Pino and Claudia, owners of Olive Branch & More, moved to Sarasota from Milano, Italy where Pino owned an eatery and Claudia worked at a bank. They say the lifestyle there was similar to living in a metropolis like NewYork City, and between drive time and working they never seemed to have enough leisure or family time.
They vacationed in Sarasota and loved the atmosphere, and decided in 2012 to pursue the “American dream” in Sarasota with a goal of having more family time with their sons Fillipo and Riccardo.
They worked Farmers’ Markets for two years prior to launching their own small business – Olive Branch & More – selling authentic, imported, extra virgin olive oils, vinegarettes, and spreads to customers who truly are well educated in procuring pure, healthy, delicious foods.
“People have changed their tastes significantly since the 90’s,” Pino said as he attempted his best English and looked to his wife for approval, and occasional explanation, as to what he was so excitedly explaining in Italian.
What has happened, according to this Italian couple, is that people are eating more healthy; the organic industry is flourishing; and farm to fork habits, as well as Farmers’ Market shopping, is more the norm than the exception. They say customers at Farmers’ Markets are very well educated, and very particular about what they’re buying, ensuring authenticity and comfort that they’re purchasing the best that money can buy. This is particularly true in the Sarasota area full of cultured ‘foodies.’
Why Olive Branch products?
First of all, they’re certified by the European Union, and have a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO), ensuring this oil is from a specific region using exact production methods that give it its unique taste and features. It is a guarantee that the oil is cold pressed within 24 hours, which is extremely important to the taste Claudia said, and the oil is bottled immediately in dark bottles so as not to let air and sun damage its unique qualities, particularly taste. Then, it is shipped right to Claudia and Pino’s home in the Gulf Gate area.
“Americans think they can go to Publix and are getting pure extra virgin olive oil, but it’s not anything like this product,” Claudia said. They even use a particular olive – “coratina” – which is grown on their friend’s olive tree farm, in business since 1902.
“When you buy our olive oil, you know it’s real virgin oil,” Claudia said. “Most ‘fakes’ are not cold pressed and use olive blends.”
Claudia and Pino could probably write a book on pure virgin olive oil, and its benefits and uses, and they’re more than happy to share their passion when you visit them at the markets. In fact that’s what they like best about their burgeoning business.
“We were amazed at how customers keep coming back to us and talking so much…sharing their recipes and wanting to know more,” Claudia said. “It’s like a big family,” Pino added. “But I like to think my recipes are the best” he laughed.
During the summer season, the couple returns to Italy to peruse the latest and greatest olives and products. But no worries – Farmers’ Markets may be shut down in the summer, but Olive Branch & More products, including olive oils, vinegars and spreads, are also featured at the couple’s friends’ New York style deli – Piccolo’s Italian Market & Deli on Gateway Ave. in Gulf Gate, Sarasota. And now online.
In addition to this summer’s exploration in Italy for new ideas for products, Pino and Claudia are ‘cooking up’ some plans as time allows for new spreads, maybe some pasta, and even some cooking demonstrations in the future.
Catch them at these Farmers’ Markets: Siesta Key Market on Sunday; Phillipi Creek Market on Wednesday; Bradenton Market on Saturday (through season). Or, you can order online at www.olivebranchandmore.com.
Claudia and Pino’s Favorites
Try Claudia’s ‘obsession – her version of Carpino Salad – simply fresh Tomato, a slice of Mozzerella Cheese and a splash of their olive oil and Tangy Vinaigrette with salt and pepper to taste.
Cooking some Rib Eye for guests? Try this Pino says:
Pomegranate Balsamic Grill Sauce
1/3 cup Fresh Harvest Pomegranate Balsamic
1/4 cup Fresh Harvest Organic Garlic Olive Oil
1Tbs. good quality Dijon style mustard
2 teaspoons of Himalayan pink salt
Prepare the grill or broiler. In a medium bowl, whisk the mustard with the salt, then add the Fresh Harvest Pomegranate Balsamic until blended thoroughly. Slowly drizzle in the Fresh Harvest Garlic Olive oil whisking quickly and continuously. The marinade should become thick and emulsified. In a sealable container or large zip lock bag, place up to four rib-eye steaks and thoroughly coat with the marinade. Refrigerate and marinate for at least 4-6 hours, or overnight, turning the steaks at least once during the process.
Proceed with grilling or broiling the steaks. After cooking, allow the steaks to rest, loosely covered at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Allowing the steaks to rest will make them more tender and allow the juices to soak into the meat.
Photos by Patti Pearson and Olive Branch Website.