The Stuffed Olive

Special to The Idaho StatesmanNovember 25, 2005 

— The Stuffed Olive is an easy place to miss. But it's been tucked away behind Albertsons in Eagle for the better part of six months.

Owners Bill Carter and Janice Darelli, both experienced restaurateurs from Northern California, have established a comfortable trattoria-style (casual Italian) café in the burbs. As evidenced by the busy dining room, it's been a hit so far.

The interior design — Dijon-colored walls dotted with import-store prints and decorative plates — speaks to a suburban sensibility, as does the American-style Italian cuisine. Most diners will find it a step above that other well-known place with Olive in the name.

You'll find familiar pasta dishes, sandwiches, entrée salads and standbys such as chicken parmigiana and shrimp scampi.

The Stuffed Olive also serves slow-roasted prime rib and leg of lamb on a nightly basis.

Upon arrival, diners get puffy, herb-pocked breadsticks, chewy and warm from the oven, served with an average marinara sauce.

Appetizers range from pesto crostini ($6.95) to a crab-stuffed portobello ($8.95), a baked mushroom cap filled with cream cheese and toothsome pieces of Dungeness crab leg meat, smothered with garlicky cream sauce and melted Parmesan.

This comforting appetizer is perfect for cold winter nights, and it plays well with a glass of Pinot Grigio ($4.75/La Francesca).

The Stuffed Olive's crostini is essentially little toasted bread rounds topped with traditional basil pesto, chopped Roma tomato, toasted pine nuts and a melted blend of smoked provolone, mozzarella and Asiago cheeses.

The pasta selection is large, spanning the basics from fettuccine Alfredo to rustic three-cheese and Italian sausage lasagna.

If you order spaghetti Florentine ($8.95), it means that pasta gets mingled with braised spinach, diced tomato, toasted pine nuts and chewy cloves of roasted garlic, all hit with a creamy garlic sauce. This rich sauce gets a lot of play on the menu.

It's a good vegetarian dish (you can add chicken, shrimp or crab for an additional cost). My pasta was overcooked, though — not al dente, as one would expect.

The tri-tip ($12.95) is a large platter of sliced bottom sirloin (rosy-centered, in our case) fanned out next to marinated mushrooms, julienne roasted red bell pepper, blue cheese sauce, pimento-stuffed green olives (most plates get these as a garnish, thus the restaurant's name) and angel hair pasta splashed with marinara.

Chicken Stuffado ($12.95) is akin to chicken saltimbocca sans sage leaves. A lightly breaded chicken breast gets covered with salty prosciutto, roasted garlic cloves and melted smoked provolone cheese. On my order, the side of angel hair pasta (tossed with creamy garlic sauce) was extremely overcooked.

Small side salads ($2.50) — mixed greens drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette or zesty romaine Caesars — are available upon request. But you might want to ask your server to hold the entrée ticket for a few minutes. On our first visit, the salads and entrees came out at the same time. The waitstaff was friendly and efficient, but talk about a pile-up of plates.

The Stuffed Olive really shines in the sandwich department. Expect to see everything from spicy meatball sandwiches to smoked turkey and provolone-stuffed focaccia.

The garlic lamb baguette ($7.95) does not disappoint, with its tender lamb shavings, green leaf lettuce, sliced Roma tomato on crusty bread, lightly smeared with green olive pesto. The bisque-like cream of cauliflower soup we received one night as a side was outstanding.

To end it all, the restaurant serves house-made tiramisu, berry-topped panna cotta and cheesecake. A creamy wedge of pumpkin cheesecake ($4.25) is not a bad way to end a meal this time of year.

With a little fine-tuning (like not overcooking the pasta), this menu has much potential. Ingredients are fresh, service is attentive, and the food comes out quickly.

What more can you ask from a neighborhood trattoria?

James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@ earthlink.net.

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