It is good to see a locally owned restaurant become a success, despite outside interference from the “Interesting Times” we are all experiencing. It is even better to find that the success requires a move to larger quarters. Such is the tale of Primo’s Italian Restaurant in Elizabethton. Owners Mo Farrouki and Kinsey Holliday have not only moved Primo’s; they changed its name to The Black Olive.
The Black Olive is the new tenant of Elizabethton’s West Towne Square shopping center in the property formerly occupied by Beef O’Brady’s. The restaurant opened the third week of January, and is still “ironing out the wrinkles” — the usual issues of new location, new look and new service. Changing the name to that of the well-known Black Olive in Jonesborough has given Farrouki and Holliday a newly minted restaurant chain.
The new building features two inside dining areas with seating for a hundred or so patrons. Their outdoor patio accommodates 40 more. An efficient cashier and carry-out station stands just inside the front door. Some still-sturdy tables and chairs have been re-purposed from the previous tenant. Restrooms are functional, though just now a bit casual on cleanliness; something that’s easily taken care of.
Cheeseburger and French fries
My dining partner and I asked the Retiree to join us for a “Welcome Home” get-together. Her recent trip took her out beyond the Rocky Mountains for five weeks of snow, ice and careful traveling. All this had our world-traveling friend longing for one of her favorite comfort foods, that being a cheeseburger and fries from Primo’s.
Calming her fears about Primo’s disappearance, we prevailed upon our friend to try her cheeseburger and fries done The Black Olive way ($7) and see how she liked it.
What our friend got was a quarter pound of 100% all-beef ground sirloin burger topped with lettuce, dill pickles, a slice of tomato and some mayonnaise. It was sided with some golden brown French fries crispy on the outside, steamy-soft on the inside. In other words, just the way our friend the Retiree remembered it was when Primo’s served it to her. Score one new patron for The Black Olive.
Philly Cheesesteak “The Works” and homemade chips
My dining partner was in the mood for a Philly cheesesteak sandwich with “The Works” as The Black Olive’s menu says, and ordered her version ($9) with some of the in-house created potato chips instead of her usual French fries. Getting her cheesesteak sandwich with “The Works” meant taking thin-sliced flank steak, coarsely-chopped, grilling it with green peppers, onions, and mushrooms, then topping it with melted cheese (provolone in this case), torn lettuce, diced tomato and a dollop of real mayonnaise before enfolding “The Works” into a foot-long oven-toasted French baguette. Ever wanting to “improve” on a good thing, my dining partner added a few slices of her in-house potato chips to her sandwich and was pleased with the resulting flavor and the extra crunch given to the sandwich’s texture. After I had my bite of her Philly Cheesesteak with “The Works,” even I could taste the difference her “improvement” made.
Meatball Parmesan sandwich, homemade chips and a la carte house salad
While I was considering my dining choices, my dining partner noticed another patron digging in to a Meatball Parmesan sandwich that was my dining partner’s backup choice for supper. Her pointed look at me, then at the meatballs and then back at me told me what I (well, we) would be dining on ($9). I added one of the Black Olive’s house salads ($3.50) as my dietary selection of veggies for the day. My Meatball Parmesan sandwich had 10 two-inch diameter meatballs made from The Black Olive’s proprietary blend of spiced beef sautéed just so and then tucked into one of those foot-long toasted French baguettes. After adding a ladle of The Black Olive’s own red sauce, the sandwich was topped with two slices of provolone cheese and then oven-baked until hot, crispy and delicious. Of course, the Retiree, my dining partner and I shared our meals round the table, each partaking of the different flavors and textures of each entrée, and really liking all of it.
The bottom line
As we were finishing our meal, Kinsey Holliday stopped by our table for a visit. Kinsey said that the new location was nearly twice the size of their previous digs and that they were still getting used to where everything is, re-developing the efficiency afforded by “mis-en-place,” the French version of knowing where “A place for everything … ” is.
The Retiree asked what was going to happen to the old Primo’s location?
Kinsey replied with smile that she and Farrouki were going to open a Mexican restaurant there.
Given the hard-won success that Holliday and Farrouki have created with The Black Olive restaurant, the move from Mediterranean cuisine to Mexican should be a cinch. As the sign at the construction site used to read when a new building was going up:
“Watch This Space.”