When it comes to food, I’m a novice. Tuna Can Can and King Ranch Chicken were casserole staples in my house and passed down through several generations. My family wasn’t one to go out to eat either. We would splurge at Olive Garden once a year on New Year’s Eve, sometimes Old Country Buffet on Thanksgiving, and then On the Border for birthdays (their free birthday brownie sundae is worth all 1,340 calories). Forty dollars always seemed so high to me, and that was on the cheaper side for a family of four. However, I once worked with a couple who graduated culinary school and dined at the best restaurant in the world at the time and (drum roll please) the bill cost around $750! Can you believe that? I could have used that hefty chunk of change and had a never-ending supply of Taco Bell. In case you still haven’t caught on to how big of a food novice I am, I never even tried broccoli until college! (Take a second to digest that, pun intended). I was shocked when I discovered The Melting Pot isn’t even considered that fancy of a restaurant. Say what?
Back in 2012, my Kate-Beckinsale-doppelganger aunt, Stephanie, and her Big-Lebowski-loving husband visited the Valley of the Sun. During their visit, I was introduced to Olive and Ivy for the first time. Even though Olive and Ivy sounds like some new superhero show on Netflix, and that’s not far from the truth, it’s actually a restaurant on the waterfront in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Years later and thankfully bangs-free (I don’t know how I could have even perused the menu with those monsters), I had sadly forgotten about this place until I was scrolling through Yelp. My fiance, Adam, had never been there before, so we decided it was time for a lunch date.
“You never have a chance to make a second first impression”. From the moment we walked in, Olive and Ivy didn’t disappoint. I instantly fell in love with the atmosphere and felt like I transported to Italy as soon as I stepped on to the patio. A gondola would have made the scene picture perfect. It was relaxing to gaze at the palm-tree lined water, to watch the blue and white trolley come and go, to spot the elderly people getting a moped tour, and to examine the group of Desperate-Housewives ladies with their larger-than-life sunglasses. I personally thought they were hideous but probably cost well over $300. We quickly claimed the last remaining table outside while soaking in the nice breeze.
I scan the menu and don’t even recognize some of the food names. So, what do I do? I google! Since when are bacon wrapped dates a thing? Roasted artichoke hearts? Embarrassingly, I thought veal was some sort of seafood. For those of you who were also kept in the dark all your life, veal is the meat from a young cow. After quickly ruling out the items mentioned above, I really wanted to try the Sweet Potato Cannelloni. My thought process was something along the lines of, “Well, I like sweet potatoes, and cannelloni reminds me of cannoli, so it must be good.” In layman’s terms, it looked like a healthy enchilada with a sweet-potato “tortilla”. I should have branched out and tried it. I really should have. In all honestly, I couldn’t bear the thought of spending $15 and possibly not liking it. I’m one of those people that finds their favorite dish at a restaurant and then orders the same thing from then on, like the Taco Bell chicken quesadilla. True foodies are probably cursing me for including Taco Bell and Olive and Ivy in the same blog post.
We end up ordering bruschetta as an appetizer and chose mushroom, mozzarella, and avocado as part of the “pick three”. Now I was a little unsure about this pick. Everyone loves Raymon… I mean carbs, but sometimes the bread at restaurants almost causes me to chip a tooth. With that being said, the flavorful mushroom bruschetta was hands down the best (even though the mushrooms looked like cockroaches). The avocado tasted so fresh it could give Subway a run for its money, and the mozzarella tasted like real cheese. I don’t know exactly what fake cheese would be, but let’s just say it tasted better than the normal store bought type I get. It was funny because just a couple days later I was watching Gilmore Girls and Rory was whipping up bruschetta in Martha’s Vineyard — great minds think alike.
For the main course, Adam ordered the pesto chicken flatbread per the waiter’s recommendation. After Adam was done with his first bite (a true gentleman never talks with food in his mouth), he exclaimed, “it’s amazing, and I haven’t even had a jalapeno yet!” Not wanting to veer out of my comfort zone, I ordered the piccante, a flatbread with italian sausage and spicy, crispy salami. It did not disappoint! Are you noticing a trend here? Now, the super skinny tie-bearing waiter advised one flatbread would be sufficient for two people, but we typically don’t heed the advice of people that appear to have a strict salad regimen. To his defense though, the portion was very generous – it was the biggest flatbread I’ve ever had (which it should be for $15).
Now, most normal people would have stopped after devouring bruschetta and flatbread, but not us. Or I guess I should say me. I channeled my inner Italian and decided to try a scoop of cookie dough gelato over in the market section of the restaurant. The gelato was somewhat of a letdown, but I think any gelato would be after the out-of-this-world gelato (and out-of-the-store lines) you can eat at Frost a Gelato Shoppe at San Tan Village.
I wouldn’t have known they had gelato, but I glimpsed it on the way to the bathroom which could easily be showcased in a home magazine. In fact, I want to find their interior designer and hire her (or him) to design my dream home. They take the word “stall” to a whole new level. At Olive and Ivy, you don’t have to worry about awkwardly making partial eye contact with someone through the crack or your head sticking up above the stall door if you are tall like me.
All in all, I wouldn’t eat at Olive and Ivy all the time because frankly most average people can’t afford a $20 lunch every day. However, if you happen to be in Scottsdale, I would recommend you stop and eat there. Olive and Ivy may not be superheroes, but their chef definitely has some super powers. I want to take my mom there for her birthday in August, so maybe I’ll see you there!
If you have been to Olive and Ivy before, what did you think of the restaurant? What are other good places to eat around the Valley?
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