting time. During this time, we met a lot of residents who would pop in to see what we were up to. They were really excited we we're coming in as were we.

It’s always challenging to be a pioneer...to take a chance on a new concept. What drove your decision to open at The Pinehills?

The uniqueness of the community. I've always admired the Disney Company and their master planned community, Celebration. I got a similar feeling about The Pinehills when we explored and researched it prior to making our final decision.

I felt, that with a growing community, if we provided top notch service, we would have a sustainable business. Seven years later, I feel like I know hundreds of residents on a very personal level because of this vision. I appreciate their support and patronage and I believe they appreciate the service we provide to their wonderful, unique and beautiful community.

If you were asked to describe Café Olio in one or two sentences, what would you say?

Cafe Olio is a customer service driven business. Even though we strive to provide great food (for breakfast, lunch, takeout, catering and themed events), a beautiful decor and competitive prices; it's all for nothing if we don't take care of our customers each and everyday.

How has the restaurant evolved since you opened…til today.

In so many ways. The physical space has grown. The menu has grown. The staff has grown. Our entrance into the themed event (i.e. cooking lessons, holiday dinners, themed dinners, wine tastings, etc.) space has developed over time.

More specifically, since opening in 2005, we have added our lounge area, soup station, Italian roast blend, low fat breakfast panini, yogurt parfaits, egg plates cooked to order, Sunday brunch, smoothies, ice cream, beer, wine, whole wheat options (muffins, wraps, breads, etc.), specialty drinks (i.e. Odwalla, coconut water, etc.) and so much more. I really need to walk the space and make a complete list.

Talk to us about 2012. What is in store for your customers – any theme dinners? New menu items?

2012 looks to be an extremely exciting year for Cafe Olio! This winter, January through March, we have announced our most ambitious calendar of events in our history. There are 15 different events or about one per week for people to take advantage of and enjoy. As I mentioned above; cooking lessons, holiday dinners, themed dinners, wine tastings and more.

In the spring, summer and fall, we plan to showcase a new and expanded offering on our patio for all of the wonderful events The Pinehills hosts out on The Village Green. There will be a number of different booths/kiosks offering grill items, seafood items, frozen treats, beer and wine, cold drinks and more.

Your customers are very devoted to you. Any interesting customer anecdotes or stories to share?
Our customers are absolutely phenomenal. I've had over 15 different couples tell me that having Cafe Olio in the community is what pushed them over the edge to buy a house in The Pinehills. That really makes me feel proud of what we've been able to provide the community. A central hub if you will. A meeting place. A place for coffee, a latte, panini. A place to meet friends, family or have a meeting.

The food business is very demanding, both physically and mentally, and knowing that people enjoy what we provide, makes all the hard work worth it. I can't describe to you in words how much it means to be when people tell me they like what we're doing and are happy we are there.

Your dad is an important part of Café Olio…talk about his role. Is it challenging to work with your father or do you have complementary skills?

My father, Rich, plays an enormous role in the business. He has given thousands of hours to the cafe and helped tremendously with his creative ideas, passion for customer service, interest in cooking lessons and good old fashioned business advice.

We definitely have different approaches, but one common goal; to have the best little cafe in America.

A bit about your personal life. I know you’re a new dad. Been sleeping much??!!

I can say without hesitation that the most important moment for me at Café Olio occurred in February 2006. That was when a woman, Nicole, was waiting in front of the bakery case for a goat cheese panini to be grilled. We hit it off right then and there, and we were engaged by that October and married the following December.

Even though I work long hours and pour as much as I can of myself into Cafe Olio, my life is my wife and my daughter, Elena. They are everything to me and everything I do is for them. Nicole is a pharmacist. Elena is 16 months old. Nicole brings the baby into the cafe about once a week and that is simply the best. I love it!

Personally, I love food, travel, sports and running. My favorite place in the world is Walt Disney World. It is our little escape place to go to when we need time together and to get away from the everyday stresses in life.

Café Olio is open to the public daily. Monday – Friday: 7:00 AM – 7:00 PM, Saturday & Sunday: 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM, Sunday Brunch: 9:00 AM – 1:00 PM.

Visit www.cafeolio.com for more information or call 508-224-4200.

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