The brainchild of Villaggio General Manager Spencer Murray, Olean’s Mercato is the Pitillo family’s latest restaurant endeavor. Now open at 213 N. Union Street, Mercato aims to become a go-to lunch spot for the Olean community. Serving pasta, pizza, salad and a myriad of other options, it’s the perfect addition to downtown Olean’s recent renaissance.
“It feels so great to finally be open,” Murray said. “It’s kind of surreal. We’ve been working so hard at this for so long, and it was an unbelievable feeling opening the doors. The goal was to create something new and fresh and exciting, and we think we’ve done that.”
Murray, originally of Williamsville, cut his teeth in the restaurant business in Rhode Island before returning to help open and manage Villaggio in Ellicottville in 2016. And while Mercato was his idea, it was the blessing of Villaggio/Osteria 166 owners Nick and Kendra Pitillo that set the plan in motion.
“At the heart, we’re a small family business,” he said. “Osteria 166 (the Pitillo’s Buffalo restaurant) and Villaggio are home, and that’s where people know us from. We’ve established those to the point where people know what to expect from us food and service wise. And even though Mercato is an entirely different concept, we want to keep everything tied together so there’s that relationship.”
That relationship begins with the workers, who were personally trained by Murray and other key members of the Villaggio/Osteria staff. Out of nowhere, the cashier will yell “What do we say?” and the workers reply with a resounding “Thank you!” It’s that type of unique, family-driven service that has made the other restaurants so successful. You’re made to feel like a part of the family.
Mercato is food that’s fast, but don’t call it fast food. When you walk in, you’re given a limitless number of options - build your own salad and pasta, personal or family-sized pizzas, grain bowls and more. For the people of Olean, it’s a nice reprieve from the rows of fast food chains that line the streets.
“We’ve got a lot of new, young staff, but they’re already doing such a great job,” Murray said. “Right now, the key is taking it slow and making sure the simple things are done correctly. We want to create consistency, so when people come in they’re given the same level of value, service and food that they had the first time. Our guests have been unbelievable with the feedback, and we’re listening and learning.”
The simple things - getting orders right, creating a vibe, providing fresh, clean eating - are all of the things Mercato has a head start on, thanks to the years of experience amassed by Murray and the Pitillos. When the basics are concrete, they’ll expand into more grab-and-go options, soups, and other different offerings.
Not only has Mercato brought a fresh, new vibe to Olean since opening on August 2nd, it’s already creating a significant economic impact - more than 20 people are on the payroll.
“For us, it’s about having fun,” Murray said. “We want the employees to have fun, we want the customers to have fun. The experience is everything, and that’s providing fast, fresh, fun food. We’re thrilled to be a part of the Olean community, and can’t wait to see where it goes from here.”