Olive Oil: A (Fairfield County) Family Affair

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Frank and Pat Chiappetta offer a taste of Chiappetta Olive Oil at Palmer's Market in Darien.
Frank and Pat Chiappetta offer a taste of Chiappetta Olive Oil at Palmer's Market in Darien. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Chiappetta Olive Oil

Pat and Frank Chiappetta take their olive oil very seriously. And they should; it has their family name right on the bottle. The Connecticut-raised brothers have turned a European family legacy into an American dream story of sorts, and found a way to bottle it. But it all happened rather by accident.

“A couple of years ago, my dad wanted to head back to Italy for his 80th birthday—to Calabria, where our family is from,” Pat explains. “My brother and I thought, ‘well heck, of course we’d like to go.’ We speak the language, and going back to the family’s farm together with our father would feel pretty special.”

So the brothers, now both fathers in their own right, took the trip with the senior Chiappetta to the farm on the outskirts of San Vincenzo La Costa, land that has been in the family for 

“It’s a beautiful place,” he says, flipping through sunny, summery images of rolling olive groves and dusty farm roads. “And on the last day of the trip, we were walking around the grounds and this huge truck pulls up. I asked my cousin (who heads the farm) what was in the truck.”

As it turned out, the truck contained gallons and gallons of olive oil. The Chiappetta farm, it seemed, was nearly swimming in it.

“My brother and I kind of looked at each other and said, ‘This might just be our Plan B,’” laughs Pat. And just like that, Pat and Frank founded their eponymous olive oil label, Chiappetta Olive Oil.

“It was a lot of work, actually,” explains Pat. “And we had to get up to speed on all kinds of things, including international imports.” And, he admits, the finer points of olive oil.

But the fraternal team was a quick study. “Olive oil is a lot like wine,” says Pat. And like good vintners, the Chiappettas take great care in the production process. “We use only carolea olives, and a cold water press process. It's all organically grown.” The extra virgin olive oil the Chiappettas produce is only pressed twice a year, which means every batch is practically a limited edition.

In fact the brothers had their olive oil analyzed by the Agbiolab, a California-based company specializing in olive oil analysis. The lab found Chiappetta Olive Oil "compares very well with the premium oils from California." Good news for the Chiappettas.

Lately, local and regional foodies are catching on to the Chiappetta Olive Oil craze. You can find bottles in specialty food store throughout Connecticut and New York. (Click here for a full list of retailers.) And on weekends, you can find the brothers hosting tastings at area markets.

“It’s really a fine finishing oil,” says Pat. “Which means you don’t want to cook with it, you want to finish with it,” he laughs. “You put it in your salads or drizzle it over your fish after you’ve cooked it. In fact, if you want a real treat,” he smiles, “just go home and toss this into your plain pasta. You’ll taste exactly what I’m talking about.”

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