Shawn Cirkiel opening Italian restaurant in old El Arbol space
Addie Broyles, Relish Austin
Shawn Cirkiel isn't turning on his Polish roots, but the chef/owner of Parkside isn't just dabbling in Italian with his Backspace pizzeria that opened a year ago he's turning the former El Arbol space at 3411 Glenview Ave. into an Italian restaurant called Olive & June (the combined middle names of his grandmother and his wife's grandmother), which he's hoping to open early next year. "The goal is to beat South by Southwest," he says.
It's been a decade since Cirkiel jumped into the spotlight of Austin's food scene when he bought Jean Luc's Bistro. Cirkiel, who was in his mid-20s at the time, ended up closing the five-star French restaurant three years later to put the wheels in motion for a restaurant that he could call his own. He chose an unlikely space — a worn building in the heart of East Sixth Street that had housed Dan McKlusky's steakhouse since 1990, and in 2008, opened Parkside, an upscale but comfortable eatery that serves things like raw oysters, guanciale (pork-cheek)-wrapped quail, grilled venison with pickled blueberries and marrow bones topped with an herb salad.
It's a mix of cuisines that's hard to classify, which is why Austin diners perked up when Cirkiel went Italian last year when he opened a pizzeria behind Parkside called Backspace a year ago.
Like many chefs, Cirkiel's travels to Italy have influenced his cooking, but the roots of his love of Italy go back to the Italian American hub of Arthur Street in the South Bronx, where his dad grew up and where Cirkiel remembers enjoying jovial family dinners as a kid.
The focus at Olive & June will be Southern Italian menu, "with a little Northern mixed in," he says, with half a dozen antipasti and 15 to 20 even smaller bites called piccoli piatti, as well as handmade fresh pastas and entrées — with dishes like grilled swordfish topped with mint, capers and olive oil, roasted eggplant and breadcrumbs that play on the traditional meatball, baby lamb and polenta — but no pizzas. (You'll have to go to Backspace for that.)
Italian food culture is based on the premise of eating what grows well where you live, so expect to find food that reflects the seasons, Cirkiel says. Eventually, he plans to add brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, as well as Sunday nights that only feature the small plates and a family-style supper that would change every week.
With the help of his chef de cuisine, Justin Rupp, and pastry chef Steven Cak, Cirkiel will run all three kitchens, floating from restaurant to restaurant, depending on the day. General manager Harlan Scott will oversee all three restaurants as well.
They plan to turn the offices on third floor at Glenview Avenue into private dining spaces and to "soften" the look of the patio with a lot of greenery and flowers. "Imagine a cross between Santa Barbara and the Amalfi Coast," Cirkiel says.
Ice cream controversy
It's been a few weeks since word spread that Ben & Jerry's was actually going to release an ice cream called Schweddy Balls, inspired by the 1998 "Saturday Night Live" skit.
Not everyone was happy with this tongue-in-cheek treat, but that hasn't stopped the ice cream from popping up in U.S. stores.
The problem is, it's not everywhere. A reader emailed me to ask where she could find some in Austin, and the @cherrygarcia Twitter account pointed me to a crowdsourced map to help people the ice cream. Fans can report where they've found it on an interactive Google Map at http://bit.ly/sZJS3O. (The Ben and Jerry's folks have established a #helpmefindschweddyballs on Twitter.)
From the map, it looks like there have been confirmed sightings at the H-E-B at Oltorf Street and South Congress Avenue, and word is it's been found at the H-E-B on Louis Henna Boulevard in Round Rock and at the H-E-B at Parmer Lane and Interstate 35.