Paolo Pasquali was an enlightened entrepreneur with deep sensitivity — an innovator and true visionary, among many other things.
Founder of the first olive oil resort, he significantly contributed to spreading the culture of high-quality extra virgin olive oil at an international level. Last week, he passed away at the age of 70 from complications due to Covid-19.
Paolo glided among the tables. He was handsome and tanned and wearing a white dinner jacket. He could have been James Bond.
“Paolo was an inspirational pioneer in olive oil tourism, an innovative designer and a fine and profoundly knowledgeable producer of extra virgin olive oil,” said Simon Poole, the co-organizer of the Food Values Conferences. “He was as well a gentleman of extraordinary warmth, hospitality, generosity, passion, and vision.”
After studying philosophy and music, Pasquali enjoyed a successful managerial career in the publishing sector.See Also: Innovative Olive Oil Producer and Vintner, Carlos Falcó, Dies From Covid-19
His passion for all things olive oil officially started in the late 1980s, when he became the owner of a beautiful estate nestled in the rolling hills of Mugello, north of Florence, Villa Campestri. He planted an olive grove, became a taster and started intensely studying olive cultivation and oil production.
“Those years were characterized by a great desire to know more about the extraordinary properties of the liquid gold and full days spent between the olive trees and the mill, talking and discussing with experienced olive growers,” he once told Olive Oil Times.
He devoted himself to research and education. At the same time, Villa Campestri became a hallmark of olive oil tourism. At its heart is the Oleoteca, a meeting point for olive oil experts and enthusiasts and a hotbed of innovative ideas. Here, Pasquali devised OliveToLive, a patented system for the optimal conservation of oil, which allows it to be served as it is freshly extracted.
“My offer for those eager to know all this valuable information about extra virgin olive oil is to contribute to disseminating it while offering a place to expose this culture,” he said.
Pasquali also participated in many conferences and events at the international level, which led to his involvement with the UC Davis Olive Center and Culinary Institute of America, where he collaborated with leading experts in the field. Later, he took part in organizing the cycle of Beyond Extra Virgin conferences.
It’s hard to describe someone like Paolo in a few lines: eclectic, charismatic and innovative. He was a special person and a visionary businessman.
“My first impression of Paolo was formed at the gala dinner for the first Beyond Extra Virgin conference at UC Davis in 2007,” Dan Flynn, the former executive director of the UC Davis Olive Center, recalled. “Paolo glided among the tables. He was handsome and tanned and wearing a white dinner jacket. He could have been James Bond. ‘That is the most debonair man I have ever seen,’ I exclaimed to the person next to me.”
“I learned that beneath the suave exterior was a jazz pianist, media entrepreneur, philosophy professor, four-star hotelier, historic preservationist, Renaissance expert, olive grower and oil miller,” Flynn added. “Kindness, generosity, and graciousness came from his heart. He believed that the beauty of olive oil needed new modes of expression.”
“Nobody but Paolo would have thought to commission a piece of music dedicated to olive oil’s signature qualities of fruity, bitterness and pungent,” he continued. “I’ll remember his passion, idealism and desire to take all of us with him to a higher plane.”
Greg Drescher, a vice president at the Culinary Institute of America, also eulogized his friend, telling Olive Oil Times that he would be deeply missed for enriching olive oil’s cultural heritage in the world.
“Paolo was a great friend and a rare bird. One got a window into his passion for life, art and people when he welcomed you into his wonderful obsession with the world of olive oil,” he said. “Yes, for Paolo, the Oleoteca at his beloved Villa Campestri in the hills of the Mugello was a physical place — and a magical place at that — but, more importantly, it was an invitation to delicious discovery at the crossroads of so many creative impulses.”
“He loved spending time with our chefs, connecting their intimate knowledge of flavor architecture with his quest for technical excellence in crafting great oils,” Drescher added. “And then he asked a question that drove years of his work: how might we better preserve the richness of aesthetic experience latent in those oils when they are far from their source? Paolo’s vision measurably enriched the world’s cultural heritage of olive oil. For all who knew him, he will be deeply missed.”
Paolo was a Renaissance Man. Through what he did for olive oil and Tuscany, he exemplified the traits that made Florence the center of the world during the Renaissance.
Pasquali then launched the ‘Food Values’ Conferences. He summoned international scholars to Italy in the name of a Renaissance of the Mediterranean diet and the key role of the extra virgin olive oil.
“Paolo was a Renaissance Man,” Jean-Xavier Guinard, from the UC Davis Olive Center, said. “Through what he did for olive oil and Tuscany, he exemplified the traits that made Florence the center of the world during the Renaissance. I can’t help but draw a parallel between his flair for design, innovation, risk and beauty and the creative passion of the techies and entrepreneurs who surround us today.”
“It was no accident that a superb musician like him could make such delicious olive oil. Sensory modalities interact and align, and Paolo could play all sensory notes – musical, aromatic, or gustatory, with equal ease and pleasure, whether he was sitting at the piano or designing olive oils,” he added. “On the personal side, Paolo was all about family and friends – making everyone happy and pushing us all to give our very best always.”
Along with the Carlo Collodi Foundation, Pasquali started a project on food education for children, aimed at promoting extra virgin olive oil consumption and the Mediterranean diet since childhood.
“It’s hard to describe someone like Paolo in a few lines: eclectic, charismatic and innovative. He was a special person and a visionary businessman,” said Francesco Sofi, the co-organizer of the Food Values Conferences from the University of Florence. “Even with an age difference, we immediately found ourselves in sync because he was one of those few people in life that you meet and that touch you for their simplicity, depth and the passion they put into what they do.”
“We managed from nothing to create an international conference on the role of food and olive oil,” he added. “This was always done with the love for beautiful things that governed his life. I will miss him so much, and I think the whole community will miss him.”
He still had many projects in the works shared with his beloved daughters Gemma and Viola and his valued collaborators. Now, they will continue his legacy.