Unlike the dish it’s drizzled over, a good finishing oil must stand on its own. This oil, always an extra virgin olive oil, can be peppery or fruity, subtle or robust—never bland or flat. It’s a richness you’re after, a last-minute touch of complexity and pop to elevate the already delicious to something closer to sublime. Jon Shook, co-owner-chef of Jon & Vinny’s Italian restaurant in Los Angeles, told me that he likes to use high-quality olive oil to add flavor and texture to dishes. “One of my favorite ways to finish a pan-seared piece of fish is with some fresh-squeezed lemon juice and a full-body olive oil,” said Shook.
But does that final touch need to come in a bottle priced at nearly 50 bucks? Tyler Wells, who owns and operates LA’s All Time restaurant with wife Ashley, put it to me this way: “If you’re going to take the time to buy vegetables from a good farmer or a steak that was responsibly and humanely raised, why cut corners on any other part of the deal?” Cookbook author and olive oil sommelier (yes, that’s a thing) Emily Lycopolus told me, “It takes just as much, if not more time and effort, to make a quality olive oil than it does a delicious bottle of wine.” Shook agrees: “Good things cost money…[and] making a great finishing oil is an art.”
Part of the approach of the company to that art is in its process, getting the oil from tree to bottle in just four days, as opposed to the several weeks it can take for lesser oils. And why the metal bottle? As Lycopolus explained: “Light, heat and oxygen are the three things that make an oil go rancid. Because Domenica Fiore’s bottles are stainless steel and the oil is packed under a nitrogen blanket, they mitigate these factors and extend the freshness of the oil, while preserving the antioxidants, micronutrients and all the health benefits found in extra virgin olive oil.”
But how does it taste? Lycopolus described Domenica Fiore’s Reserva as “peppery in the best way, using three completed olive oils that are then mixed, creating a really balanced, herbaceous and peppery finish. Perfect to drizzle over a steak.” The Novello uses its own blend of oils to achieve “a sweet and herbaceous aroma…notes of fresh Granny Smith apple, thyme, unripe banana and arugula.” It’s like what Tyler Wells told me about how, “when you buy the good stuff, you can taste something of a certain place, a single grove of olive trees in Umbria or Sicily; it’s a lot of skill and tradition and care of many generations that have made their way into a good bottle of olive oil.”
For my review, I poured the Reserva and Novello into their own dishes, drenched a few bites of crusty bread in each, and followed it up with a cheap glass of Chianti. Sublime, indeed.
PROPER DINNER (ABOVE)
Braised white beans and greens with roast sausage.
Kale salad with toasted almonds and parmesan.
Sculaccione—tequila, lime, grapefruit, Campari, bitters.