Secrets to Success

The Ins and Outs of Olive Oil

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Secrets to Success

The Ins and Outs of Olive Oil

Laura (Ross ’08) Pugliano shares tips on selecting the best olive oil.

Summer 2024 | Melissa Zifzal

In This Article

For three generations, the Pugliano family has produced extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) from their Carolea olive groves in Southern Italy. Laura (Ross ’08) and Pino Pugliano were married there in 2015 among this beauty. For their U.S. reception, the couple brought EVOO back in water bottles, repackaging it as wedding favors. Their guests raved about the rich, buttery flavor—which gave Laura and Pino the idea to sell their family’s oil in America. After a few years of praying and planning, Ciccio’s Olives was born in 2020.

“God gave us the right pieces to put it together,” Laura says.

Pino’s Italian family makes and bottles the oil, and the American Puglianos import it and sell it wholesale, direct to consumer, at events, and from their Leesport, Pennsylvania, showroom.

As an expert on EVOO, Laura offers a few suggestions to help Franciscan Magazine readers make the most of their oil purchase.


1. Not all olive oils are created equal.

Olive oil is one of nature’s best superfoods, Laura notes. Unfortunately, it’s also the number one adulterated, or modified, food in the world, and buying something labeled “olive oil” may not really live up to its name.

“A lot of what’s on the shelves is not authentic; it’s often mixed with other seed oil, has chemicals added to it to improve flavor and coloring, or is diluted with old oil or product from other countries,” she says. “Pure, fresh extra virgin olive oil preserves the integrity of the pressed fruit. That’s the one you want to stick with.”


2. Know what you’re buying.

“Be sure to buy what you think you’re buying,” Laura states simply.

Read the label closely to determine if it’s the real deal. Do a little research: Look for a harvest date, whether the EVOO is from a single estate or origin with geographic indicators, and whether it’s a monovarietal (one olive variety) or a blend of olives.

Another tip is to shop at your local Italian market and ask for authentic EVOO or buy from a family farm that you trust. Finally, try it out.

“It should not taste like something you’d put in your car. It should taste like something you’d put on your salad. It should be rich in color and flavor, even a little spicy, but it shouldn’t bite you back,” Laura says.


3. Choose the right olive oil for your culinary needs.

Early harvest EVOO (like Ciccio’s Olives Novello) also known as “olio nuovo,” comes from first of the season olives picked when still green. It has a high polyphenol content, which means it’s rich in antioxidants that may reduce the risk of many diseases.

“It’s the healthiest oil you can get,” Laura explains. “This oil is best used raw or for finishing: It works well on salads and for dipping and has a spicy, robust flavor.”

For the Ciccio’s Olives Original EVOO, the Puglianos harvest the rest of the olives three to four weeks later, depending on the weather, when the olives are purple or black in appearance. The resulting oil has a milder, buttery flavor. “You can do everything with our Original EVOO. You can finish with it, cook and sauté with it, bake with it, and even fry with it,” Laura says.


4. Buy only what you need.

Once a bottle of EVOO is opened, it generally should be used within three to four months, so the amount you typically use within that timeframe will dictate what size bottle to buy. Be sure to store it in a dark place away from heat. If unopened, a bottle will keep for about 18 months or more.

Find out more on Instagram and Facebook, @cicciosolives, or by visiting Alumni and friends may use the discount code “Franciscan” for 10 percent off any extra virgin olive oil purchase.

Melissa Zifzal writes from Wintersville, Ohio.

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