Mention the name “Italy” and it’s bound to conjure up images of the boot-shaped country itself along with fine wines and gourmet cuisine that light up the eyes of connoisseurs the world over. Let’s not forget the spectacular scenery it offers too. At every turn, Italy features a cornucopia of beauty, particularly the famed island of Sicily.
As revered as Sicily is for just about everything, one thing that stands out the most from it’s star-studded roster of excellence is olive oil. Italian olive oil is some of the best in the world, but Sicilian olive oil takes it to the next echelon of excellence because of the unique climate that allows a variety of olive trees to grow plus the fertile soil which creates an ideal environment for the olive trees to thrive.
One of the most stand-out olive oils of Sicily is Ravida Azienda Agricola. The roots of the Ravida family extend deep into the 14th century, even deeper than their prized olive trees from which they cultivate the olives to create their award-winning olive oils. Back in the 14th century, in a town called Trapani, they were highly ranked within the Catholic church as well as the governing agents. In the 1770s, Antonio Ravida married Fara Ferrantelli who was from a family of wealthy landowners. They moved to Menfi, a small town. It was here that the Ferrantelli family presented a dowry of a large estate that produced wine and olive oil.
The couple produced from these lands, starting a family that passed the heritage down to the consecutive generation. It finally wound up in the hands of Nicolo Ravida, who had made a successful career as a civil engineer that worked all over the world. Farming was his passion though which is what brought him back to his strong family roots.
Thanks to Nicolo, the estate was modernized and refocused its goals on quality production. One of three daughters, Natalia, saw an opportunity to market their top-quality estate bottled olive oils and urged her father to pursue it. Despite the family had been making quality olive oil for ages from trees over 300 years old, it finally hit the market in London in 1991, enjoying immediate success.
Today, it is still an iconic symbol of Sicilian olive oil heritage at its finest. Carried by high-end retailers, it is the Rolls-Royce of olive oils. If you typically buy the cheapest olive oil on the supermarket shelf, you are missing out on what olive oil should taste like. In Sicily in particular, olive oil and sea salt truly are the most basic ingredients used to bring out the simple flavors of the foods served there. It’s the pure and unspoiled flavor that is the most sublime of all.
Currently, Natalia Ravida stands as the President of the famed olive oil estate bottling company, which also produces high-quality offerings of sea salt, wine vinegar and lemon olive oil. “The basic Mediterranean seasoning really goes back to olive oil and sea salt. The two elements of a quality oil are fragrance and then the balance between pepper and bitterness. It’s a bit like wine. Different soil, different varieties, and climate are the key to quality olive oil,” she said.
Indeed, it’s this passion for perfect quality that has been instrumental to the success of the Ravida family’s lifeblood. As mentioned before, the simplicity of the ingredients allows the flavors to truly shine through. Quality Sicilian olive oil should hit the palate to bring several distinctive elements at once. Natalia explained that the complexities of the elements that go into the production of the olives from growing to pressing are what reveals these most exquisite results.
“The characteristic of Ravida olive oil is that it’s a natural blend of the three local olives pressed together to produce a very complex oil. They all open up in your palate and nose at very different times. Ravida is quite complex and intriguing,” she said.
What makes the Ravida technique so finely-tuned is that they implement a technique of extraction that is done in very small batches These batches have very little contact with heat and oxygen. Taste it and you’ll discover grassy notes and a tingle of pepper. In some batches, you’ll feel a hint of salt on the sides of your tongue.
Tasting the olive oil for quality is much like a wine tasting, where you roll the oil around in your mouth to feel the texture, the flavor and the sheer complexity of it. A quality Sicilian olive oil like Ravida leaves the palate feeling clean without an aftertaste, a shining example of perfection.
If you haven’t regarded your olive oil as you should, the next time you are shopping for oils, put down the bargain bottle and go with something of a higher caliber. You can order Ravida olive oil online if you can’t find it in a store near you, or you can look for other Sicilian olive oil brands. The difference is incredibly clear once you taste it drizzled on top of a fresh caprese salad or stuffed artichoke or dip crusty hunks of bread into it with just a sprinkle of pure sea salt.
Once you try quality olive oil from Sicily though, you’ll be spoiled for life. You’ll want to make up for lost time when you used inferior olive oil products to cook with or finish off your culinary creations. There’s certainly no time like the present to right a wrong, especially when it involves eating more of the brilliantly perfect ingredients to come out of Sicily.