Olivina Taproom at 44 S Sandusky St. in downtown Delaware brings olive oils from Southern Spain and balsamic vinegars from Modena to Delaware, Ohio! In his interview with Sara
Opa Grill & Tavern
Dated: April 6 2021
Opa Grill & Tavern at 18 S Sandusky St. in downtown Delaware is one of those neighborhood gems that you just can’t find anywhere else! Scroll down for the transcript.
In his interview with Sara Marie Brenner, the owner, Genti Koci, discusses how he came to Delaware from a childhood raised in communism in Albania. With 2900 bottles and once considering renaming the restaurant Holy Spirits, Genti has turned Opa into a destination restaurant and bar with a bourbon and whiskey selection that brings people in from miles around. With his background as a pharmacist, Genti seems to understand the science of how to concoct the perfect bourbon or whiskey drink. Genti lives and works in Delaware, and loves the people in our growing but still tight-knit community. Be sure to watch the video for a demonstration of his making his popular drink, the Smokey Old Fashioned! We can definitely say, it was delicious.
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Opa is open Monday - Saturday, and they offer dine in, carryout and delivery. Be sure to visit their website -- https://opa-grill-tavern.business.site/ -- and go to their ToastTab page for “today’s specials” to sign up to participate in the next bourbon dinner! Ask about their bourbon flights too, or just tell Genti what kind of coffee, wine, beer, or other drinks you like; he will assess your pallet and get you hooked up with the perfect bourbon or whiskey.
Thanks for watching the Delaware, Ohio Local Guide with your host Sara Marie Brenner, Realtor with The Crane & Pearl Team at eXp Realty in Delaware, Ohio, your local top agent in Delaware, Ohio and surrounding areas!
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Sara Marie Brenner, MBA, Associate Broker, Realtor
The Crane & Pearl Team
brokered by eXp Realty
[00:00:00.060] - Sara
Welcome to the Delaware, Ohio Local Guide. Brought to you by the Crane & Pearl Team at eXp Realty. And I'm your host today, Sara Marie Brenner. I'm at the amazing OPA Grill & Tavern at 18 South Sandusky Street, talking to the owner, Genti.
[00:00:16.240] - Genti
Oh, I ended up in Delaware by mistake or by chance, I don't know, depending on who you ask. I moved to Columbus, Ohio, at 2007. My wife and her family had moved in year 2001. So in process of trying to find a house, we wanted to buy a house on Grove City and that didn't work out for us. And friends and relatives and people were telling us that we need to come a little farther north. North has better schools, better houses, better living style and so on and so on.
[00:00:45.370] - Genti
And me being the newbie in Columbus didn't know better. So we came north, but I guess we came a little way far north and we bought our house here in Delaware in 2010.
[00:00:55.990] - Genti
The opportunity arise in 2015 to buy this restaurant that somebody else has founded and created. So we took over May 1st, 2015 and we've done a lot of changes. We have done a way a lot of changes. At this point we are the largest bar in central Ohio or probably Ohio. We have been winning a few awards. We are one of the best bourbon bars in the Midwest based on bourbonreview.com and the rest is history. We just like you coming in here.
[00:01:27.850] - Genti
We love it. Every day is a different day for us.
[00:01:30.730] - Sara
So where did you come from originally? Tell me about your family history.
[00:01:35.050] - Genti
I was born in Albania. I'm old now, but I was born in Albania a few years back. I had to move. I lived in one of the worst communism systems. But luckily I was able to get away when I was 10 years old because the communism system dropped or collapsed in 2000. Sorry not 2000, 1990. And 1998 I was able to go to Turkey on a scholarship and I studied pharmacy in Istanbul University in Turkey, so I have a degree in there. It happens that I had to move to the US for love and had to follow my wife in here and I couldn't practice as a pharmacist in here so I went to school again to Columbus State, got another associate degree.
[00:02:20.350] - Genti
And before I bought the restaurant, I was a manager working at one of the biggest health systems in central Ohio and ended up buying a restaurant. And now I love that I am able to dispense whiskey.
[00:02:33.370] - Sara
So is that why you're so good at making drinks? [crosstalk 00:02:35] The pharmaceutical science background?
[00:02:35.090] - Genti
Yes. I love to make drinks and I love to to dispense whiskey. So sometimes I joke with people. Now that the liquor laws in Ohio changed during the COVID, we can serve drinks to go. So we have like little vials. Like two ounces of vials and it's like they always enjoy them when I fill them so it looks like I'm back in school. I'm back practicing pharmacy.
[00:02:57.880] - Sara
So what's the best thing on the menu? Somebody comes in, they've never been here. What's the best thing on the menu?
[00:03:02.590] - Genti
Depending on what people would like to eat, but our lamb chops are fantastic. We really know how to cook them. We have good hamburgers. We have pasta. We are very well known for our gyros. And when it comes to drinks, our smoked old fashioned is like number one selling cocktail we have.
[00:03:21.340] - Sara
All right. So you're going to be making a super special drink?
[00:03:24.310] - Genti
Yes, we're going to make one of our smoked old fashioned, which is award wining and here in Delaware everybody brags about them. So this is so much fun to make and so much fun to watch.
[00:03:34.360] - Genti
First of all, we're going to light our vial here ... see that smoke, for our smoked glass. And we'll let the glass capture all the smoke in there as we need. And then we'll proceed with our drink. We're going to have two ounces of our private barrel The Burning Chair. We always use privately barreled for our cocktails in house. We're going to use one ounce of our dark brown simple syrup that we make in house and we slightly change the recipe for the seasons. Just changing some spices to make it more season appropriate. Two dashes of Angostura orange bitters.
[00:04:31.570] - Genti
We're going to stir it for a little bit. That's nice. See all this smoke? A nice ice cube in here, or ice ball, depending on what we have available. Some beautiful cherries and orange.
[00:05:11.800] - Sara
Wow, look at that.
[00:05:14.320] - Genti
We have customers and friends coming from different restaurants after dinner just to get a smoked old fashioned as the nightcap and before they go home. So those are a few things that we're proud of. Our customers have been so loyal they are willing to wait an hour, an hour and a half on a Friday and Saturday to get a table with us or our to-go orders have been skyrocketing. Everybody orders food from us.
[00:05:38.740] - Genti
If you could have asked me this question last year at this time I was a little worried, but now I'm not worried anymore. To be honest, I'm thankful of COVID. I have created and I have maintained way more customer base. People have been very nice to us. People have supported us way more than I anticipated that the community will help us.
[00:06:01.450] - Genti
But we are in Delaware so Delaware has been a fantastic community on helping all our restaurants. I wouldn't say the same thing for my brother-in-law in Columbus. He has been struggling through COVID. But in here we haven't because we have a fantastic community. People of Delaware have come up and help us because last year after we opened, we got flooded and people still came back and helped us. So I'm very thankful for the community. I don't think I would have said the same nice things if my restaurant or I was living in a different community. I don't know if the same nice things would have happened to me in those places.
[00:06:42.160] - Genti
But like I'm very, very thankful for the community that we live in Delaware. It's one of the best.
[00:06:46.270] - Sara
So when you're not here, where are you?
[00:06:48.940] - Genti
I'm here. If I'm not in here, I'm here. If I'm not in here, I'm in Kentucky probably trying barrels and picking barrels. At this point, we have about 50 of the big barrels that will go to distilleries and try different products and choose on our own barrels. Have a few more trips coming up this month. So yeah, I always work if I'm not in here I'm in the liquor store or I'm in Kentucky.
[00:07:14.140] - Sara
So if somebody came in and wanted a bourbon flight, what's the best way to start? If someone knows nothing about bourbon and they want to come in and start trying to taste something, where's the best place to start?
[00:07:23.020] - Genti
So we like to see what's your palate like. How do you get your coffee, do you get it sweet or do you get it black? Do you get it with a lot of whipped cream or will you get it decaf? And we ask those questions to kind of assess your palate. And we'll match what you like with our product. Because we have the largest whiskey selection. At this point we probably have 2900 spirits on our back bar. Sometimes we think that we need to change the name of the restaurant from OPA to Holy Spirits.
[00:07:54.430] - Genti
When somebody comes in here, they need to be sitting down and have a good time and they don't have to worry about anything else. We take care of the rest. They just need to come in, relax, enjoy their life, enjoy their dinner or lunch, whatever time of the day they come in. We got the rest. My team, it's one of the best teams that I have been working with. They are very compassionate of what they do. My guys in the kitchen, if I combined their cooking skills or cooking years that they have it's probably like 120 years.
[00:08:23.620] - Genti
So we have the skills. We have the expertise. We have the passion. We'll take care of you.
[00:08:28.960] - Sara
Thank you so much Genti, you have created such an amazing place at OPA Grill & Tavern. Until next time, this is Sara Marie Brenner in downtown Delaware encouraging you to come on down to Delaware. Thanks for watching the Delaware, Ohio Local Guide.