Traditionally, warmer Mediterranean climates grow the best olive trees, but once it’s bottled, olive oil can be tampered by high heat, making the expensive imports less than ideal for frying or even making a salad as vinegar—as well as heat—can destroy the taste. Instead, savor the precious oils when they’re the star of the dish. Here, a few recommendations…
Chef Celestino Drago and his family own 10 restaurants in the L.A. area, including Celestino Ristorante in Pasadena, which recently celebrated 25 years in business. The Drago brothers created Mamma Drago Extra Virgin Olive Oil as a tribute their mother and their Sicilian upbringing. “The key to making a really good olive oil is for the farmers to pick the ripest olives and then to have them pressed right away before they start to ferment,” Drago says. “We also wanted to maintain the consistency and flavor of our dishes at each of our restaurants by creating and using one olive oil with our family recipes.”
Pia Baroncini, CMO of Ghiaia Cashmere, just launched an olive oil at Baroncini Import and Co., in partnership with the Asaro family. “My husband is from Sicily, as is the family, who has been making oil from organic olives from trees that are thousands of years old on the island since 1916, so it was a perfect partnership,” Baronini says. You can follow the brand on Instagram at @baronciniimportandco and find it locally at Roma Market on Lake Avenue.
Brightland has gained a gourmet following for its California farm-fresh approach and flavors. New to the lineup is the Artist Capsule, a trio of top-selling infused oils of lemon, chili, and basil in limited alabaster bottles for a perfect hostess gift. Fans include chef Kat Turner of Highly Likely, who also carries the brand, as does Wine + Eggs, Clark Street Bread, and Sightglass Coffee.
Frescobaldi Laudemio Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Tuscany will have you salivating at the emerald-green color and aromas of freshly mown grass and artichoke. The company gently harvests the olives without damaging them and uses a modern, mechanical milling process so everything moves quickly and remains pristine. These processes ensure the ideal composition: perfectly low acidity, a great aromatic profile, and numerous health properties.
Award-winning olive oil company Casas de Hualdo hails from a sustainable farm on the shores of the Tagus River near Toledo, Spain. The olives are 100% sourced from the company’s estate in central Spain, and the key here is timing. The oil is extracted within six hours of harvest; to ensure freshness, the estate bottles the oils only on demand. It recommends buying the freshest extra-virgin olive oil, with a recent harvest time clearly declared on the label.
Frescobaldi Laudemio and Casas de Hualdo can be purchased on Amazon.
Local Olive Oil Sources
Contessa Foods on Lake Avenue carries an assortment of Tuscan olive oils.
Porta Via Italian Foods on California Blvd. has a regional Italian selection. portaviafoods.com
We Olive on Colorado Blvd. specializes in California products from Napa and the Central Coast.