Extra Virgin Olive Oil Review and Vittorio Cassini Giveaway Contest

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(photo: Latella family olive orchard outside of Pellegrina, Italy)

(3/22: Update – Contest is closed and the winner is Joe. D., congratulations!  And thanks to everyone for leaving a comment) 
Click here for my other olive oil reviews!

Images have always played a large role in my life.  I still have vivid images in my mind of childhood events like playing hide and seek at dusk on my New Jersey block or the fierce eyes and large breasts of my sixth grade teacher Mrs. Salzarulo.  I shut my eyes and mental pictures bring me back 5, 10, even 20 years ago to seminal and not so important events in my life.  I don’t consider conjuring vivid imagery a particularly impressive ability, just a function of how my brain works.    Some images are romanticized, and I’m sure not wholly accurate, while there are other mental pictures that I’ve shelved as eternal truths.  
One such mental image is that of my grandfather Latella in Calabria.  The mental image I have is of Nonno under one of his beloved olive trees.  The image is simple enough; namely, an elderly man sitting underneath an ancient olive tree.  But the image in my mind is more detailed; it includes a weathered face molded by a happy, but difficult, life working the land, large hands gently removing leather working boots, and the same hands reaching for a bottle of cold wine to quench a thirst brought on by the mid-day Mediterranean sun.  The image of Nonno Latella represents the Southern Italian life for me; that is, a life of simple pleasures, fierce individualism, and a love for the land.  

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Nonno’s love for his land, combined with his paternalistic tendencies towards his olive trees, yielded some pretty intense, first cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil (I describe it here in my Guide to Olive Oil).  The Italians from the rural South use olive oil from everything from simple tomato salads to deep frying arancini to lubricating shotguns and polishing leather shoes.  In the US, of course, we’re a bit more selective about how we use olive oil and it’s mostly a culinary lipid / liquid (thankfully!).

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Recently, I had the good fortune to sample some new extra virgin olive oils from Italy, including Titone (from the Trapanesi Valley in Sicilia), Frescobaldi Laudemio (from Firenze in Tuscana), Vittorio Cassini (from Liguria), and Frantoio Di Sommaia (from Calenzano in Tuscana), all imported by Manicaretti.  
Titone Extra Virgin Olive Oil is produced by a father / daughter team Nicola and Antonella.  The 5000 tree olive farm in Sicilia is organic and has a D.O.P status.  The Titone oil is limited quality and has a deep golden yellow/light green color.  The Titone family also hand picks all of their olives and the resulting oil has a sharp and pepper flavor base as well as complex grass and earthy elements.  I think Titone would work best with hot pasta or in a rustic (hot) potato salad.  

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Frescobaldi Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil has won a ton of awards, including #1 Tuscan oil in 1997 by Wine Spectator and “Best of Olive Oil” at the 2001 Summer Fancy Food Show in New York.  The consortium that produces Laudemio has been around since the early 1990′s and the filtered oil has nice notes, again, of pepper and lemon zest.  I like Laudemio drizzed over a hot bean soup or over roasted broccoli and red pepper flakes. 

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Vittorio Cassini was my favorite amongst the 4 olive oils I sampled.  Cassini is made from 100% Taggiasca olives and is a limited production oil.  The olive farm is located in the hills above the Ligurian coast between Nice and Genoa.  The olive oil itself has less pepper than the aforementioned oils and has a wonderful raw nut flavor which is clean and almost sweet.  Cassini is ideal for making pesto, tomato salads, or drizzling on a freshly baked pizza.  This is the least bitter and intense oil.
Frantoio Di Sommaia has been made by the Marini Bernardi family for almost 200 years.  The olives are hand picked and pressed via stone in Calenzano, Tuscana.  The family uses 100% Bianca olives.  The oil is unfiltered and extremely pungent, but has a wonderful buttery mouth feel.  Frantoio would work well with an arugula salad or drizzled over fresh basked bread with coarsely ground black pepper.  
In honor of Nonno Latella (who’s still alive but upset he doesn’t get to go to the farm as often as he once did) Scordo.com is giving away a bottle of Vittorio Cassini Extra Virgin Oil!  The oil was my favorite amongst the four bottles I recently sampled and I’m sure you’ll enjoy a bottle of the expertly crafted oil.  

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(photo: Latella family olive orchard outside of Pellegrina, Italy)

Here’s what you need to do to enter the Nonno Latella Extra Virgin Olive Oil Contest
- 1. leave a comment under this post on how you use olive and which olive oil you normally purchase (doesn’t need to be a fancy kind, just what you use and like) and 2. sign up as a fan of Scordo.com on Facebook here or Scordo.com newsletter, it doesn’t need to be both).  If you’ve done both already, then I’ll ask you if you can please re-tweet the article on Twitter and include the article URL in the RT: http://bit.ly/cVgYQT and @scordo in your tweet)
 
- Only one entry per person please.
- The contest is open until 12 midnight on 3/20 and a single random user will be picked via Random.org.  The winner will be announced immediately on Twitter (so please follow me) and on Scordo.com by 5PM on Monday, 3/22.
- Please use a valid email address when leaving a comment so I can contact you just in case you’re the lucky winner (I’ll need your shipping address). 
- Manicaretti Italian Food Imports will send out the bottle of Vittorio Cassini olive oil to the single contest winner during the week of 3/29.
That’s it, so please sign up for a chance to win a wonderful bottle of extra virgin olive.  If you can’t wait to sample the olive oil then head on over to the Manicaretti site to find out how to buy some!

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  • http://www.providentplan.com Paul Williams

    Mmmm, olive oil. We use it for many things…tossing with pasta and some simple ingredients, with bread, sauteing stuff (at low-medium heat), or to liven up dishes we’ve reheated.
    Thanks for the giveaway, Scordo! This sounds delicious. I hope I win!!!

  • http://www.providentplan.com Paul Williams

    I forgot to mention…we use Filippo Berio olive oil. It was something I discovered on my own but was glad to hear you recommended it as well. That was in a post some time back. :)

  • http://italyville.com joe@italyville

    Hi Vince, Michele at Bleeding Espresso had it posted on her facebook page. Great giveaway… I’m partial to the Calabrian oil myself! Heading over to my Nonno’s olive farm on the 20th. I’ll retweet! Joe

  • http://joedegiorgio.wordpress.com/ Joe DeGiorgio

    Hey Vince—
    Very nice post. The olive oil brands look very yummy, but I was more impressed with your vivid description of how you remember things that are important to you.
    My fave brand is Filipo Berio, and my wife and I seem to saute everything in olive oil and garlic. It just tastes better!

  • http://www.artnbarb.com Barbara

    I love the spicy oil from Trevi, esp the oil from the Gaudenzi frantoio.

  • http://yumysushipajamas.wordpress.com Heather

    I already retweeted this, but I’d love to win! I use olive oil for absolutely everything, even baking!

  • Sue Brookhart

    I use these buttery, smooth, nutty oils on steaks (beef or salmon) again after are cooked – a splash followed by fresh ground pepper and sea salt – hmmmmm
    Stop drowning your fresh veggies in water or steam – use these wonderful oils to roast fresh veggies in the oven. You will not recognized whole fresh carrots, green onions, zuccini and other veggies – they are the best.
    Plus I love to use this wonderful oil on my breakfast toast instead of butter with my eggs – makes the toast crisp and delicious – and . . . who would ever know that it was also good for you too ! what a great surprise !
    sb

  • Marla

    Followed over here from Michelle’s post on Facebook and what a nice find. We use a very inexpensive Extra Virgin brand here called Fra Ulivo that is quite flavorful and great for everyday cooking. We use a wide variety of Extra virgin brands that we pick up at any food show throughout the year and especially like to try any that we find at the Slow Food shows. I like Ligurian, Tuscan and Calabrian mainly. I use a light olive oil for baking with with good results, just don’t want one with too strong a flavor.

  • http://www.ubervu.com/conversations/www.scordo.com/2010/03/extra-virgin-olive-oil-review-titone-vittoriocassini-laudemia-frantoio.html uberVU – social comments

    Social comments and analytics for this post

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by italiancuisine: Extra Virgin Olive Oil Review and Vittorio Cassini Giveaway Contest http://bit.ly/drcPrT

  • Annelle

    My everyday oil is Costco’s Kirkland Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I use it for EVERYTHING because I really believe that olive oil is good for me, my family and friends–whoever I’m feeding!
    I love to have special bottles of Extra Virgin Olive Oil that I use for dressings, dipping, to finishing. And I especially love having several different olive oils for a tasting!
    I retweeted!
    Thank you!

  • Sheila

    I was interested in your post because I watch the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network, and she’s always telling viewers to use a “good quality” olive oil for vinaigrettes. I have no idea what a “good quality” olive oil is. I use whatever I can get at the grocery store that’s not too expensive because I use it for sauteeing, roasting vegetables and in recipes that call for olive oil. I’ve always wanted to try making a vinaigrette so I tried one of the Barefoot Contessa’s recipes. Now I know why she says use a “good quality” olive oil–the vinaigrette wasn’t very good, and I know it’s because my olive oil isn’t very good. So I’d love to know what brand to use for vinaigrette that is readily available and not too expensive. Suggestions?

  • http://www.scordo.com Vincent Scordo

    Hi Sheilia,
    That’s funny that you mention the Barefoot Contessa and her reference to use “good quality” ingredients during her show. I often to turn to my wife during the show and ask what the heck does she mean “good quality?” Ida isn’t a trained chef (nor am I) but I think she means buy the best of a particular ingredient, like vanilla extract, fruits, meats, and, of course, olive oils.
    In terms of a good oil for vinaigrette I don’t suggest you use an ultra high quality extra virgin olive oil because I think it would be to peppery and bitter and dominate the salad. Instead use a readily available brands from Berrio, Bertoli, of Colavita. The quality is good and the price point won’t force you to take out second mortgage (many of the oil I include in my review are expensive and are not meant for everyday cooking). See my guide to olive oil for recommendations: http://www.scordo.com/2009/01/guide-best-rating-olive-oil-extravirgin-buying.html
    I also have a standard vinaigrette: http://www.scordo.com/2008/08/classic-salad-dressing-or-vina.html
    Hope this helps and thanks for the comment!
    Vince Scordo

  • http://www.scordo.com Vincent Scordo

    Hi Sue,
    Many Calabrians have a hearty piece of bread (hot from the oven) with lots of extra virgin olive oil as a breakfast, it’s especially popular in the countryside (it’s my favorite way to enjoy very good olive oil).
    Vince

  • http://www.tshelley.com thomas shelley

    We use bionaturae extra virgin olive oil. it’s organic and for the price is a really nice olive oil. 90% of it goes on our salads (which consists of all local and organic veggies) or goes to recipes like the sun dried tomato recipe posted here.
    We never heat it because of its low heat index, but we’ll mix it in to the cooked food to maintain that great e.v.o.o. taste!

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