I have always had a bit of a thing about olive oil, but after 16 years of living in the south of Portugal I find that I can’t do without it; in our home, vinaigrettes are now a thing of the distant past – even for my French husband. We have our local favourites that we drizzle over fish, across sun-drenched tomatoes and even use to bake the lighter sort of cakes that feel appetising in such a hot climate. But when I travel to countries with a strong olive oil culture, I always seek out and bring back a new find.
Latest on that list is Centenaria by Gradassi & Trussardi. I tried it in Milan at the Trussardi alla Scala restaurant, which specialises in drawing on the very best raw ingredients to make up a perfect whole. This is the first branded extra virgin olive oil from Trussardi, which is gradually moving beyond its fashion territory into the world of food and wine. The house, established in 1911, has labelled the oil (€15 for 250ml) – launched last year – with its trademark miniature greyhound in elegant gold hot-foil print, the shadowy cypress trees below it representing Clitunno Springs, a Unesco heritage site in Umbria where the Gradassi olive mill, active since 1639, is based.
Centenaria is a blend of Moraiolo, Leccino and Frantoio olives that grow on the rocky hills surrounding the medieval village of Campello sul Clitunno. The oil, which is cold-extracted, is a golden green as it pours out of the small bottles. It taps at the back of the throat before giving way to a surge of sweetness with a hint of artichoke.
I have tried it on my endless avocado lunches, where it marries well with a sprinkle of pumpkin seeds. It is also excellent with roasted vegetables, adding punch to what can often be too flat and uniform a taste. I have tried it on chicken, slow roasted in the oven, and on robust, savoury salads of chickpeas and lentils. I will definitely be stocking up next time I pass through the duty free in Florence, Naples, Milan or Bergamo airports, where it is stocked. It’s a convenient size to slip into a suitcase but, more than that, it enhances our everyday lunches and family dinners and is currently right at the top of my personal league table.