When Lake Como’s Olive Oil Conquered Paris (And Beyond)

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For Teodolinda, Epicurean early adopter, grand dame of gastronomic sophistication, her table was never complete without it. There was one condiment that the Queen of the Lombards simply could not live without and that was olive oil from Lake Como – or, more precisely, oil pressed from olives grown on the Tremezzina groves. That same oil still flows green and fragrant at Frantoio Vanini in Lenno, Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s supplier as far back as we can remember.

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The story of this small producer, and the family that has been running it for six generations, began back in 1850 and came to international acclaim with a gold medal at the Paris Expo in 1905. Since that time, Vanini’s slightly fruity extra virgin olive oil, with hints of flavor ranging from artichoke to almond, has become a favorite in the traditional cuisine of Lake Como. Not least because of the particular attention Frantoio Vanini pays to selecting the olives – olives grown on trees that are direct descendants of the variety brought to Italy by Greek settlers during Julius Caesar reign in the 1st century B.C.

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The production process itself pays homage to Vanini’s artisanal ancestors as well, pressing the olives as soon as they are picked and making sure they are always cold pressed. Temperatures below 80 degrees Fahrenheit help the oil retain the organoleptic richness of the raw material, its minerals and vitamins, the antioxidants so vital to our health.

It is only natural that Osvaldo Presazzi, Executive Chef of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, would choose Vanini olive oil as a key ingredient for his cooking. The perfect culinary pairing? European perch or common whitefish from the lake, pan-fried to perfection, filleted tableside and garnished with a drop of “nectar” from Lake Como’s legendary olive oil region – known locally as the Zoca de l’oli, which also includes Grand Hotel Tremezzo’s centuries-old garden. There is no use asking the Chef to reveal the secret to a dish so deceptively simple and yet so masterful. Particularly when he gets a call from Igor, one of the most admired fishermen on the lake, to rush down to the dock and collect a crate of freshly-caught fish. But if you insist, the great chef – and protégé of Maestro Gualtiero Marchesi – might be persuaded to reveal one key secret ingredient: “freshness, freshness, freshness”.