Italian herbs, feline namesake

Newly revamped Allouez restaurant Olive’s Pizza and Sandwiches features elevated classics and robust flavors

By Josh Koerner

Olivia’s Pizza, named after Carrie Schmechel’s cat Olivia, is full of pesto, feta, olives and robust flavors. Josh Koerner photo

With a passer’s glance at the Greene Avenue Allouez strip mall, one can see that the paint bar Pub and Palette has downsized. The second half of the business is now home to a new restaurant, Olive’s Pizza and Sandwiches.

As somewhat of a sandwich connoisseur, I skipped right past the pizzas and began skimming the sandwich section. Immediately, keywords began to jump out at me: pesto, capicola, tapenade and giardiniera. From that moment, it was clear to me that I had stumbled across something special.

Good sandwiches begin with quality ingredients, the base of which is the bread. Olive’s has that nailed between its fresh-baked Italian and hearty, grain-packed wheat. From there, Olive’s ham is perhaps its next greatest asset. With a fresh-from-the-smoker flavor, it lends a rich and savory accent to both the Italian and club sandwiches. Personally, I prefer the Italian, however, as I find the herbs—particularly the sweetness of the basil—bring out the best in it.

For the multigrain wheat,the spinach and artichoke dip sandwich is stellar. Packed with enough cheese to invoke Wisconsin pride, every bite of this savory concoction leaves behind a satisfying cheese stretch. The subtle nuttiness of the artichokes marry well with the grain of the bread, and the spinach lets diners pretend they’re eating something healthy. It makes me feel like I should pair it with wine and drink it with my pinky out. It’s the most adult experience I have ever had while eating a grilled cheese sandwich.

Olive’s pizza crust, like its bread, is finely crafted and made with a love that shines through with classic flavor and satisfying bite texture. So far, my favorite has been Olivia’s pizza. Its pesto base gives it a sweet, savory flavor with bright citrus notes. The tomato accentuates the sandwich’s subtle sweetness while the artichokes play off the lemon and herbs. The feta and olives provide a nice contrast to all of this sweet acidity and tie a nice bow onto the robust flavor profile. The less adventurous may wish to dive in with a more classic option, but where’s the fun in that?

On recent trips, Olive’s food felt more and more familiar to me, but a bit of mystery still hung in the air. How did this sandwich shop seemingly pop up overnight?

Owner Carrie Schmechel said the story of her restaurant began with a cat. Olive, to be exact. The petite calico once found itself homeless on a porch in Oconto Falls. When Schmechel met the scamp, its beautiful emerald eyes and precocious trills were enough to evoke her inner cat person. At the time, Schmechel said she was putting in long hours managing two Pub and Palette locations and decided to rescue a second cat, Olivia, to serve as Olive’s companion.

Olive is a petite calico cat who was adopted by Carrie Schmechel. Now, this feline friend has found a new home and has a restaurant named after her.

Photo courtesy of Carrie Schmechel

Fast-forward to 2020. The Pub and Palette, Schmechel’s original passion project, fell upon the same hard times many businesses faced at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was able to keep herself afloat with a touch of creativity and endless long nights, but to get back into the black, she was going to have to sacrifice half of her rental space. Months passed with no serious prospects. Eventually, the property owner came to Carrie and asked her how much she would be willing to lean into the restaurant side of her business.

Leaning on some tricks she picked up in Oconto Falls while working at a Hot Stuff Pizza, she fleshed out a menu of classic staples offset with enticing gourmet options. To name her more unique menu items, she drew inspiration from local pets such as neighborhood dogs Bug and Tilly, or Peaches the cat. When it came time to name her new storefront, Olive seemed obvious. Just as she had once saved this small, precious life, she now hoped that Olive’s could save her business in these trying times.

Schmechel continues to care for the pet community with a Tuesday, Nov. 9 fundraiser at Olive’s where a portion of the proceeds will benefit local animal rescue Safe Haven Pet Sanctuary.

Josh Koerner grew up in De Pere and has a passion for local food. He’s written for The NEWcomer and Nosh Green Bay alongside his personal Facebook food blog, Josh Eats Green Bay.

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