Q • Olio has an intriguing egg salad reminiscent of chopped chicken liver from Jewish delis. Would Ben Poremba share his recipe? — Julie Ridlon, Maplewood
A • Olio and its adjoining restaurant, Elaia, are central to the revitalization of the neighborhood now called Botanical Heights just a block north of Missouri Botanical Garden. There’s a Montessori school, 15 new-construction and 15 rehabbed homes plus La Patisserie Chouquette, a French pastry shop and another venture from restaurateur Ben Poremba and his wife, Angela.
Olio is housed in a corner gas station, complete with a working garage door and windows that open to the outdoors. “It’s an unusual space for a restaurant,” says Poremba. “But hospitable. We pay homage to what this building has witnessed, salvaging what we could, then dressing it up with marble counters and beautiful light fixtures.”
Elaia is next door, connected to Olio by creative architecture. “Olio’s food is simple, a little rustic and more affordable,” says Poremba. “Elaia is more exclusive, a food destination.”
Olio’s “Famous’’ Egg Salad mixes equal measures of egg and onion with just enough mayonnaise to bind. It’s served on good bread and is “a little messy,” Poremba says. “I love that people lean in to eat it. Regulars order it as soon as they sit down. One customer places an order plus a quart to-go.”
The recipe originated with Poremba’s grandmother, who called the yolk-colored spread “chopped liver without the liver” — the texture, not the color. Olio makes the egg salad daily and goes through 75 pounds a week.
To re-create Olio’s “Famous’’ Egg Salad at home, Poremba offers several tips. First, cook the onions very slowly but don’t let them caramelize. “You don’t want to ruin the color,” he says. Then chill the onions, otherwise they’ll be too soft and wet to run through the meat grinder. He also advises against using a food processor, which produces the wrong texture.
Find the recipe here.
1634 Tower Grove Avenue