Wedged between the Alps and the Appenines, Emilia-Romagna is steeped in culinary traditions. The majestic Po River sprawls across the region separating the Pianura Padana Valley (the agricultural playground of northern Italy) from the undulating foothills of the Appenines as they stretch up towards the Tuscan border. This natural division of the region is reflected in its cooking from the wealthier Emilia, home to the majestic cities of Parma, Modena, Bologna and Ferrara where the cuisine is indulgent, rich, largely pork based and naturally sophisticated, to the western part of the region, known as Romagna, that stretches towards the Adriatic coast. Here Byzantine heritage is found in abundance and the culture is influenced more by the sea than the aristocratic tradition of the courts, so Romagna’s cooking is simpler, slightly wilder and closer to the land.
Olive Oil from Brisighella holds its own having been the first Italian Extra Virgin Olive Oil to be awarded a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in 1996. There are two indigenous cultivars here of interest, the Nostrana di Brisighella, with its distinctive emerald green hue and intense wild herb, white apple and chicory aromas and the Ghiacciola cultivar, which as the name suggests is resistant to the cold weather and features decisive artichoke characteristics. Production is small; here you are very much off the beaten track.
And so we happily found the softly spoken Gianluca Tumidei, who with his wife Alina has owned Frantoio Pennita since the 70s and who farms his 49 hectare estate with great care. Gianluca grew up in the shadows of his impressive father Edmeo and has a humility that is hard to compare. He is a master in his mill, where he works carefully and tirelessly over the winter months to bring us these pure, precise oils that have a distinct mountain feel and true sense of place.
With beautiful bitterness and distinct harmony, these oils are made for grilled blue fish, red meat or game as well as pulses and grain based dishes.