A Trip North to visit Frantoio Riva
It’s been over a year since I visited Massimiliano and his team at Frantoio di Riva on the northern shore of Lake Garda and I had forgotten how much I like this place and the people behind the Riva operation.
I will begin with the lake, which is extremely impressive. The largest lake in Italy and in many parts very picturesque. It moderates everything from the climate to the agriculture and indeed the flow of tourists that feed this wealthy area of Northern Italy. Riva del Garda is a charming town, easy to while away a few hours if not a couple of days here (ideally out of peak season). And if you drive just north of the town you will see the stylish modern construction that contains the award winning frantoio, as well as a winery and incredible farm shop of delicious local delicacies.
Frantoio di Riva is unusual in our portfolio because it is the only business that isn’t family owned and run. It is a cooperative. Which could make your expectations fairly low in terms of the resulting oils but I’m here to tell you why this isn’t the case. To begin with, many of the land owners in this area have tiny plots – not enough to export and certainly not enough to warrant their own frantoio or control of their pressing and due to high costs of production in the area for many growers, it would make their business untenable. So this cooperative has basically saved the olive oil production in northern Garda. They have also invested heavily in quality control (it is unrivalled) and knowledge of the casaliva cultivar and this information is in turn shared with the growers, which has significantly raised the quality bar and the results are stunning.
In its purest and highest quality expression, Casaliva features cut grass, wild hedgerow herbs such as chicory and dandelion, minerality and a very slight hint of citrus. This is cool climate extra virgin olive oil.
It is a fabulous choice for this time of the year when you are probably eating many more salads, and lettuce in particular is a great partner for casaliva. It is also brilliant drizzled over fresh water fish.
All of this means it falls in to the category of being one of our milder cultivars. Which means it won’t overwhelm your food or your palate, which is why I used it last week to make a carrot cake that called for a milder olive oil and also why my children like it so much, especially over carrots or french beans.
I urge you to try the excellent oils of Frantoio di Riva, they are grown by farmers and milled by experts with incredible attention to detail and utmost respect for the environment. All waste produce from the frantoio is recycled including the water. Thoroughly good.