by Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine
As a chef, I always look for the best quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar to cook with that I can find. We have all read the stories going around on Facebook that the grocery store varieties of olive oils are cut with cheaper oils so the manufacturers can make huge profits from them. At Carmine & Lucia’s you won’t find anything but the purest ultra premium olive oils and balsamic vinegar. In fact, they are certified by the most credentialed olive oil lab and voted #1 by the American Oil Chemists’ Society (AOCS), as the most prestigious oil society in the world for accuracy and proficiency. With over 50 varieties of olive oils and vinegar to choose from, let’s dive right in and see what this place has to offer!
I happened to drive past on 14th Ave and noticed this new place a few months ago, so I definitely had to stop by and check it out. As I entered the cozy little shop I was met with a warm welcome from owner Dana DelPriore and invited to look around and to taste as many samples as I would like. The company from which she purchases her olive oils from will only work with a mill that processes the olives within 3 hours of picking, and are only crushed every 6 months from opposite hemispheres. She receives the oils when they are just 3 months old, and you would be hard pressed to find anything fresher than that. All of her vinegars are imported from Modena, Italy which is known to be the birthplace of balsamics. The vinegars have been aged for many years in barrels made from oak, chestnut, cherry, and ash to make sure they have optimal density and robust flavors. In order to keep the oils and vinegar fresh between her deliveries, Dana uses containers called “fusti’s”. They are the shiny silver cans that you see lining the walls when you walk into her shop.
For special events on 14th Ave or private tasting parties in her store, Dana usually makes some appetizers with her products to give you examples of what you can use them for. Let’s dive right in and see what she made for me to try.
Up first for me to taste was this wonderful Caprese Salad with sliced tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and hand torn basil. Dana chose the Tuscan Herb olive oil and the limited edition 25 year aged Dennissimo balsamic vinegar as the dressing. The flavor combination was bold, yet somewhat sweet from the balsamic. It had an impressive depth of flavor with notes of cherry, dried fruits, figs, and subtle hints of chocolate. This is a very popular balsamic and is selling out fast, so make sure you stop by and pick some up before she runs out.
Next Dana prepared a Truffle Oil rigatoni pasta with parmesan cheese for me to taste. I’ve had the grocery store variety of truffle oils before, but none of them had as bold of a truffle flavor as this one did. Truffle can be an acquired taste for some, but I really like it. This was really good!
Dana had to take a leave of absence from her job as a cardiac nurse in NY to come and take care of her dying father in Vero Beach. A few days before his passing she said she had an epiphany that Vero was where she was supposed to be. Her aunt and uncle who have already been running a very successful olive oil and balsamic store in Pennsylvania suggested that she open her own store in Vero, and thus Carmine and Lucia’s was born. So where did the name and the image on her bottles come from? Dana drew inspiration from her grandparents for the name of the store and the image on the bottle. Pictured above on the bottle are her grandparents on their wedding day.
The popularity for ultra pure high-quality gourmet olive oils has been growing exponentially over the past few years and Dana is definitely filling that need in Vero Beach. Everything that I tasted was beyond fresh and extremely flavorful. With the variety that she provides, the possibilities for different flavor combinations is almost endless. If you have only ever used the grocery store varieties, then you need to stop in and try some of these premium products and see what a difference quality over quantity makes.
Dana’s shop has been open for a little over a year at the time of this writing and she is hosting an open house on Saturday, September 24th 2016 from 12:00pm till 3:00pm. There will be food, drinks, music, raffles for products, and discounts on shopping all day! This is one event you don’t want to miss!