Bologna’s unstoppable food buzz continues, with its ever-growing list of tasty destinations. The Emilia-Romagna city furthermore prepares to open its first ever “oleoteca” a store devoted to Italy’s green gold.
Shelves will stock 50+ labels hailing from 14 Italian regions, for starters. In addition to this, bottled goods, oil-preserved foods, pickles, pâté, olives and olive oil-based cosmetics. Bologna’s first ever olive oil store aims to become every extra virgin olive oil lover’s – and for gourmands in general – treasure trove for all things delicious. Olieria is yet another jewel in the studded food crown Bologna offering, earning the well-deserved title of rising culinary magnet. Olieria will furthermore become a meeting place for those seeking knowledge on one of Italy’s most representative culinary specialties. The main focus of the Olieria project is spreading quality extra virgin olive oil knowledge.
The mastermind behind the soon to be inaugurated shop located on via Saragozza, not far from Palazzo Albergati, is Fabio Giurgola. He is a biologist with a passion for fine dining and agriculture who’s currently completing the second leg of an extra virgin olive oil technical training course. Supporting him in this venture is his wife, agronomist, olive oil farmer and food lover Cristina Valeri.
The initial idea was purchasing a small olive orchard and making olive oil. After putting this idea aside, the couple decided to dive head first in the commercial business. “Over time we came to realize that there are very few shops in Italy where to buy quality olive oil, and mostly, there are very few people capable of properly explaining the product they’re selling”. This olive oil store therefore opens mimicking the concept of “enoteca” that is, a place where you can both buy a bottle of fine olive oil, and – mostly – acquire useful information on the product you are purchasing. Olieria sets to become a place of dialogue and debate, “a hub for anyone interested in quality extra virgin olive oil”
Of course this is also a store where buyers can also source products from a wide selection of regional olive oils, from fruity delicate ones to bolder, organic and traditional cold-pressed, sold in bottles or 3-5 litre tins. Help in selecting labels was provided by olive oil pro Simona Cognoli of Oleonauta, well-stocked “oleoteca” in Ostia Lido on the Roman coast. Besides selling quality olive oil, Simona is also an expert olive oil taster, oil sommelier and consultant for a number of restaurants and salespersons interested in building a menu or an olive oil selection for their business. “We visited Simona and loved her shop’s concept and guiding philosophy and so we decided to seek her expert advice”. Simona’s tips proved indeed helpful, thus allowing Fabio to create an articulate offer. His oils span big Italian olive oil names like Titone and Cosmo Di Russo, as well as smaller producers. On the shelves are also oil-packed foods and olives, “both the Gaeta variety of Cosmo Di Russo and of De Carlo”, plus the Sicilian Nocellara del Belice olives of the Pisciotta farm in Campobello di Mazzara near Trapani, recently bestowed honourable mention at the MonnaOliva competition. Other products include natural extra virgin olive oil-based cosmetics, like face creams, lotions, body scrubs, chap stick and bath soap.
Courses and events
An equally important part of the olive oil shop will be its calendar of events devoted to tastings: “At a physiology class I met many people versed on the topic and with whom I hope to work with in the future, hosting with them olive oil appreciation course for beginners and connoisseurs alike”. One of these is Sara Barbieri, tech course chair at the Department of Food Science and Technology at the University of Bologna, “whom I will invite to teach lessons in sensorial analysis” as well as Barbara Alfei, chair at Assam (Agribusiness Sector Agency for the Marche region). Clients will furthermore taste the olive oil they wish to purchase every time they visit the store: “it’s of crucial importance to taste the product before buying it, to understand if it matches the customer’s needs. Tasting is important also because this is when the staff can explain to the average consumer basic notions on extra virgin olive oil and clear the difference between quality oil and a substandard product”.
In addition to this, extra virgin olive oil should (and must) be paired to other ingredients and used at its best in the kitchen. For this reason Fabio is committed to holding courses and workshops with chefs “to show the public how olive oil can influence the final dish”. Think how olive oil can be used raw, for frying, for sauté and all the aromatic nuances when used with other foods. Extra virgin olive oil is not merely a condiment, rather an ingredient that needs special attention, study and balance.
Marketing of quality extra virgin olive oil
Selling extra virgin olive oil is not easy. It requires patience, mutual collaboration between experts and an unwavering passion for the product and its history. Only in this way will it be possible to develop a market that still has a long road ahead regarding the average consumer culture.
Opening an oleoteca is also risky, a gamble that can however be very fruitful. The Oleonauta case study confirms this. In a relatively short time the project has manages to round up a network of passionate and curious consumers, as well as fostering events like extraLucca, which annually gathers a vast public participation, and allows olive oil professionals to bounce ideas off each other. In addition to this are the olive oil competitions and guidebooks committed to showcasing the best products on the market. Branding and marketing olive oil is not an impossible feat. “I’d like extra virgin olive oil to garner bigger value in the eyes of the average consumer” Fabio comments. The goal being? “Have the public perceive olive oil as a precious element. My dream is one day welcoming a customer who is looking to buy a bottle of olive oil as a gift to someone special, just like it happens with a fine bottle of wine”. It’s therefore important to reach wine-level knowledge, through a different approach, one that still needs to be mapped out carefully. The best way to do this through cooperation among passionate aficionados.
Olieria | Bologna | via Saragozza, 47 c | tel. 345 0684705 | www.olieria.com | opening March 25, 2017
by Michela Becchi
translated by Eleonora Baldwin