Frantoio D’Orazio: it is not easy for me to talk about what has always been in my life. As a child I used to visit Uncle Ciccillo and Aunt Sabellina in the oil mill in the village, with high vaults and that intense and unique smell of freshly cut grass, which I have never forgotten and which assaulted my nostrils making them pinch.
Following the oil thread…
Then came Peppino, dad’s cousin with the same name, that of his common grandfather, Giuseppe. But for all of them, their two peers born months apart in the same year, 1940 that of the war they said, have always been Peppino: grown up almost like brothers with separate careers. My dad on the railways, taking place of his father, left too early when he was still a boy.
Peppino D’orazio also followed in the footsteps of dad Ciccillo and spent his life, until this year when he took him away, among the scent of freshly pressed olives, the noise of the machinery, the warmth of the sun in the hot mornings or the thrill of cold and rain in the harshest ones, always waiting for his suppliers and customers.
This every day from 5 to mid-morning, when he wore the clothes of his second role, that of President of the Banca di Credito Cooperativo di Conversano.
But for everyone and especially for us it has always been Peppino. That when he met you, immediately after smiles and hugs, he asked you want an ice cream? And that an evil fate wanted him to leave his world and his family this year that all physical contact is banned.
I can’t go to the mill without imagining him still there in his place, standing, always cordial with everyone and often in the company of his sisters Elena and Maria and his brother Giovannino. From the 90s she shared tasks and work with his nephew Francesco, Giovannino’s son: together with his sister Isabella we grew up together, sharing the summers in the trulli and always treating each other as true cousins.
In short, in order to tell the story and the activity of the Frantoio D’Orazio, I will have to create the effect of the overall view, the one that astronauts feel when observing the Earth from space, with the awareness that objects often have to be removed to see them well.
So I let Francesco tell me everything, as if I didn’t know the events firsthand. Starting from afar, right from that mill in the heart of the village of my childhood memory, where electricity came in 1944 to replace the donkeys that turned the millstones and the men who worked at the presses to extract the oil. Each press had 25 fisculi in which, one by one, it was necessary to spread the olive paste to be filtered. The oil was collected in the tanks that until the post-war period were the bags obtained from the skins of sheep or pigs and were then replaced by those made of zinc.
In the 90s there were two turning points: the transfer of the Frantoio D’Orazio plant to the Conversano food area in via dell’Ulivo and the advent of Francesco as his right arm.
“This will be the last oil campaign with these machines – he tells us, showing us in motion – which will be replaced by the Protoreactor, the latest generation of those for the extraction of olive oil from the Pieralisi Group. A new system that revolutionizes the traditional kneading process, guaranteeing important advantages both in continuous and batch processing. It reduces the kneading time by a third, reducing the oxidation of the dough and the temperature, resulting in considerable energy savings”.
The aim is always to adapt technology to the needs of a modern company but careful to keep the tradition alive, the one that began with the grandfather whose name it bears and which it hopes will continue with his offspring: Sofia, Amelia, Roberta and Edoardo.
Over the years, Francesco has also been committed to making the image of the oil of the Frantoio D’Orazio more current and recognizable. He has chosen to market it in cans with an attractive and very colorful look that refers to the ancient and beautiful Apulian majolica.
But Francesco did not stop and even in this critical period he wanted to see opportunities by proposing practical packs in disposable sachets, hygienic and at the same time capable of preserving the contents.
And speaking of content, what oil does Frantoio D’Orazio produce? “It is a blend – says Francesco – the result of different cultivars, which are mainly local ones such as Cima di Mola, Olivastro, Cima di Melfi, Leccina, but also other varieties such as Coratina, Sicilian Tonda Iblea and Picholine di French derivation”.
He also talks about the upcoming challenges that will see important changes in quality with a stricter selection of the upstream olives and the choice to produce 100% monocultivar. The first has already started and is called Simone from the name of the olive, one of the oldest among those grown in the countryside between Conversano and Castellana Grotte.
“An olive with a low yield but which guarantees an oil of excellent quality if crushed at the right time” – he adds – “with an additional genetic advantage: it is able to defend itself from the attack of the oil fly because it would produce unpleasant odors to the insect”. Starting from this they are studying the possibility of extending this capacity to other olives in order to be able to keep this problem under control, which now presents itself every year, affecting the quality of our oil.
Because the ultimate goal of Frantoio D’Orazio since its origins has always been the same: to bring the authentic and genuine taste of the products of the earth to the tables of lovers of good food.
Via dell’Ulivo, 1 – Conversano (BA)
Info: +39 080 4955442