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One of World’s Finest Olive Oils Comes to Boston

When Americo Quattrociocchi took over his family’s centuries-old olive oil business, he had no idea what a difference a good oil can make. That was 1994.

Americo Quattrociocchi in 2006, when he won "Best Organic Olive Oil in the World." (photo courtesy of Americo Quattrociocchi)

Twelve years later, he won the award for best Italian olive oil, and soon after was awarded for best oil in the world.

Quattrociocchi is now among the most well known names in the extra virgin olive oil market and is trying to explore the North American market through his exclusive vendors at Giardini di Sole, which has a shop in Boston.

The Quattrociocchi estate is located in Alatri, a town of about 30,000 in the province of Frosinone. An hour drive southeast of Rome, Alatri overlooks hundreds of acres of olive groves, the main agricultural product of the area.

“Everyone around here makes olive oil,” says Americo, “but unfortunately it’s not as good as it could be.” The problem, he says, is a lack of culture when it comes to distinguishing one product from another. “Olives are basically all that grows around here, but people could do a much better job of producing excellent oil.”

Quattrociocchi himself found out how to improve his products in the late 1990s, after meeting Professor Paola Fioravanti, an expert in olive oil.

“She sort of scolded me and said I needed to do better. To start, we needed to get rid of our long-kept belief that olives need to be picked when they are mature. We used to pick the olives at the beginning of December, when they were starting to blacken. Nowadays, we pick the olive in early October, when it’s still green and just starting to turn to yellow. That is when the olive can produce the best quality oil.”

Olive groves surrounding Alatri (photo courtesy of Americo Quattrociocchi)

The Quattrociocchi olive grove extends over almost 130 acres of family-owned land, with 15,000 trees producing four different types of olives. Another 150 acres are leased, bringing the grand total of trees to 35,000. Olive varieties are known as cultivars, of which there are about 700 different types around the world. In Quattrociocchi’s case they are the ‘moraiolo,’ ‘leccino,’ ‘frantoio’ and ‘itrana’ varieties. “In our area, the itrana olive is called olivastro,” says Americo. “That’s why our monocultivar olive oil is named Olivastro.”

Olivastro is the olive oil that Giardini di Sole in Boston is currently selling alongside other products from the Quattrociocchi company.

Libby Knapp Morris at Giardini di Sole in Boston.

“Our partners Liz Zangrilli and Josephine Wennerholm met Americo at the end of last summer during a wine tasting event in Italy,” says Libby Knapp Morris, who runs the Giardini di Sole in the SoWa district. “One thing led to another and so in January we held an olive oil tasting in our store that went very well. Now we’re trying to see how to expand the business here in the United States.”

The bottles are well preserved among the many ceramics that are found at the store, although there are certain things the producer can do to protect the oil.

“The bottle is essential,” says Americo. “Oil is afraid of three things: Time, light and heat. We can try to limit as much as we can the light and heat factors with a good bottle, but time cannot be bottled. Olive oil needs to be eaten rather quickly.”

In 2000, the company went organic, and four years later the entire production line was updated once again.

The first award for the new and improved product arrived in 2002, but it would take another three years for the company to achieve its first “Best” title, winning the prize as best olive oil of the Lazio region in the light and fruity category. The following years, a series of awards and mentions put Quattrociocchi on the map of the international olive oil business. In 2010, the company won the international competition “FLOS OLEI” for best extra virgin olive oil in the world.

On the Quattrociocchi estate (photo courtesy of Americo Quattrociocchi)

About Nicola Orichuia

Nicola is an Italian journalist and media enthusiast living in the United States. He keeps an eye on the Italian-American communities across the country and is always looking for positive stories to highlight.