A historic site in Olney is expected to reopen in the spring after years of renovations as an Italian formal dining restaurant operated by a French Laundry alumnus.
The historic Olney House, built in 1800 by Whitson Canby, captured the attention of Howard County native and chef Thomas Zippelli, leading him to acquire it in 2019 to transform it into Italian eatery Salt & Vine, he said.
“I thought it was such a good location being right on [Route] 108, and I think that Olney is ready for a good, new restaurant,” he said. “It’s hard not to be drawn to it.”
In addition to the French Laundry in California, Zippelli’s resume also includes another Michelin three-star restaurant, Eleven Madison Park.
Initially, he wanted to open the restaurant in spring 2020 but found there were more issues to overcome for the renovations. “A ton of our issues were supply chain-related, but a lot of it was really just because it was a crazy project,” he said. “Since the building is on the history registry, there was a lot of things that we could not change. So, they had to fully support the building from the outside and then basically reframe the entire building out.”
The front of the building’s siding had to remain the same, and the windows on the front are original.
The eatery will feature charcuterie, house-made pasta, seafood, steaks, oysters and, of course, wine.
The previous owner, James Ricciuti, bought Olney House in 1992 and operated Ricciuti’s Italian restaurant out of the property until 2019, but left Zippelli something to help carry on the business: the wood-fired pizza recipe.
“When it was running as Ricciuti’s, everybody [had] come to expect the pizza to be a certain way, and (Ricciuti) wanted us to continue that tradition,” Zippelli said. “I’ve changed it a little, but one of the things that remained in the restaurant was the wood-burning pizza oven. … So, there’s an enormous wood-burning pizza oven and I don’t think we’re going to focus a ton on pizza, but we’re going to focus a ton on cooking stuff in that oven, which I think is cool.”
Salt & Vine will be Zippelli’s third concept restaurant, with Turn House in Columbia the first and Maggie’s in Westminster the second. Zippelli said Salt & Vine will be more formal than his other two eateries. Turn House focuses on farm-to-table American food and Maggie’s is an upscale Irish pub.
Zippelli said he expects Salt & Vine to create about 60 jobs. “I think being able to restore this building and bring really nice restaurants to the area for people to enjoy is great.”