A mission to find olive oil – SIAFTA IV in Campobasso

May 30, 2013Blog Article

So I found myself in a bit of a unique situation last month. I’d been talking to the folks at the Italian Chamber of Commerce quite a bit about our plans to import the best olive oils and pastas we can find in anticipation of opening our new market in Giovane- a food retail outlet that will carry the best of local products, all of our own house-made goods, and ultimately, the best products I can find directly out of Italy…

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Source specific importing and partnerships had been the topic of conversation for a while; Alex and Giacomo had brought out Guiseppe di Martino from Pastificio di Martino in Gragnano a few months back, and I was really excited about that- a DOP pasta still made from local grains out of Apulia and the same artesianal spring water for the past century… I’d already decided that we were committing to working with them and highlighting their pasta across property…

Pastificio Di Martino

Olive oil was my next big endeavor, and the folks at the Italian Chamber of Commerce knew this…My goal has been to establish Giovane as a destination for people seeking out the best olive oils they could get their hands on in the city; we’d do wine dinners pairing not only regional menus to wines, but focused on the olive oils of the regions as well…

so then I got a call…

“Darren, there’s a SIAFTA convention in Campobasso in 10 days- we want to send you there to look for your oils- I know it’s short notice- can you make it?…”

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“hmm… let me see… ok! ” 😉

“(what’s SIAFTA?, lol)”

and that’s where it starts to get interesting; if you’re an import broker, this is all old news; if you’re a typical chef, or a consumer, you likely would never hear what goes on behind the scenes to support the agricultural export trade of Italy- I certainly hadn’t…

SIAFTA is a symposium of small production olive oil producers from throughout central Italy, organized to help get the farmers exposure to international brokers and markets. The sweeping Slow Food trend that’s got so many people’s attention here at home is a huge focus in Italy as well, and this is a major movement to promote and endorse getting the small producer to market. The majority of the oils I ended up trying have not at this stage been imported into North America, but I’m working on that as we speak 😉

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I was unique in being the only chef present in a world of brokers- it was actually a bit daunting at first, I certainly felt like I’d jumped into the deep end the first night as I listened to my fellow brokers from Toronto, Quebec, Hungary, Germany and Japan debating adequate terms and contracting assumptions, best routing for affordable “groupage” shipping, etc- all way above my head, lol …

when it came down to it the next day however, when we got down to tasting, I was definitely back in my element- tasting stuff is something I totally understand, lol, and I love olives- they might actually be one of my favorite foods; having said that, I’m also pretty excited about olive oil.

When I told people later that I’d tasted about 45 oils a day for 2 solid days, they shuddered and cringed, but loved the whole experience. Each oil and olive was unique, they all had a great story behind them, and the quality presented throughout the conference was amazing.

(I always managed to break for a great lunch and go out for a huge dinner afterwards as well…)

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all said and done, it was way too much to cover all in one article, but I came away very impressed in general, and I did hone in on about a dozen different farms and oils that really got my attention, so I’ll be taking you through those in detail in articles to come, but here are a couple quick snapshots of some of the stand-outs;

Il Molino

Il Molino – an Organic Monocultivar of Cantino Olive from Lazio. Anna, the proprietor, was wonderful, and they also have a terrific line of olive oil based spa products… you can find these at Bertozzi Imports in Toronto, but to the best of my knowledge, we’ll be the only source in BC…


Cetrone – from the Itrana olive, also in Lazio; Alfredo Cetrone was super intense and passionate, i’m thinking the “Intenso” brand may be a bit of a personality statement, lol. these will be here within the week, and we’re the first in Canada to carry them, he’s shipping them to us directly…


Suriano – from Apulia, their highlighted oil is a monocultivar of Coratina, very fruit forward/ working on getting them here.

La Molazza

La Molazza – great DOP line from Calabria- good range and very delicately infused oils as well…. also working on these


Masseria Rocco – a more robust Sicilian with hearty infusions and a steel can to prevent oxidation. we’ll have these in giovane as well.

San Sebastiano

San Sebastiano – Calabria (the Tropea onion infused oil was awesome!) definitely on the list, these guys were great and very focused on doing some collaborative blending and infusions with us.

Il Molino

Il Molino again – this time with their Organic monocultivar of the Frantoio olive – pitted before they press, a very unique process yielding a more delicate oil – we’ll be carrying this one as well…

at this point, we’ve already established the importing of 4 different organic and DOP oil producers that I met at the conference for the new Giovane Market, (opening soon), and we’ll be the only ones carrying them in British Columbia… a couple of them will in fact be exclusive to us in Canada, and I’ve even got two varietals in from Domenica Fiore in Orvieto that are the only 200 bottles in North America, so all in all, I’d say it was time well spent 😉

Domenica Fiore

see you at giovane…


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