Tucked away in a tiny building at 937 W. Congress St. is a quaint Italian café that is big on flavor.
With just three tables inside and a small takeout counter, Los Olivos might not appear to be a busy food spot but the regulars who frequent this bistro-style eatery would beg to differ.
The restaurant, which opened in August 2013, is located across the street from the Menlo Home and Garden store at Grande Avenue.
Besides pizza, the restaurant offers a range of reasonably priced Italian dishes including pasta, sandwiches, and salads.
Los Olivos also features a number of even more inexpensive daily specials. At the time of the article, we opted for the special that included a one-topping, 8-inch personal pizza. The meal came with a drink and an impressive side salad with fresh greens, cucumber, red onion, tomato, carrots, artichokes and green olives topped with tangy house-made vinaigrette.
Baskets of fluffy house-baked bread are available, which went nicely with the Chicken Parmesan ($8.95). The generously sized breast of chicken was covered with mozzarella and arrived perched on a full-sized dinner plate of al dente linguine and mild red sauce with a hint of sweetness.
Unlike many pizza places, real shredded parmesan cheese is available to top your dishes. Thankfully, Los Olivos doesn’t offer crumbled parmesan a la cellulose in those age-old screw-top jars.
Just inside of the main door is a large chalkboard with various specials that change about every two weeks. On the day we dined, there was a special deal for two small, one-topping pizzas for under $10.
Menu specials have offered more far-reaching and more traditional entrées like Seafood Cioppino ($12.95) and Shrimp al Olivo ($11.95), with options for sides.
While the restaurant does not deliver, customers can take advantage of services like GrubHub and have food sent to them.
Los Olivos opened in August 2013, and owner-chef Quetzakoatl Lora said that “the restaurant has been a very fun experience.” Lora first owned and operated a raspado place on the south side of Tucson before opening Los Olivos.
Lora said he got his start in the food business working as a dishwasher in Clearwater, Florida, when he was 16. Being in the kitchen allowed him to study the skills of the chefs, and little by little, he began to work on projects of his own. He eventually became a tournament chef at a hotel and had opportunities to prepare “a little bit of everything.”
When he moved to Tucson, Lora began working for a number of restaurants, including midtown’s Le Rendevous, where he served as the executive chef from 2000 through 2010.
“Italian and France cuisines are my two favorite cuisines to prepare,” said Lora, who noted that his first name, Quetzakoatl, has Aztec origins.
Lora prepares all the menu items himself, with his daughter, Xochitl, helping occasionally with prep and the restaurant’s operations.
He said he enjoys the freedom that he can explore with his restaurant backgrounds. For example, he said he uses real plates “so that people can have an authentic dining experience.”
Based on a couple of visits, Los Olivos serves up an enjoyable – and unexpected – version of Little Italy on Tucson’s west side.
Los Olivos Pizzeria en Menlo Park is located at 937 W. Congress St. Operating hours are 11 a.m. - 9 p.m. Monday - Saturday. Keep up with Los Olivos Pizzeria en Menlo Park on Facebook.
[This article was originally published on January 25, 2018, and most recently updated on September 19, 2019]