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Monday, 09 April 2018 21:23

Former Auto Body Artist Explores Mediterranean Cuisine in WA

Written by Wendy Culverwell, Tri-City Herald
Restaurant owner Gus Olivas stands inside Europa in Kennewick, WA. Europa will serve authentic Italian and Spanish cuisine. Restaurant owner Gus Olivas stands inside Europa in Kennewick, WA. Europa will serve authentic Italian and Spanish cuisine. Noelle Haro-Gomez Tri-City Herald

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The newest European restaurant in the Tri-Cities combines the arts of auto body repair and cooking Mediterranean dishes.

The food-auto body connection is not as far-fetched as it sounds, said Gus Olivas, who opened Europa Italian & Spanish Cuisine on April 4 at 2459 S. Union Place in Kennewick, WA’s Southridge area, following a soft opening that began the week prior.


Repairing and rebuilding cars is an art form.


So too is cooking, an epiphany that came to him years ago as he rolled meatballs at Carmine’s Italian Restaurant, a Kennewick restaurant owned by relatives.


“This is an art. If I stop doing auto body repair, I want to cook,” he thought.


Europa, which specializes in the pasta and paella dishes of Olivas’ native countries, is the fruition of a dream---and plenty of planning and saving to make it come true.


As he contemplated retirement, the 63-year-old Olivas knew he wanted to keep working.


Auto body work was too strenuous. Managing the investment real estate he owns in downtown Kennewick was too passive.


The idea of a restaurant began to form.


He initially wanted to purchase Carmine’s when the founders retired.


When they turned it over to their son instead, Olivas shifted gears and imagined creating his own establishment.


He knew he wanted to capitalize on the dishes of home---pasta from Italy and paella from Spain. He imagined setting up in one of his downtown buildings.


“I have to put my dream into effect (while) awake,” he said.


Olivas took stock and concluded he didn’t have enough money to capitalize a start-up.


He began saving, eventually building a nest egg to carry him through the construction and early operational stages of his restaurant, when expenses can run higher than revenue.


He began buying, and selling, kitchen equipment.


Two years ago, a friend flagged a new retail center planned in Southridge and urged him to squeeze the trigger.


“You’ve been talking about this for years,” Olivas said his friend told him.


The friend turned him on to the builder, who turned out to be a neighbor, Don Pratt, a well-known Tri-City developer.


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