(photo: the beautiful, 1 liter, tin housing Frankies Sicilian olive oil and a salad of tomatoes, red onion, and basil)
Amongst southern Italians there’s a deep rivalry between Calabrians and Sicilians. If you travel to Calabria’s old capital Reggio Calabria, you’ll see many Sicilian influences from the regional dialect to arancini
and the breakfast delicacy brioce (a type of sweet bread that is served with a scoop of ice cream). Both regions have unyielding loyalty to their traditions and way of life and it’s not entirely clear what food or cultural item or tradition originated in which region (at least that’s what the locals will tell you).
There is, of course, a rich tradition of producing olive oil in Southern Italy (including my mother’s side of the family in Calabria). I remember tasting my first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil on Nonno Latella’s farm as a 10 year old and thinking this is quite possibly some of the nastiest liquid on the planet. Jump forward about 20 years and I’d probably label Nonno’s olive oil as some of the finest unfiltered oil I’ve tasted (having matured later in life as a proper “foodie”, as much as I hate to use the phrase). Nonno’s olive orchard was small by Italian standards and he only made enough for the immediate family (and, in especially good years, sell a few bottles to the locals). See my general guide to olive olive here
and some photos of Nonno’s orchards here
(including a review of other top olive oils).
My mother still talks about smothering freshly made, and still hot, bread with Nonno’s extra virgin olive oil as do a few Sicilian aunts (with similar bread and oil from their small villages on the Island adjacent to Calabria). Recently, I had the pleasure of tasting an olive oil made from organically grown olives in Trapani, Sicily (situated on the western coast of the Island, near Palermo). Produced under the Frankies 45 brand name
(by the same family operating two Italian American restaurants in Brooklyn and Manhattan), the oil is made from first cold pressed green Nocarella del Belice olives and has a good bright and spicy flavor profile. The oil has very good fruit and a minimal spicy aftertaste, making it a good introductory oil
and also well suited for general use (in salads, as a base for any number of pasta sauces, and sautéing vegetables and meats). Frankies 457 Extra Virgin Olive Oil is mono-varietal, (or single varietal), certified organic, and unfiltered (it’s style of production is DOP certified). The oil comes in a 1 liter, uniquely designed bottle and at $32.00 it’s a good bargain.