The new owner of Oliver’s Restaurant isn’t making any immediate changes to the landmark North Buffalo restaurant but in the coming months does plan to add some food items and cocktails to the menu and update the building’s exterior.
David Schutte, who will continue to own and operate the Creekview Restaurant in Williamsville, on April 1 takes over Oliver’s from longtime owner Henry Gorino, who will stay on as a consultant while devoting more time to his three other restaurants.
Schutte and Gorino said they began seriously discussing a sale of Oliver’s Restaurant and its catering business last fall.
The new owner said he wants to carry on the restaurant’s 75-year tradition of fine dining. “I’m not going to change much. Henry’s left it in great shape. That’s one of the reasons it was such an easy decision for me,” Schutte told The Buffalo News on Thursday.
Schutte has been shadowing Gorino and meeting with workers at Oliver’s. He said the 45 employees, including chef Lennon Lewandowski, will stay on under his ownership.
Gorino, 61, said he plans to spend more time with his family, including his 18-month-old son, and at his newest restaurant, Rocco’s Wood Fired Pizza, but he expects to stop by Oliver’s about once a week during the transition period. “That’s to make people comfortable,” he said. Gorino and his partners also own Siena Restaurant and 800 Maple, both in Amherst.
The transaction, which closed last Friday, includes the restaurant at 2095 Delaware Ave. and the catering business, including its exclusive contracts with Kleinhans Music Hall, Burchfield Penney Art Center and Buffalo History Museum.
Gorino took on John Tronolone and bartender Louis Leone as partners at Oliver’s, giving each 10 percent of the company, and they also are selling out.
The sale agreement calls for Schutte to rent the restaurant for five years before buying it. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Gorino bought Oliver’s in 1983 and said he initially thought he would run the restaurant, which was started by Frank Oliver in 1936, for 20 years. As he passed 25 years and approached 30 years of ownership, he said he started to think more about selling.
Gorino brought up the idea with Schutte last summer, when the two men ran into each other at various events, and they reached a tentative agreement in December. Gorino said he will stick with his three restaurants for now but may someday open another Rocco’s.
Schutte bought the Creekview in 1996, after serving as a partner in Babalu, a Jamaican restaurant located in the space that now houses Fat Bob’s in Allentown.
The graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and Cornell’s School of Hotel Administration previously worked at the storied Rainbow Room in New York City, a Napa Valley winery, the University Inn and Conference Center in Amherst and Biac’s Restaurant in Allentown.
Referring to the Oliver’s deal, Schutte, 48, said, “For me, it’s like the next step in my career.”
Schutte said patrons won’t notice much of a difference for the first month or so after he takes over, and regulars won’t have to worry about their favorite entrees coming off the menu. But he said he does plan to brainstorm some new menu items with Lewandowski, and he hopes to expand the cocktail offerings and add some color to the restaurant exterior. “Over time, we’re going to add some fun things,” he said.
Gorino has suggested that Schutte begin serving lunch again, or a Sunday brunch, at Oliver’s and host events such as a New Year’s Eve party in the Mary Seaton Room at Kleinhans. “I want him to make his own mark here,” Gorino said.