`Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a 'Pillar of My Cuisine'

Food & Cooking

Extra Virgin Olive Oil is a 'Pillar of My Cuisine'

Aug. 24, 2015
By Luciana Squadrilli

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Extra vir­gin olive oil is a sta­ple in recipes of the tra­di­tional cen­tral and south­ern Italy cui­sine, and it is ever more val­ued by chefs all over the coun­try. But even then, it is not so com­mon to meet a chef as pas­sion­ate and com­pe­tent about this ingre­di­ent as Matia Bar­ci­ulli, the exec­u­tive chef of the Anti­nori’ fam­i­ly’s restau­rants in Tus­cany, includ­ing the Miche­lin-starred Oste­ria di Passig­nano.

Set in an his­tor­i­cal build­ing, which is part of the Abbey of Passig­nano, an ancient monastery dat­ing back to 395 and still inhab­ited by monks, the Oste­ria is a charm­ing restau­rant sur­rounded by the vine­yards belong­ing to the Ital­ian wine dynasty.

Matia Barciulli

Being born and raised in Tus­cany — a region syn­ony­mous with excel­lent olive oils — helped for sure, but Matia devoted extra­or­di­nary effort, time and pas­sion in research­ing the sub­ject.

As he recalls, he was still a stu­dent at the hos­pi­tal­ity train­ing insti­tute in Flo­rence when one of his class­mate’s father asked him to help with orga­niz­ing food and oil pair­ings. Matia was young but already expe­ri­enced hav­ing worked in pizze­rias and restau­rants dur­ing school hol­i­days, and the man was really happy with his con­tri­bu­tion.

That man was Marco Mugelli, one of the world’s great­est and beloved olive oil experts. He then became my teacher on extra vir­gin, and I started to cher­ish this prod­uct as one of the most pre­cious for my cook­ing,” Matia says. For me it is not only a sea­son­ing but a proper ingre­di­ent and a pil­lar of my cui­sine.”
See more: In Mem­ory of Marco Mugelli
Every year, I choose at least 7 dif­fer­ent shades” to be used in dif­fer­ent recipes, from Tus­cany to Sicily. I do not believe in zero-mile’ food when it comes to qual­ity prod­ucts.”

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Depend­ing on the sea­son, on the Oste­ri­a’s menu one can find dishes such as the Pappa al pomodoro” ravi­oli, stuffed with the typ­i­cal mix­ture of dry bread and ripe toma­toes and served with basil pesto, Grana cheese shav­ings and a gen­er­ous driz­zle of the fan­tas­tic, flower-scented Oli­vas­tra Seg­gianese sin­gle vari­ety made by Fran­toio Franci; the Monk­fish and baby octo­pus, fake rock of bread with herb bou­quet and olive oil with the intense Apu­lian Don Gioacchino Sabino Leone made with Coratina olives.

And there is the lovely extra vir­gin ice cream, which he serves in dif­fer­ent dessert recipes choos­ing the appro­pri­ate extra vir­gin accord­ing to the over­all result. For exam­ple, he uses the gen­tle pit­ted Casaliva sin­gle vari­ety made by Com­in­ci­oli for his refined fiord’o­lio” ice-cream served with hazel­nut bis­cuit and vanilla-scented apri­cots.

Bar­ci­ulli arrived at the Oste­ria di Passig­nano in 2001, fol­low­ing his meet­ing with Mar­cello Crini who had recently launched the restau­rant with Alle­gra Anti­nori. When, after a few months, chef Marco Sta­bile — now run­ning his own restau­rant Ora d’Aria in Flo­rence — left the helm of the Oste­ria he took over the kitchen, begin­ning to travel around and explore places and fla­vors to cre­ate his own style. In 2007, the Miche­lin star rewarded his efforts.

2013 was another fun­da­men­tal year in Bar­ci­ul­li’s life and career. Anti­nori win­ery launched its new and impres­sive wine cel­lar in San Cas­ciano Val di Pesa, in the very heart of the renowned Chi­anti Clas­sico area: a stun­ning con­tem­po­rary and sus­tain­able archi­tec­tural project, it is barely vis­i­ble from a dis­tance and has been designed to min­i­mize the impact on the envi­ron­ment and for max­i­mum energy effi­ciency.

The cel­lar also hosts the Rin­uc­cio 1180 restau­rant, which serves a sim­pler yet tasty Tus­can cui­sine. Bar­ci­ulli cur­rently is the exec­u­tive chef of all the Anti­nori’s hos­pi­tal­ity and food prop­er­ties, lead­ing the kitchens of the dif­fer­ent restau­rants.

Sadly in 2013 both Marco Mugelli and Mas­simo Pasquini, another key ambas­sador for Tus­can extra vir­gin olive oil, passed away. In their mem­ory Matia Bar­ci­ulli, together with other friends who share with him the pas­sion for extra vir­gin and the bond with the two men, founded Il Mag­nifico Inter­na­tional Com­pe­ti­tion, whose award cer­e­mony in 2015 was held in the Anti­nori win­ery.

It was on that occa­sion that we tasted Mati­a’s extra vir­gin ice-cream, which he espe­cially pre­pared for the cer­e­mony using the win­ning olive oil.

The extra vir­gin ice-cream recipe is quite easy, but it is imper­a­tive, as in any food you really care about, to use a great extra vir­gin olive oil:

- low fat yogurt 260 grams
 — extra vir­gin olive oil 100 grams
 — sugar syrup (32° Baumè) 115 grams

Mix all the ingre­di­ents with a hand blender and process with an ice-cream maker. Keep frozen until serv­ing.

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