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Papa’s Secret

Papa Vince brings organic, Sicilian foods to my table.

By Jan Walsh 

Photography by Beau Gustafson


Papa Vince learned the art of making Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO) when he worked as an apprentice for the Knight of De Stefani at the Medieval Castello of Rampinzeri, Santa Ninfa, Italy. Under the knight's guidance, Papa learned that the secret of a great EVOO is in the moody, but extremely generous olive trees. If cared for properly through their lifetime, they would consistently deliver the sweetest harvest, which yields extraordinary EVOO. As he traveled around the Valley of Belice, in search of the best olives to press for his master, he learned that not every soil nor every olive variety produces the same quality oil. He also realized that each olive variety has a different taste and shelf life, and that the way an olive grove is cared for and pruned makes a big difference in the final quality of the EVOO. Yet he also realized that only the wealthiest people were privileged enough to have access to the finest EVOO. At that time it took 48 hours, three men, and a mule to produce about one quart of EVOO. And the freshest olives were pressed within 24 hours of harvesting, which belonged to the master. 

Fast forward to 2008, when finally a mechanical olive press that would please Papa Vince was invented. And Papa Vince’s family came together and mortgaged their property for a $1,000,000 loan to purchase the two-phase waterless press. Papa Vince was and still is ahead of its time because more than 95 percent of Italian olive pressers today use the old technology of mixing water and olives, which depletes the antioxidants and nutrients in the EVOO. 

I never knew Papa Vince. But I do know his relative, Vitina Feo. I was introduced to Papa Vince and Feo by my son Jordan Copeland. He met her while shopping at Apple Market in Pensacola, Florida. She was pouring her olive oils and asked him, “Would you like a taste?” Too hurried to do so, he declined. Then as he walked past her, she added, “Are you sure? My family makes them in Sicily.” He stopped, met Vitina Feo, tasted the oils, and was amazed. And after learning this was the first market to carry the oils in the U.S., he immediately called asking me to taste the oil, saying she was sending a bottle to me. Soon afterwards, the EVOO arrived along with an email and note of gratitude. I introduced her to Andy Virciglio at Piggly Wiggly, opening the Birmingham market to her EVOO. She has grown her market across the nation since that time, including on Amazon, and is even endorsed by Food Babe. 

It is the way the olives are grown and how the olive oil is made that make Papa Vince EVOO so special. No insecticides, herbicides, nor pesticides are used on their orchard in Santa Ninfa, Sicily, Italy. The EVOO is made of only one variety, mono-cultivar, of sweet Nocellara Del Belice olives. And Papa Vince presses only fresh, green olives, with a yield of only 13 to 18 percent oil, which is an expensive endeavor. But as a result, it has the highest in concentration of anti-oxidants and essential oils and is the lowest in free fat acidity. 

Each year, Papa Vince’s EVOO are harvested from November to January. So much like wine, each vintage varies in its flavor profile because Papa Vince refuses to standardized the flavor. Thus some vintages sell out before the next vintage is produced. So I keep plenty in the pantry. The oils are also pressed into the bottle from the olive, unfiltered and unrefined. The bottles contain 100 percent, organic EVOO. It has a high smoke point of 375 degrees and a four-year shelf life unopened and a one year shelf life once opened. 

In 2016 Papa Vince partnered with local artisans in Sicily to bring Sicilian pastas, tomato sauces, vinegar, and sea salt to the U.S. market. I especially love the Busiate Homemade Pastas. I toss them in boiling water and in minutes have noodles for my homemade chicken noodle soup or a plate of pasta to which I add their tomato sauce. The sauce is bursting with fresh tomato flavor. I add my own spices, olives, and capers to the sauce including Papa Vince Sea Salt. The salt is harvested in Trapani, is solar-evaporated, all-natural, unrefined, and additive free. The pasta is made with Non-GMO, ancient semolina. A whole grain option is also available. This non-enriched Busiate Homemade Pasta is made of an ancient Tumminia Wheat. It is high in fiber and good choice for diabetics and people with intestinal disorders. And on my salads I enjoy EVOO and Moscato Balsamic Vinegar, which was aged eight years in wooden barrels. 
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