A Rich Heritage
Since 1940, Ravintola Oiva has been a culinary cornerstone in Helsinki's Kallio district
Celebrating Over Eight Decades: Ravintola Oiva, since 1940, proudly upholds the culinary traditions of Helsinki's Kallio district. Discover the rich history of Oiva and secure your table reservation today!
Unveiling the Past: Delve into the captivating narrative of Ravintola Oiva, artfully shared by Kari Kinonen and Kirsti Koivulaakso, on this page.
ESTABLISHMENT OF WOODEN HOUSE-OIVA
Oiva's history can be traced back to 1934 when Puu-Oiva was established in a wooden house on Porthaninkatu, located above the current Ravintola Oiva. Puu-Oiva was founded by Mr. J.A. Koivulaakso, who had previously operated a staff canteen in Sörnäinen.
THE ORIGINS OF Ravintola OIVA
In 1940, Ravintola Oiva was born when a new stone building was constructed at the corner of Porthaninkatu and III-linja. Unlike the neighboring restaurant Klaava, originally intended for car sales, this apartment was specifically designed as a restaurant.
In 1955, Mr. Koivulaakso suffered a fatal heart attack while at work. His widow sold Oiva to Sakari Ruotsalainen and his wife, who were already working at Oiva.
OIVA TURNS INTO A BISTRO
During the mid-1960s, Oiva came under the ownership of Hilden bakeries. Under the operation of wine rights, Oiva changed its name to Bistro in 1967. Shortly after, the restaurant obtained a liquor license.
Bistro aimed to serve as both a restaurant and a social gathering place, complete with dancing. A standout feature was the "standing roast table" offering unlimited servings of various meats, expertly carved by the highly esteemed restaurant manager, Hjördis Sundvall. Sundvall tirelessly worked from morning till night.
Dances were held on Wednesdays and Saturdays, accompanied by live music. Notable pianists included the beloved "Teppana," an elderly lady, and Asser Fagerström. Fagerström's trio was usually responsible for the dance music.
August 10, 1971, marked an important day for both Finnish sports and Bistro. The European Athletics Championships commenced at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki, and on the same day, Juha Väätäinen won the 10,000-meter race. Bistro's bar also opened its doors in the space previously occupied by the Karjakunnan butcher shop, providing additional capacity to accommodate the restaurant's growing popularity.
After entrepreneur Heikki Hilden's passing in 1974, Bistro changed hands, first to Cofa, a subsidiary of Fazer Ltd, and later to a joint venture between Fazer and Swiss company Nestlé named GO INN. The operations remained largely unchanged until 1977 when the staff was informed of planned renovations and a shift in concept towards pizzas and lunch dishes, discontinuing table service.
Despite protests from customers and coverage in Ilta-Sanomat, the renovations proceeded as planned. The refurbishment began in late April 1977, with Bistro closing its doors in anticipation of an HRHL strike that started on the same day. The strike lasted until the second week of May, but Bistro's renovation extended until July 7th.
The newly revamped Bistro quickly became a success. Loyal customers embraced the changes and visited more frequently, while new patrons also flocked to the restaurant. Lower prices, resulting from the elimination of table service, further fueled its popularity.
The renovated Bistro differed significantly from its predecessor. An open kitchen featuring a brick pizza oven was added, leading to the soaring popularity of pizza products available for both dine-in and delivery throughout Helsinki. A service counter was placed in the middle of the restaurant, providing beverages and lunch dishes. Bistro's lunch became the most sought-after in Kallio, with a daily queue stretching from the cash register to the entrance.
The Bistro's bar transformed into a pub, introducing darts as a new activity. Customers formed a darts club called Galliolaiset, with their logo featuring Obelix from the Asterix comics carrying a dart on his shoulder instead of a menhir stone. While Galliolaiset initially thrived, their activities gradually declined. The tradition of darts at Oiva has since been continued by Sörkan Tikka.
The post-renovation period marked the golden age of Bistro. It became one of Helsinki's most popular restaurants, attracting customers from morning till night. Following Kantaravintolat's acquisition in 1982, with extended opening hours from 9 am to 1 am, Bistro became not only Kallio's living room but also a destination for patrons from across the Helsinki metropolitan area, including executives, professors, theater personnel, athletes, and the working class. However, the beginning of the deep economic recession in the 1990s, coupled with a radical liberalization of liquor licenses, dealt a significant blow to the restaurant's success.
BISTRO RETURNS TO ITS FORMER GLORY
In 2006, a significant renovation transformed the restaurant, reclaiming its original name as Oiva. This revitalization attracted a surge of new patrons, amplifying its popularity.
Ownership of Oiva shifted to Johanna Rönkkö, the restaurant's dedicated manager, and her partner in 2011.
In 2012, Oiva reintroduced its food service, emphasizing authentic Finnish cuisine. The daily lunch and Sunday brunch at Oiva have become cherished favorites in Hakaniemi, Kallio, and beyond. Served in a buffet format, these offerings showcase delectable creations crafted within Oiva's kitchen.
The lunch and brunch have been crowned the city's best, with the brunch earning repeated recognition as Finland's finest. Since 1991, karaoke has been a cherished tradition at Oiva, continuing to delight guests on weekends. Under Johanna Rönkkö's leadership, Oiva has embraced a nostalgic return to its roots.