It didn't take long for Alan Valenti to decide to get back in the restaurant game after he and his partners sold The Brick Oven of Morristown in 2010.
Valenti, a 10-year Morris Township resident originally from Brooklyn, said he knew for many years—even during his time on Wall Street—that he wanted to get into the business. And while that South Street restaurant had proven successful, as one of three partners, Valenti did not have as much creative control he was seeking, which he said his new business venture offers.
That venture, Olive Lucy's Kitchen Table, is expected to open by the end of January in the space formery occupied by Villa Cafe on Speedwell Avenue.
The restaurateur knew he wanted his next venture to stay in Morristown. It was, after all, where he had his first date with now-wife Allison. "Our first date was at the old Valentino's (now David Todd's City Tavern)," said Valenti, 47. "It was nice because it reminded me of what we had in Brooklyn. You can park your car and walk anywhere. I love it here."
So do a lot of budding business owners apparently. While Olive Lucy's has an anticipated January 2013 opening date, Valenti said he began looking for a new property about six months after selling The Brick Oven over two years ago.
Eventually, 52 Speedwell Ave. opened up when Villa Enterprises closed its Villa Cafe in Morristown earlier this year.
But while the building's former and current tenant share Italian roots, that's about where similarities end. "Other than the structure, everything is changed," Valenti said. "You probably won't even recognize it."
You may not recognize the menu, either. While Valenti said Olive Lucy's will have Italian-themed dishes, it also will include Portuguese, a theme he said came up often when he and his wife frequently went out for dinner but had different ideas on where to go.
"I love Italian food, so I knew it would have some of that," he said. "But, for Paella you need to go down Route 46 or Ironbound. I wished we could go to one place to get it. That's how the concept came out."
More than just the sum of two of its parts, Valenti said the focus for Olive Lucy's—named in part after one of his four children—rested deeper in the second part of its name. "It's a kitchen table more than anything else," he said. "There will be a variety of things."
Given his previous track record with another Morristown restaurant, Valenti said,"we're really confident.
"It's very different than anything else in Morristown. I think people will really like it," he said.