Whether it’s cooking for ourselves at home (or rather, Kristina cooking and Allen getting ready for dish duty…) or out enjoying a great meal, we know that for the final product to be delicious, the initial ingredients need to be of high quality. Good cuts of meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, pure oils and spices, it all makes a difference! We recently had the opportunity to try three olive oils from Bella D’Oliva, a company that imports oils directly from Italy and prides itself on building strong relationships with local Italian farmers.
We couldn’t stop ourselves from buying a crusty loaf of bread and dipping it in Adornare right away! It was rich alone as well as with a little salt and Oregano. Next, we opened up Indulgere and used it with roasted fingerling potatoes and homemade pesto. Yum! Up next will be Aumentare. What are your favorite ways to use olive oil? Please send us your tips- we’d love to give them a try!
After trying the olive oils, we were curious to know more about the company so we got in touch with Lisa-Ann Marchesi (Twitter: @LAMarchesi) of Bella D’Olivia to learn more about her passion for olive oil as well as the health benefits of the product.
FP: How did you get started in the olive oil business?
LM: In 2011, my fiancée ‘s friend opened an art gallery and were attending the opening. His friend, along with my fiancée chose a life of sobriety and no longer drink alcohol. We wanted to bring a gift to the opening, but knew a fine bottle of wine or champagne was not appropriate. We came across a store in town that resembled a fine wine store…but to our surprise it was OLIVE OIL! Olive oils from all over the world! We tasted a number of them and purchased a “fine” bottle of olive oil and brought it with us as a gift. At that moment, I fell in love with the idea of giving the “gift of health” and so my journey began. I spent the next several months researching olive oil! I went over to Italy and traveled through 4 different regions to find pure extra virgin olive. I personally met with my producer, walked the groves and experienced the harvest of my oils first hand by making it with them to make sure that my customer is receiving high quality and pure extra virgin olive oil. There is a minimal quantity made, so orders of cases are taken before the harvest even begins!
It was something that I grew up with in my Sicilian home. You see my grandmother, Anna, lived with us for a great deal of my childhood. I spent all of my time in the kitchen with her cooking and baking! On Sundays, the entire family (aunts, cousins, uncles) would come for pasta! Oldies station on the a.m. with Sinatra and Dean Martin playing and it was a time when life was a simple as “meatball! My grandmother passed away from breast cancer in 1996. Her spirit is with me in my kitchen and my passion for cooking and playing Sinatra on Sundays comes from her. She called me “Lee”.
FP: We love those little olive oil shops!
We know there are many benefits to using olive oil. What do you consider to be the most important benefits?
LM: One of the most important benefits to using olive oil to me is the purity. I found that there is so much mislabeling and misuse of the term extra virgin. The reason why it is so important that it is pure are for the health benefits in addition to taste! PURE extra virgin olive oil contains polyphenols. Polyphenols are antioxidants that fight the free radicals that cause cancer and many other diseases. It has been proven that using pure extra virgin olive oil will also reduce your risk of heart disease and lower cholesterol. My grandmother died from breast cancer. My grandmother’s sisters had breast cancer; my mother is a breast cancer survivor. Nine years ago, I tested positive for the BRCA2 mutation. I carry the gene for breast and ovarian cancer. Angelina Jolie brought awareness to this recently with her radical mastectomy. I had complete hysterectomy in May 2014 and I am fortunate that my breast tumors are benign. Health is the most benefit. The oils are PURE that we take a teaspoon of it a day, as you would a vitamin, for the extra dose of antioxidant!
FP: It’s true that if you’d don’t have your health, you don’t have anything. We wish you continued good health.
What are your favorite ways to use your products?
LM: Steak! Drizzle a little on your steak when it is done and it will bring out the flavor! I also use it on steamed vegetables and raw vegetables! I love to put it on radishes, broccoli, carrots, greens and I dip it in the oil instead of dressing. My family loves it drizzled over pasta with garlic and popcorn! Yes popcorn with sea salt! AFTER it’s been popped! Also, breakfast smoothie! Banana, strawberry and blueberry yogurt smoothie, put a drop in it for the extra boost! My son drinks it straight from the bottle! It has a natural peppery finish and the flavor is unique to most who have not experienced PURE extra virgin olive without additives. I also infuse it with fresh herbs like basil, rosemary and also with garlic.
FP: We make smoothies almost every morning; we’ll have to add a bit of olive oil!A question, though: why are Extra Virgin olive oils often so bitter?
LM: Extra Virgin olive oils contain the flavors of the olive fruit. (Tasting a raw olive is one of those experiences you would hope never to repeat.) Bitterness, along with pungency and vegetal/fruit flavors are considered positive attributes in EVO olive oils, particularly when they are well balanced. Depending on many factors, such as the olive variety and ripeness, milling technique, and the age of the oil, the bitterness and pungency can be quite intense. Sometimes professional tasters jokingly classify EVO oils as ‘one-cough, two-cough or three-cough’ oils. Fortunately, these strong olive oils make wonderful condiments. Once you get used to them, you’ll find them more and more attractive. These strong flavors are evidence of a healthy amount of antioxidants in the oil. When an oil does not have these strong flavors it is almost devoid of any antioxidants. These strong flavors are very good for your health!
FP: Good to know!
In addition to your website, where can we find your products?
LM: The oils are kept in a temperature controlled warehouse; keeping it out of the light and in a cool place will maintain the oils’ integrity, health components and taste. I want my customers experience the taste of the oil just the way I did when I was there making it during the harvest. Preserving so they have the freshest oils is key. The website is where to find it (www.belladolivausa.com). Some small gourmet shops may carry it, but the website orders are shipped direct from the temperature controlled warehouse.
FP: When you’re not cooking with olive oil at home, where are some of your favorite places to eat in NJ, NY or other places you’ve visited?
LM: Macelleria in the meatpacking district of NYC! Love the steaks and they love my oils!
Scarpetta – in the meatpacking district of NYC! LOVE CHEF CONANT AND HIS HOMEMADE PASTA! To die for!
Fresco by Scotto – uptown NYC – love their Potato and zucchini chips! MUST HAVE
Rubirosa on Mulberry for Pizza!
Bocca Di Bacco in Hell’s Kitchen for some delicous carbonara!
Rosa Mexicana – Union Square NYC – BEST GUAC and MARGARITAS!!!
I can eat an entire loaf of Italian bread from Biagio’s Italian Gourmet Specialties and Bakery in Stirling, NJ!
FP: Great list of places…we’ll add them to our ever growing list!
We ask everyone this question: What are some of your guilty pleasures? We like to call them foodie pleasures, hence the name. :)
LM: Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream and has to be Breyers! Butterfingers…just because you can’t have just one!! Also, I’m addicted to pasta! Any way you can make it!
I make a personal “famous” dish…I call it “balls of fury!” I landed a spot on ABC’s The Taste Season 2 Auditions with them, but unfortunately did not make a team! But I can tell you that my Balls of Fury are arancini rice balls with my special blend of cheeses with hot Italian sausage! Deep Fried and will melt your mouth! And maybe set it on fire! But make sure you cool it off with my fresh marinara sauce.
FP: Sounds delicious! Lisa-Ann, thank you so much for sharing your passion with us! We loved trying your olive oils and wish you much continued success!