Olives plagued by another grease fire

Thursday night, Olives restaurant had its third grease fire since 2001, causing damage estimated at $200,000. Thursday night, Olives restaurant had its third grease fire since 2001, causing damage estimated at $200,000. (Wendy Maeda/Globe Staff)
By Mark Shanahan & Meredith Goldstein
Globe Staff / May 29, 2010

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Given all the costly lawsuits he’s been hit with recently, Todd English might want to swap his spatula for a scrubber and start cleaning out the ducts of his restaurants.

In 2001, a grease fire in some dirty ducts shut down his Olives eatery in Charlestown. In 2007, fire officials say it happened there again. In 2008, a grease fire in the exhaust duct at Figs, English’s Beacon Hill pizzeria, forced that restaurant to close temporarily. And now Olives is closed again, after fire officials said another grease fire in the ducts there Thursday night caused an estimated $200,000 in damage.

Nobody was hurt, but diners and staff were evacuated. According to Boston Fire Department spokesman Steve McDonald, the fire broke out at 7:19 p.m. and was caused by “failure to clean, something that is fairly common in restaurants.’’ Especially, apparently, at English’s restaurants.

The grease buildup was ignited by gases from cooking in the kitchen, MacDonald said. From there, flames and smoke spread up the ductwork into an exhaust fan.

English, whose restaurant empire has faced an array of lawsuits, mostly over unpaid bills, could not be reached for comment. Olives spokeswoman Lindsey Valdez called it a “small chimney fire’’ and said there was more smoke than anything else.

A crew from Belfor Property Restoration was on site yesterday inspecting the restaurant. Belfor’s Pete Santiago said the basement, where offices and bathrooms are located, and the kitchen were the most affected by the fire. “It could take two or three weeks, depending on how we see it,’’ Santiago said of a timetable for clean up. He said some light demolition repairs might be necessary.

MacDonald said he expected there would be no citations for Olives. State regulations say restaurants must have their ducts cleaned quarterly and cleared of grease buildup.

Old friends
Call it the graying of Tanglewood. Less than a month after James Taylor and Carole King’s sold-out shows at the shed this summer, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel will play at the BSO’s summer home in the Berkshires. Tickets for the July 27 gig go on sale June 11, and tickets range from $40-$225. Simon and Garfunkel, both 68, have done only a handful of tours together since 1970. The stop at Tanglewood is part of a two-month North American tour.

About town
Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner was at Peter Wolf’s sold-out show in New York, as was VH1 executive Bill Flanagan and hedge fund honcho Jim Pallotta and his wife, Kim. Wolf’s coheadliner was soul singer Bettye LaVette, his onetime label mate on Atlantic Records. . . . We’re told comedian Jim Florentine, who’s at the Wilbur tonight, had a dinner date at Abe & Louie’s last night with Ernie Boch Jr. and Barry Goudreau. Both are big fans of VH1’s “That Metal Show,’’ which Florentine hosts.

Attorney honored
Mintz Levin lawyer Jeffrey Robbins was honored by the American Jewish Committee with its 2010 Human Rights Award. In the crowd at the Seaport Hotel fete were Governor Deval Patrick, AG Martha Coakley, former AG Frank Bellotti, and Mintz Levin chairman Bob Popeo.

Young musicians hang with the Pops
The fresh-faced winners of the Fidelity FutureStage Program shared the Symphony Hall stage with the Pops the other night. Singer LaWanda Hector from Roland Hayes School of Music, erhu player Muhan Zhang from Boston Latin School, the Charlie Brown Blues Band — Gustavo Hernandez, Nicolas Perez, Max Ridley, and Gregory Groover Jr. — from Boston Arts Academy, and Copley Place — Sherry Wu, Annie Osborn, Christopher Nguyen, and Ian Haines — from Boston Latin School all won raves and afterward met singer Maureen McGovern, who also performed in the special concert.

Mad about Slattery
Fans of “Sex and the City’’ know that Carrie Bradshaw ends up with Mr. Big. But it sounds like Sarah Jessica Parker could have gone for something a little different. Asked by MTV News to pick their favorite “SATC’’ boyfriends over the years, Kim Cattrall chose hunky Bobby Cannavale from Season 3. Cynthia Nixon went with David Eigenberg (the actor who plays Steve, her husband on the show) then switched her vote to Blair Underwood. And Parker? If you guessed Chris Noth (Mr. Big) or John Corbett (Aidan Shaw), you’d be wrong. SJP swooned for Boston’s own John Slattery, the silver fox who plays Roger Sterling on “Mad Men.’’

Winning crowd
Comedian Dane Cook and Medford’s Maria Menounos of “Access Hollywood’’ both hopped a last-minute flight from LA to be at last night’s Celts game. And they weren’t alone. Others in the crowd included chefs Ken Oringer, Lydia Shire, and Todd English, and Pats players Eric Alexander, Kevin Faulk, and Vince Wilfork.

High praise for 50-year Cathedral teacher
Over 300 guests attended a Seaport Hotel reception Wednesday night for Sister Mary Black, who worked 50 years at Cathedral High School in the South End. The school honored her by establishing a $100,000 scholarship in her name. Among the guests was Elnora Miles, president of the class of ’79 and mother of eight who was thrilled to see her fomer teacher. . . . Conan O’Brien had breakfast at the Bristol Lounge, sitting with a guest at a table in the window, and was spied in the afternoon sitting on the patio at the Russell House Tavern in Harvard Square. . . . Actors Dermot Mulroney and Edward Norton had lunch at Union Oyster House yesterday, chowing on oysters, clam chowder, fried oysters, and a lobster roll.

Eastern Standard fete; this old Duck Boat
Let them eat cake! That was the edict from Eastern Standard owner Garrett Harker, who marked the Kenmore Square restaurant’s fifth birthday by handing out cake prepared by pastry chef Mike Lasek to over 700 people. Harker was joined by bar manager Jackson Cannon, and GM Andrew Holden. . . . Was that “This Old House’’ host Norm Abram driving a Duck Boat? Why, yes it was. The master carpenter navigated the amphibious vessel around Boston and the Charles River for a segment of the PBS series. The piece will air in the new season, which premieres in October.

Globe correspondent Irene Muniz and Hayley Kaufman of the Globe staff contributed. Read the Names blog at Names can be reached at or at 617-929-8253.