It started out with a bang early one Saturday morning in May 2017.
The implosion of Senate Plaza had turned into a spectator sport with many area residents gathering, some with lawn chairs, to witness the spectacle, which paved the way for a flurry of development that is still occurring in the Erford Road area.
When brothers John and Niko Kranias got wind that the Camp Hill Commons strip mall was open for business, they realized that the Olive Oil Grille had found a home.
“We had evaluated various markets and chose Camp Hill Commons due to the large amount of businesses in the area, including hospitals and nursing homes,” John said.
The Kranias brothers are no strangers to the restaurant business, having learned at the side of their father, who owned a pizza shop in Gettysburg. When their dad retired, the sons took over for a time before selling the business, moving to Greece and operating a restaurant there.
“Living in Greece, we learned a lot about the Greek culture and Greek food in the Mediterranean region,” John said. “It was a great experience.”
He said that they learned about a region of the world called Ikaria, which is designated as a “blue zone.” For those unfamiliar with the term, a “blue zone” is a region of the world where people live longer than average, with diet being an essential part of a healthy lifestyle.
Upon returning to the states, the brothers moved to Mechanicsburg and set up shop in Camp Hill Commons as a fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant, implementing some of the concepts they had learned about in Greece.
The restaurant, which seats about 60, is open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Customers queue up at the front and proceed forward, assembly-line style, to build a bowl or fill a pita.
They start with a “base,” such as rice, arugula, a “power blend” of super foods (kale, brussels sprouts, radicchio and broccoli), or an “ancient grain mix” comprised of quinoa, lentils and pearl barley, mixed together with olive oil and salt. Dips and spreads like tzatziki, yogurt dill aioli, fire feta (spicy) and roasted red pepper hummus can be added, along with a protein like grilled chicken, pork or beef. Toppings are next, with choices such as herbed white beans or tomatoes and cucumbers. To top it all off, customers can choose one of six “finishes” like vinaigrette or white balsamic herb dressing.
If this seems complicated, it can be, especially for the first visit, but staff is always at the ready to walk customers through the myriad choices. The Kranias family also has their website set up to make pre-ordering easy.
“The combinations are practically endless,” said Niko, adding that there is something for nearly every diet, with keto, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free choices.
Customers can rest assured that they won’t encounter a “deer in the headlights” look if they arrive with a series of questions. John’s wife Maryam sees to it that the staff is trained to know every detail for those with dietary restrictions.
The owners pride themselves on the fact that no freezer, microwave or fryer is used in the making of their food.
Daily deliveries come from local purveyors like Strites Orchard, Bow Creek Farms and others to ensure fresh food, all the time. The restaurateurs are particularly proud of their olive oil, which hails from a 10-acre grove in Corinth, Greece, which they own with one of their cousins.
“We brought some in for the back of the house to use in our recipes and are thinking of importing some for sale in the restaurant,” John said.
A selection of seasonal soups is also available, like the hearty French lentil. Delicious, with plenty of flavor, it’s capable of laying to rest any preconceived notions that vegan, gluten-free soups are all bland.
Maryam, who is also the marketing director, pointed out that the mini pita kids’ meal also offers a choice of the aforementioned ingredients and has thus far been well received.
“One child was here eating and dancing, and the parent told me she only dances when she loves her food,” she said, with a laugh.
John DiMaggio, a Dillsburg resident, is another happy customer.
“I like it because there are so many options and, every time I’ve visited, I’ve had a good experience,” he said. “The quality is consistent, and the staff is so friendly. I feel like I’m a valued customer, and it’s nice to have something to bring home to the family for dinner sometimes.”
Jeanne Edwards finds the restaurant conveniently located within walking distance from her home.
“I like the freshness of the foods they offer and the fact that it’s not microwaved,” she said. “They just do a wonderful job with the flavors.”
Edwards said that she especially enjoys the soups, the salad bowls, the specialty fountain drinks like blue raspberry lemonade and the staff.
“They are just really friendly,” she said.
The Kranias family said that they are very happy with the reception they’ve received from the community so far.
“I love cooking, and seeing the reaction from the people is what I like the most,” John said. “Just the other day someone said to me, ‘Thank you for being here.’ We work long hours, and that positive energy is what keeps us going.”
Olive Oil Grille is located at 71 Erford Rd., Camp Hill. To learn more, call 717-761-4455 or visit www.oliveoilgrille.com.