Around the world, there are specialty shops with generational stories: an olive oil salesman grooms his son, who takes over the business, then bestows his knowledge on his son. Yet Olive del Mondo is nothing like that: Salvatore Fuccillo was raised in Massachusetts and Maine, and he and his wife Jennifer studied graphic design. The Fuccillos enjoyed a successful freelance career, but they also love fine foods, and they decided to open a specialty shop on the East Side.
Six years later, Olive del Mondo is a thriving business and a pillar of the Hope Street community. The shop sells a wide range of olive oils and balsamic vinegars, and the tasting room invites visitors to sample those golden pours. The shelves are also stocked with locally made goodies, from Popette of Pendulum lollipops to sealed jars from Fox Point Pickling. We dropped into the shop to talk with Fuccillo about his passion project – and the couple’s plans to sell all-vegan products.
What is your culinary background? How did you get into this?
We don’t really have a culinary background, other than really enjoying food and wanting to find really high-quality food. My parents had been living in Italy for four years, so I got to visit them, and we got to try some different oils over there. We had seen stores similar to this one, when we were out in California, and that’s what kind of gave us the idea.
I love the idea of a tasting bar.
Yeah, it’s really important to be able to come in and try everything. So we have little spoons for tasting, we have little cups and some bread. We have the little bottles underneath, so you can fill up on the spot.
Where does your selection come from?
For the oils, they come from everywhere. We have some from California, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Peru, sometimes we have some from South Africa. We seem to always have one from Chile. It really just depends on the season that they’ve had.
I noticed your signs about recycling spoons, the bags of Sanctuary Herbs. There seems to be a lot of social consciousness here.
And also with the bottles – we had been washing them out ourselves and reusing them. But we were getting so many back, it’s hard to keep up with it, to get the oil out. We’ve always tried to have some kind of policy, where if you bring in the bottle, you refill the same bottle with oil and vinegar, as long as it’s clean and dry. That was something we wanted to do when we first opened, but we couldn’t, just because the Health Department didn’t want people to refill a container that they brought in themselves. But they’ve since changed that, so now people can bring in their own bottle and fill it.
What kind of customers to you get? How much do people usually know?
It all depends. I mean, we have customers who have been coming in since we first opened, and they know quite a bit. And then we have people who are just learning about the olive oil, and we have people who have shopped in stores that are very similar to ours, all over the country. Some people have read an article about where your olive is coming from. 60 Minutes did a piece about where olive oil comes from and the fraud in the industry, and that stirred up more [interest].
What’s next for you?
We’re also starting to make the transition and just have vegan products. It’s something that we’ve been doing gradually at home. We were kind of vegetarian, and then we just kept going, cutting things out. Some of the different products were hard to find, like chickpea flour. Sometimes sugar’s not vegan. The store’s almost vegan anyway; a lot of the other products we have, like mustard and pasta, doesn’t have eggs in it. We’re always looking for organic products. It wasn’t much of a stretch.
Olive del Mondo
815 Hope Street • 383-5733