Of all the ingredients that make up a pizza, the least visible are the most often overlooked. Much heralded are the flour, tomato and mozzarella, which offer variation most obvious to the naked eye. But a pizza would not be celebrated if the sum of these parts equaled less than the parts themselves. Thankfully, we have a brilliant moderator in this festival of flavor: olive oil.
Sadly, my trip did not fall within olive season (Summer – Fall). But I did have a chance to tour a boutique olive oil producer hidden beside the tiny village of S. Agata sui due Golfi, between to Sorrento and Massalubrense on the Western tip of the Amalfi Coast. Le Tore abides by strict organic farming procedures and is certified by the AIAB (Italian Association for Biological Agriculture). The farm’s owner, Vittoria Brancaccio, is extremely proud of her facilities, which include a grove of 500 year old olive trees (see photo below) and a 17th century farmhouse.
After harvesting their olives, Le tore uses a co-op to press the oil from the fruit. Read More Vittoria takes only the first oil that comes from the olives, which is what makes it “extra virgin.” The press used for this process is a “cold press,” which preserves the flavor of the oil. A warm press is able to pull more oil from the olives, but the heat of the device removes some of the natural flavor. This makes Le Tore’s oil fruity and pure. After pressing, the oil is brought back to the Le Tore laboratory for bottling and labeling. The production is extremely limited, making this oil tough to find. In the photos below, you’ll see how the oil is prepared for sale. The dark green bottles protect the oil from oxidization it will experience if exposed to sunlight.
Olive oil is historically one of the oldest pizza toppings, predating the tomato by centuries. Its flavor and aroma help make Mediterranean cuisine so enticing. Thankfully, many farms such as Le Tore still use ancient methods to produce this essential product.