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Shop Talk: Olive Garden's future uncertain, Loving Hut closes

Business openings, closings and more

Timothy Adams Chocolates goes pink in a big way, Loving Hut makes way for T4, and the future of Olive Garden in Palo Alto may be uncertain.

OLIVE GARDEN'S FUTURE UNCERTAIN IN PALO ALTO? ... The future may be uncertain for the Olive Garden restaurant in Palo Alto. The Italian dining chain, which has more than 800 locations worldwide, has been a mainstay in Palo Alto for at least 10 years. But next week, the city's Architectural Review Board is tentatively scheduled to review a concept plan that calls for the demolition of the restaurant. In its place is a proposed three-story, mixed-use building that will have both retail and office space, along with 13 residential units on the site that Olive Garden and its large parking lot currently occupies, according to city documents. The new building would replace the single-story restaurant at 2515 El Camino Real. Also included in the plans is underground parking. "It's a very preliminary review," said Margaret Netto, referring to the ARB's activity. Netto, who is the city's Planning Department staff person for the El Camino site, said, "The concept plans are only the beginning of what is a long process. It could take at least nine to 12 months before any construction happens." But Olive Garden corporate spokesperson Jessica Dinon said, "We have no plans to close the Palo Alto Olive Garden." Stay tuned.

NEW 'SECRET' CHOCOLATE SHOP ... A new chocolate shop has opened in downtown Palo Alto, but you have to hunt for it. Why? No sign out front. No way of knowing what's going on inside. Located at 539 Bryant St., it's called Timothy Adams Chocolates. "It's not that we don't want a sign. We'd love one; but the city rejected it," said Timothy Woods, who owns the shop with his partner, Adams Holland. "Our sign was pink and it was too big, according to the city, but we're working on it with them and I'm hoping we'll get our sign up in another month or so." The lack of a sign is exactly what attracted Palo Alto resident Terra Flowers. "I walk past here every day," Flowers said. "I was drawn to what might be inside." Now she's a frequent visitor. "I come here all the time. I have three or four chocolates a day. It doesn't get boring because there's such a variety." Pink is a recurring theme in the shop. After customers pass under the pink awning, they're greeted by a deep pink curtain at the front door. Inside, pink walls engulf the space. Also pink are the boxes for the chocolates and the cups for the candy. Woods, tall, lean and never seen without his leather flat cap on his head, is affable and effervescent. He is easily recognizable as the proprietor since he's always wearing a pink shirt. "I match everything in the shop," he said. "When we first opened, I bought eight pink patterned shirts so I could wear a different one every day." Woods' far-reaching knowledge of chocolate is indisputable. Trained in Amsterdam and Vienna, he makes all his chocolates by hand: "We don't use machines here." Each hand-shaped candy is served in a tiny pewter dish. "There has to be some whimsy in a chocolate shop," Woods noted. "I've even been referred to as the 'Willie Wonka of the 21st century.'" Understandable.

LOVING HUT OUT, BUBBLE TEA IN ... The popular, loud Loving Hut vegan restaurant has closed, and has been replaced by the popular, loud T4, a Taiwanese cafe that specializes in pearl milk or bubble tea. The 1,100-square-foot, 30-seat eatery at 165 University Ave. opened Oct. 28, just one month after the owners of Loving Hut called it quits. T4 serves a variety of teas with tapioca balls for added texture and flavor.

Heard a rumor about your favorite store or business moving out or in, down the block or across town? Daryl Savage will check it out. Email shoptalk@paweekly.com.

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