Olivia’s: Taking care of diners
by Lisa Hinton-Valdrighi
Chef Gary Ward says his job is about “taking care of people, treating them right and serving fresh food.” It’s a job he’s been doing seven days a week for the past 15 years as the owner of Olivia’s in the Village, a seafood, steak and pasta restaurant in the heart of Gloucester Courthouse.
A few weeks ago my friend Darlene and I made the trip from Lancaster County across the Rappahannock and Piankatank rivers to dine at the casual, family friendly restaurant. It was a trip well worth taking. Olivia’s two dining rooms and lounge dining area were packed with diners, young, old, couples and families. Two ladies dining next to our corner table said they’d been to the restaurant three straight evenings. I could see why. The extensive menu offered dozens of tempting items.
We started with Olivia’s sampler and a cup of seafood chowder. The sampler was just as advertised, a sampling of three of the restaurant’s most popular appetizers, bacon-wrapped scallops covered in a sweet teriyaki glaze, firecracker shrimp (made to order in a milder, sweeter version for our not-so-spicy palates) and chicken and spinach dip. Although all three were delicious, our favorite was the hot dip of cream cheese, spinach, garlic, chicken and melted cheddar and mozzarella, served with handmade tortilla chips. According to Ward, his cook cuts up flour tortillas, seasons them and “fries them up really quick for a light and creamy texture.” The dip was created accidentally when Ward was providing food at a fundraiser and at the last minute was told more attendants were expected. He quickly created three trays of the dip, throwing in this ingredient and that. He jotted down the recipe and it was such a hit, he added it to Olivia’s menu.
Although the pasta dishes including linguini and clams, lobster and shrimp ravioli and tortellini with blackened chicken were enticing, Olivia’s handcut certified Hereford ribeye was calling my name. I added a broiled crab cake (no fillers) to make a surf and turf combo. The ribeye was delivered as ordered, medium well, and almost melted in my mouth. I’m a big steak sauce kinda gal but covering that ribeye with A1 Steak Sauce would have been a crime.
The steak menu also included a mixed grill kebob with shrimp, sirloin with mushrooms and gravy and a hamburger steak, which a nearby diner “in the mood for comfort food” had ordered. She leaned over and said “if I could find the chef, I’d kiss him for this. It’s like a party in my mouth right now. I’m definitely comforted.”
Darlene was in the mood for seafood and asked our waitress Stella for a recommendation. She suggested one of the restaurant specialities, Seafood Olivia’s, shrimp and crab covered in feta cheese, creamed spinach and cheddar cheese in a wine and garlic sauce. It was a casserole dish of ooey-gooey goodness.
And although we barely had room for dessert, Ward insisted we try a sampling of his favorites, which included lemon chess pie, coconut custard pie and New York style cheesecake. But our favorite was creme caramel, Olivia’s take on traditional creme brulee. It was a serving of creamy custard with a layer of soft caramel and it melted in our mouths.
Olivia’s menu also includes burgers, sandwiches, chicken dishes, pulled pork and a variety of seafood dishes from scallops and oysters to oven roasted salmon and tender and crispy clam strips from Cape Cod. I know they are tender and crispy because I had a sample.
And, according to Stella, every thing at Olivia’s is homemade.
“There are no cans, no boxes and no microwaves.”
So let’s hope Ward keeps taking care of people and serving up fresh food for another 15 years plus.
Olivia’s in the Village
6597 Main Street
Open daily Serving breakfast, lunch & dinner. Hours vary.
On the Menu
Seafood • Steaks • Ribs • Barbeque • Pasta • Sandwiches
Did you know?
Gary Ward first opened Olivia’s in Gloucester Point in 2003 before relocating to Gloucester Courthouse.