Elaine Morello and her husband, Alberto, continue expanding their eateries on Victoria Street so much that there is now a small village of restaurants that encapsulate the entire culinary experience in Italy. Yearning for a trip to Sicily? Try their original fine dining room at Olio E Limone Ristorante. Do you want to feel like you’re in Napoli? Go to their rustic and warm Olio Pizzeria. How about Milan? Then pull up a chair at their newly opened and ultra cosmopolitan Olio Crudo Bar.
What all of them have in common is authenticity, consistency of quality, and extraordinary service and hospitality. And that also describes Elaine, the force at the center of it all. Though she wasn’t born in Italy, Vittorio DeSica could have easily cast her as the lead in one of his neo-realistic classics, for she possesses the determination and passion displayed by Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren.
She took time from her continuously growing projects to answer the Proust Questionnaire.
What is your current state of mind?
Stressed and content at the same time. Stressed due to pending business expansion, content with business and life in general.
What do you most like about your job?
Hearing from guests about their wonderful dining experiences (which motivates us in our daily labor of love), being a part of their “family,” having a terrific team of staff members who are an extension of our own family, being involved in and supportive of our community, being my own boss.
What is your greatest fear?
Not having enough time outside running the restaurants to enjoy the important “little” things in life.
What is your greatest extravagance?
Swimming and snorkeling in the Med off the coast of northwestern Sicily (where my husband’s from), with a lunch of crudo, grilled seppia, and a glass of refreshing Grillo awaiting us under the pergola.
What is your greatest achievement?
My 20-plus year marriage, raising our son (now almost 17), watching him turn into a terrific young man, and creating 75-plus (soon to more than double) jobs in a pretty neat place for our staff to work.
Where would you most like to live?
Right here where I am! I had to leave Santa Barbara for 10 years after graduating from UCSB in order to be able to come back and start my business. I don’t plan on living anywhere else.
Who do you most admire?
My mom, Linda Andersen. For her boundless love of her children and grandchildren, for her perseverance and determination to survive and emerge victorious when widowed at age 39 with four kids, for setting an amazing example for all of us, for her beautiful singing voice and superb viola-playing. She’s still my best friend.
What is your idea of perfect happiness?
Not sure if perfect happiness exists, but I’d have to say that getting to the point of realizing and accepting that it doesn’t exist creates mental space to enjoy every minute with “perfect happiness.” I’m still trying to get there!
What is the quality you most like in people?
Honesty and loyalty.
What is the quality you most dislike in people?
Dishonesty, disloyalty, lack of a sense of what’s just, unreliability.
What is your most marked characteristic?
I don’t think I should be the one to answer that. It’s the kind of question you need someone else to objectively answer. Guess I’d have to go with my candor. (It’s to a fault….)
Which words or phrases do you most overuse?
“Wow!,” “Sheesh!”, “Really?”
Which talent would you most like to have?
The ability to play guitar and piano.
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Ha! Too many to list…Okay, if I have to pick one: I’d change having quit playing classical and rock guitar as a teenager. Our son (a pianist) chides me, saying we could be jamming now if I hadn’t quit playing when I was his age!
What is your most treasured possession?
A photo of my mom, grandmother, great-grandmother, and me. Four generations of determined women!
What is your motto?
“There’s always a solution. “
On what occasion do you lie?
I’ll tell little white lies when I think it will help avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
Who makes you laugh the most?
That’s a tie between my husband and son. My husband probably wins with all of his funny Italian-isms mixed into English. He hasn’t lived in Italy for over 25 years, but his accent and colloquialisms still make me laugh every day. He’ll say, “I need to fill up the application” (when it’s fill “out”), “I was watching the photos,” (when it’s “looking at”), and, my favorite, “No coo-cumberrrrz, please” (when he means no “pickles”).