The newest European restaurant in the Tri-Cities combines the arts of auto body repair and cooking Mediterranean dishes .
The food-auto body connection is not as far-fetched as it sounds, said Gus Olivas, who opens Europa Italian & Spanish Cuisine on Wednesday at 2459 S. Union Place in Kennewick’s Southridge area, following a soft opening that began a week ago.
Repairing and rebuilding cars is an art form.
So too is cooking, an epiphany that came to him years ago when he as he rolled meatballs at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, a Kennewick restaurant owned by relatives.
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“This is an art. If I stop doing auto body repair, I want to cook,” he thought.
Europa, which specializes in the pasta and paella dishes of Olivas’ native countries, is the fruition of a dream — and plenty of planning and saving to make it come true.
As he contemplated retirement, the 63-year-old Olivas knew he wanted to keep working.
Auto body work was too strenuous. Managing the investment real estate he owns in downtown Kennewick was too passive.
The idea of a restaurant began to form.
He initially wanted to purchase Carmine’s when the founders retired.
When they turned it over to their son instead, Olivas shifted gears and imagined creating his own establishment.
He knew he wanted to capitalize on the dishes of home — pasta from Italy and paella from Spain. He imagined setting up in one of his downtown buildings.
“I have to put my dream into effect (while) awake,” he said.
I have to put my dream into effect (while) awake.
Olivas took stock and concluded he didn’t have enough money to capitalize a start-up.
He began saving, eventually building a nest egg to carry him through the construction and early operational stages of his restaurant, when expenses can run higher than revenue.
He began buying, and selling, kitchen equipment.
Two years ago, a friend flagged a new retail center planned in Southridge and urged him to squeeze the trigger.
“You’ve been talking about this for years,” Olivas said his friend told him.
The friend turned him on to the builder, who turned out to be a neighbor, Don Pratt, a well-known Tri-City developer.
“Don asked lots of questions about the concept,” Olivas said.
Pratt agreed to lease Olivas about 1,700 square feet in a corner spot. He installed high ceilings, ample windows and a spacious patio for welcoming summer evenings.
Sharp-eyed visitors will spot the twigs planted by the columns. In time, they will spread across the structure..
Naming the restaurant proved to be one of his bigger pre-opening challenges. Olivas considered variations on his father’s name but decided it was “too Italian.”
He rejected location-based names such as “Tuscany” and “Madrid” for similar reasons.
“Europa” came to him and better reflected his mixed cuisine.
Europa’s menu is based on family recipes with an emphasis on authenticity.
His fettuccine Alfredo, for example, is served with Italian chicken sausage, not the American-style breast of chicken.
To familiarize guests with the real deal, he plans to offer samples of the unfamiliar, such as picadillo, a sweet-spicy Spanish stew of ground beef, potatoes, tomatoes, raisins and cinnamon.
Olivas wants to spend his time interacting in the dining room, so he’s trained his kitchen staff to do the cooking.
He is reserving one kitchen job for himself though — handrolling the meatballs.
Europa’s hours are 5 to 9 p.m. daily except Sunday for dinner. Lunch hours will be added by summer.
Follow Europa on Facebook, @EuropaItalianSpanish.
Pasco Food Truck Friday is back
Pasco’s popular Food Truck Friday’s 2018 season launches this week. Hours are 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Pasco Farmer’s Market site, between West Lewis and Columbia streets on South Fourth Avenue in downtown Pasco. The 2018 lineup includes Doggie Style Gourmet, Fast & Curryous, Hot Tamales, Jiggy’s Bacon Cheeseburgers, Kona Ice, Swampy’s BBQ and newcomer Brother’s Cheese Steaks, which is making its public debut.
Taco Crawl tickets on sale now
Eat All About It will take a deeper look at Pasco’s third annual Taco Crawl next week. In the interim, discounted advance tickets are available now. Participants purchase Taco Crawler booklets containing vouchers for a taco from each fo 20 participating establishments. The event brings welcome attention to some of Pasco’s hidden gems and raisies money for Boys & Grils Club. Booklets are $20 and are available online at pasctotacocrawl.com The price goes up to $25 after April 12.
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