Trying Times

Husband-and-wife restaurateurs get off to an uneven start

Oliver's desserts are a treat. Chocolate cake, both Black Forest (sans the traditional whipped-cream topping) and "Chocolate Seduction," manage squishy moistness without resorting to flourless or lava-center gimmicks. Cheesecake stands tall and proud on the plate, formidable but not overbearing. And the crème brûle goes a few inches deeper than most -- what's underneath the burnt-sugar crust seems more like a pudding than a custard, but it tastes too wonderful to matter.

Although the desserts seem to have been pulled off effortlessly, the wine list is in dire need of care and attention. As it stands, it's a pretty haphazard selection, with some good ones -- the rich, berry-crammed A-Mano primitivo, well-suited for zin lovers; and the Cimicky shiraz, from one of the best Aussie producers -- but no real sense that the management has much of an idea how the list might add to the meal. Not all bottles are listed with vintages, and the bouquet descriptions, helpful as they might try to be, don't help. "Fruity, mild and clean," for example," is too broad -- you could be describing Nathan Lane.

The staff -- most notably husband-and-wife proprietors Susan and Harry Oliver -- is deeply committed to your pleasant evening. Susan would probably tong the ice cubes out of your water glass for you one by one, should you happen to mention that you prefer your beverages at room temperature. Still, the service veered between overly authoritative and underexperienced. The seasoned waiters love to make suggestions, occasionally to the point where you feel bad overruling their recommendations. The greener ones, meanwhile, seem flummoxed at times. When one of our party requested bread at the start of a meal, a flustered female runner told her, "It'll come with your salad," though she had no idea whether any of us had ordered salads.

The staff at Oliver's is committed to providing a pleasant dining experience.
Stefan Hester
The staff at Oliver's is committed to providing a pleasant dining experience.

Location Info



10 Archview Drive
Belleville, IL 62221

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Belleville/ Fairview Heights


Bruschetta $6.50
Creole pasta $14.95
Spinach salad $6.50
Black Forest cake $6.75

636-940-9463. Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wed.-Sat.

140 North Main Street, St. Charles

The Olivers are new to the restaurant business. It was the skilled yet homey service they received on a recent trip to Italy, Susan Oliver says, that inspired them to open their own place. The pair's desire is evident and admirable, and enthusiasm can go a long way. But right now the food doesn't always measure up to the owners' good intentions. Perhaps in time it will.

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