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ENZO Olive Oil carries on a family heritage

In the 102 years since Vincenzo Ricchiuti left his home in the town of Bisceglie, Italy, for America, his business, which later became P-R Farms under his son Pat, has been in the Ricchiuti family for four generations, and continues to grow in the San Joaquin Valley.

Now, the brand of olive oil that bears his name has won medals, from New York to Japan, and in Italy, the country which he first called home.

“From 2011 to this year, we’ve had a good deal of success, and increasing our brand’s footprint every year,” said Vincent Ricchiuti, the director of operations for P-R Farms, and great-grandson of Vincenzo.

Located at 7770 Road 33 in Madera, the ENZO Olive Oil Co., named after the elder Ricchiuti, first planted its olives in 2008, and had their first harvest in 2011.

Since then, they have won more than 160 awards, including the Silver Sofi Award in New York City. One of its latest products, their Organic Clementine Crush flavored olive oil, was a finalist for the Buyer’s Choice Award at the Fresno Food Expo in July.

“We’re very excited, especially with looking around and seeing all these wonderful producers here. It’s great to be at the top,” said ENZO’s marketing and sales coordinator Kari Ball, when it was announced that they were a finalist at a preview for the expo.

“It’ll be another notch in the belt,” Ricchiuti said. “It’ll be exciting. What’s special about this competition is that it’s right in our backyard, and it’s where we live and work, and it’ll be great to share the success with our hometown and everyone around here.”

Their Clementine Crush oil, however, was just one of two products showcased by ENZO. Another, the Tyler Florence Test Kitchen Extra Virgin, was made by the company in cooperation with celebrity chef Tyler Florence, the host of the “Great Food Truck Race,” and “Tyler’s Ultimate” on the Food Network.

The oil was made for one of Florence’s restaurants, the Wayfare Tavern, in San Francisco. This was made by combining the oils of all three types of olives into a single product.

“We actually sat down with him,” Ball said. “We wanted something that was well-rounded, that he could use for numerous things in his restaurant.”

The ENZO Olive Oil Co., according to Ricchiuti, is completely self-sustaining. They grow their own olives on their 400-acre estate. The San Joaquin Valley’s climate, which is ideal for olive farming, allows them to grow three different types of olives, each with a different, distinct flavor — arbequina, a delicate, mild tasting olive; arbosana, known for its buttery finish; and koroneiki, which has a robust, peppery flavor.

In the fall, when the crop is ready, the olives are then mechanically harvested and brought into the factory, which is also on the Madera estate. Here, the olives are pulverized in a crusher, and spun in a mixer, and then a decanter, separating the liquids from the solids.

The water is then separated from the oil in a machine called a vertical centrifuge, which rotates at a rate of 7,000 rpm. What is left is the pure olive oil, which is immediately stored to preserve the freshness of the final product.

Their oil, according to Ricchiuiti, is completely organic, and certified by the California Olive Oil Council, has garnered a reputation that has only bolstered their reputation and sales. This has especially been the case as low quality oil has been imported from other countries.

TV news show “’60 Minutes’ ran a story on olive oil in January of this year and it was most of the most watched ‘60 Minutes’ pieces of all time,” said Ricchiuti. “And what they talked about was fraudulent olive oil, and how it’s coming over here from Europe, and how it’s being mislabeled, where it says it’s ‘extra virgin’ and it’s really not.”

This expose on fraudulent oil, Ricchuiti explained, only stood to serve as an advantage for ENZO. “After that story ran, our sales doubled and we got new accounts because of it. For example, the buyers of Target were watching the episode, and realized they needed to make a change. A week later, we got a phone call, and Target put us into their store.”

Next year, the company plans to create a new, spicy oil by adding chili peppers to the crush. In the meantime, however, the ENZO Olive Oil Co. will continue to sell the products it has, and continue to grow across the country.

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