`Rome Journal: A Peek Inside the Olive Oil Mill Next Door

Producer Profiles

Rome Journal: A Peek Inside the Olive Oil Mill Next Door

Nov. 17, 2014
Sarah Parker

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Emil­iano Rossi (Photo: Sarah Parker)

Riano is a place in the north­ern-most part of Rome with rolling hills and olive groves where peace and tran­quil­ity reign, not far from the bustling city cen­ter but away from all the chaos and the noise of busy city life.

It’s often in out-of-the-way places like this, where some of the most deli­cious, yet undis­cov­ered, olive oil is pro­duced.

Here in this sleepy town speck­led with sheep and immersed in a time­less silence but for the echoes of young children’s voices who still play out­side in gar­dens and fields, some fam­i­lies have been pas­sion­ate pro­duc­ers of olive oil for cen­turies.

Lately the town has been bom­barded with the arrivals of the Romans’ — the city dwellers who have moved in to enjoy the coun­try liv­ing lifestyle, while remain­ing just a stone’s throw away from the cap­i­tal. The peace­ful envi­ron­ment has not been affected much; it just feels a lit­tle more crowded, the locals have said.

In Riano you will not drive more than a few meters at a time with­out see­ing the sign Fran­toio’ (oil mill).

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Just down the road in Castel­n­uovo di Porto, the Fran­toio Rossi’ can be found — an oil mill that has agreed to spill a few of the secrets of its locally-acclaimed olive oil pro­duc­tion.

The Rossi oil mill has been oper­at­ing since 1977 — started by the father of Emil­iano Rossi, the cur­rent owner — as an inter­est in olives was alive in their fam­ily and passed down from gen­er­a­tions ago.

In 2000, Emil­iano took over from his Father and now runs the mill on his own with a lit­tle help from his par­ents.

He has a vast clien­tele mainly com­pris­ing of locals and peo­ple from sur­round­ing vil­lages, but he has in the past had suc­cess in sell­ing his prod­uct fur­ther afield, even to a French importer. At one point he exported his olive oils to Esto­nia.

Now he is happy with the busi­ness he has with faith­ful locals and devout olive oil lovers in the vicin­ity. He admits to pre­fer­ring the secu­rity and rap­port he has with his neigh­bors and claims his finan­cial sta­bil­ity ben­e­fits from being open and read­ily avail­able to cus­tomers.

As he is the sole pro­pri­etor of his com­pany, Emil­iano cul­ti­vates and cares for his olive trees and the entire oil pro­duc­tion, which he does with pas­sion and with the del­i­cacy he says is required when mak­ing such a pre­cious prod­uct; one that is prized for its health ben­e­fits as well as its culi­nary magic.

He sees this care as the rea­son for his suc­cess in a com­pet­i­tive trade along with the fact that his cus­tomers know exactly where the prod­uct is com­ing from; the tra­ca­bil­ity of foods being a grow­ing con­cern in today’s world.

With his olive groves just sev­eral yards away from the oil mill, Emil­iano guar­an­tees that the whole pro­ce­dure is done within strict time lim­its which he believes are vital to the pro­duc­tion of good olive oil.

The olives need to be picked when ripe: not left to fall. Once picked, they need to be milled within 48 hours to pre­vent the for­ma­tion of acid­ity,” he said.

Accord­ing to the Rossis, olives need to be han­dled with great care, as an olive is a del­i­cate fruit and the only way to obtain an excel­lent oil is to treat the fruit with respect.

Olives don’t like to be han­dled by dif­fer­ent peo­ple, they don’t like to be mis­treated or thrown around in a rough man­ner,” said Emil­iano. A good olive oilpro­ducer should give love and atten­tion to his trees and pour pas­sion into achiev­ing the best prod­uct.” The olive whis­perer’ came to mind while being told these pre­cious hints.

Emil­iano claims he has never needed to pub­li­cize his prod­uct. A good olive oilpro­ducer can work well by word of mouth, he said. Sat­is­fied cus­tomers are the key to his liveli­hood.

Pro­duc­tion of olive oil in Italy this year has been hit by cli­mate changes and the fast pro­duc­tion of the olive fruit fly, which has thrived this sum­mer in the abnor­mal humid­ity.

Prices are climb­ing as there is far less olive oil this year to go around. New prod­ucts are being devel­oped to help con­trol and pre­vent the pest from tak­ing over Ital­ian olive groves, but with the warm­ing cli­mate it is sure to become more of a chal­lenge.

Mean­while fam­i­lies of pro­duc­ers in these peace­ful towns to the north of Rome will con­tinue their ever-flow­ing, small-scale pro­duc­tion of their hand-crafted olive oil.

On the tables here at din­ner time you will see the unla­beled, char­ac­ter­is­tic bot­tles con­tain­ing the most esteemed local prod­uct.

Whether on a bruschetta’ with finely chopped cherry toma­toes or as a fin­ish­ing touch in a soup, olive oil is a vital part of the diet here, espe­cially when it’s their own, home grown and home made.

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