Olio, Elaia and Nixta will relocate from Botanical Heights to Delmar Maker District
Restaurateur Ben Poremba has announced that three Bengelina Hospitality Group restaurants – Olio, Elaia and Nixta – will be leaving their longtime homes in Botanical Heights at the end of 2023. The three restaurants will serve their last meals on Dec. 31, before relocating to new addresses in the Delmar Maker District in the first half of 2024.
Poremba said the decision to relocate was prompted by an unsuccessful effort to buy the buildings housing Nixta, Olio and Elaia. With all three restaurants approaching the end of their current lease, Poremba said the owner of the properties wanted to increase rent on the spaces. Poremba said he offered to buy the buildings, but discussions faltered with the parties unable to reach an agreement on price. “I was left with no other choice, basically, but to walk away,” Poremba said. “You don't agree on the price of things, and you make your internal calculus as to what is operationally sound, and it wasn’t operationally sound for me to buy those buildings for what the building owner asked for.”
Olio, Elaia and Nixta will all remain open until the end of the year. Following their final service on Dec. 31, the three restaurants will begin the process of relocating to the Delmar Maker District, a project that is gradually reshaping the strip of Delmar Boulevard between Kingshighway and Union boulevards.
The Maker District currently includes Brew Tulum, Third Degree Glass Factory and Craft Alliance, with a new development called Maker’s Locale set to open later this year. Tenants confirmed so far for Maker’s Locale include Steve’s Hot Dogs, The Fountain on Locust spinoff The Fountain off Locust, a distillery and tasting room by Alpha Brewing Co. and an events space by Third Degree Glass Factory.
Nixta will be the first of the three restaurants to open in its new location, “somewhere in the spring of 2024,” according to Poremba. Olio and Elaia will follow in the summer of 2024. Poremba would not confirm the exact addresses of those new locations, other than to say that all three restaurants will be “located within walking distance from one another.” They will also be just a few blocks away from another recently opened Bengelina restaurant, Deli Divine. Poremba opened the Jewish deli and market inside the Delmar Divine development at 5501 Delmar Blvd. in May 2023.
Poremba also has a new concept in the works for the Delmar Maker District. He was reluctant to share specific details at this stage, but said it will be a “Mediterranean restaurant with a nice patio.” That one will launch before the relocation of the Botanical Heights trio is complete, with Poremba forecasting an opening date for early 2024.
The new concept will also provide additional employment opportunities within the Bengelina group that will help bridge the gap for existing members of the teams at Nixta, Olio and Elaia during the period between Dec. 31 and the opening of the new locations. “We’ve made a promise to every single one of our employees that should they want to keep their job, we’re going to find them a job within the company,” Poremba said. “Frankly, we’re going to need them for the opening of this new concept, and Nixta’s not going to take too long after … nobody is going to lose their job.”
The departures of Olio, Elaia and Nixta will leave AO&Co. as the sole remaining Bengelina business on that Botanical Heights strip where Tower Grove Avenue intersects with McRee Avenue. “I’m my own landlord, so that’s not going anywhere,” Poremba said.
Over the past decade, Poremba’s restaurants and the people who have staffed them have played a leading role in transforming a once-moribund corner of the city (a series of photos posted earlier today on Olio’s Instagram gives a sense of how dilapidated the Olio building was prior to the restaurant taking it over in 2012) into one of its most vibrant dining hubs, with award-winning neighbors including Union Loafers, Indo and La Patisserie Chouquette burnishing the neighborhood’s culinary credentials alongside Poremba’s restaurants. We’ll certainly be keeping an eye on who will move in to fill the gaps left by Olio, Elaia and Nixta.
Poremba acknowledged a “bittersweet sentiment” around the decision to relocate the three departing restaurants, but said the response to the news has been for the most part overwhelmingly supportive. “People are sad to see us leave, but also very happy that we have new plans, and that we're not just leaving for the county or going to Chesterfield, but we're staying in the city,” he said. He also noted that in many ways, things are coming full circle. “We’re tackling another neighborhood that was distressed by systemic issues, and I think people appreciate that.”