Before we moved to Italy, I had never heard of olio nuovo. Literally translated it means “new oil” – from the first press of picked olives. But liberally translated – otherwise known as according to me – it means “get ready for the most amazing taste sensation ever!”
Yesterday, Lulu and company could be seen climbing the olive trees at Il Pozzo, our friend Carla Veneri’s congenial country inn just outside of Arezzo.
The silvery boughs are heavy with abundance. That’s fancy for “Man, that’s a lot of olives!”
While the kids pick up in the branches..
..I reach out from my place firmly on the ground.
The nets and baskets below are quickly filled and refilled.
Down the hillside, a cast of terrific cooks and helpers adds logs to the fire and drizzle grilled bruschetta with the freshest, greenest olive oil.
A harvest feast is being prepared.
It’s kicked off with an appetizer made from the biggest porcini mushroom I, and many of the other gathered guests, have ever seen. Carla’s mom, who is the head chef here at Il Pozzo, transformed it into fried slices of savory goodness.
We’re next met by four plates of lasagne. Pumpkin and sage, vegetarian and a ragu of carne. But they’re only the primi or first course.
Those of us gathered around Il Pozzo’s expansive garden table are also served mounds of grilled ribs and salsicce – the Tuscan-style flavorful sausage that my new German friends sitting to my right say are better than any bratwurst. There’s roasted potatoes, cauliflower and a garlic spinach.
Of course just look at those corks, there’s also plenty of Italian red wine.
And after such a banquet, you might forget why you came here in the first place, but before we go home, each guest is handed a bottle of Il Pozzo olio nuovo.
You know it’s fresh, not just from the flavor, but because you can watch Carla’s dad press the olives right before your eyes.
The olive press machinery is on the same grounds as all the trees.
And I looked at the phosphorescent liquid streaming out from the pressing machine, I thought back to our first autumn in Tuscany. This excerpt is from my book, Because I’m Small Now and You Love Me:
It was October and Fabrizio and his wife Guisy had just bottled the first-press. He handed us a bottle of the brightest colored green liquid I had ever seen that wasn’t some kind of artificially mint-flavored alcohol. It was practically neon. If I hadn’t seen it myself, I wouldn’t have believed this color could exist in nature.
I poured a little onto a white plate. It gleamed and glowed. ..The flavor was so pungently crisp and sharp; raw and original, that I was taken aback.
So was Lulu. “Blech. This tastes like grass,” she said.
Now, a year older, Lulu’s palate is more mature and she happily tried a slice of olive oiled bruschetta.
“Hmm.. It’s too forte (strong), I still don’t care for it. ” she says this time. A little more refined language perhaps, but she’s not a convert. Yet.
“Maybe next year,” I say. I’m more than happy to think that perhaps we’ll still be in Italy next October. And Il Pozzo’s olive picking event is definitely something I would mark on the calendar.
Since you can’t lick this essay, you’ll have to fly here for your own taste!
P.S. How many of you have picked olives? Tasted nuovo olio? Been to Il Pozzo yet? Let me know!
2 thoughts on “Like nothing you have tasted before: Tuscany’s New Oil!”
Dear Gina, I thought you might like to know we are coming to Italy in December. We are going to explore Sicily at the end if Dec.- early Jan. Fondly, Salli Ward Wonderful Wardrobes
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Hi my dear Miss Sally! Oh, I am so happy that you will be coming to Italy. Sicily at holiday time. I’m sure it will be wonderful. Perhaps we can come down – or you can find a way to come up and we can meet. Maybe in Rome? How long will you be there? Thanks so much for writing!