The days are long gone of only being able to purchase classic kitchen staples at your local grocery store, thanks to specialty shops like Longmont’s own Picasso’s Olive Oil Company. Opening in April of this year, owner Sonja Giglotti brings an eclectic and worldwide selection of olive oils, balsamic vinegars, sea salts, healthy teas, and a variety of other similar products to the local community through her 2055 Ken Pratt Blvd Suite B storefront. No stranger to the industry, Giglotti relocated to Longmont from her home in seasonal Pinetop, Arizona once she discovered the northern Colorado town was lacking a store of this kind. In the market for an area that would bring in business year-round, Giglotti has been in the olive oil business for nearly four years and continues to to attend seminars and take classes to further her knowledge on the subject.
Asked how she got into such a specialized industry, Giglotti recalls, “I came upon an (olive oil) store in Santa Fe and was amazed and began to do research and was very excited to learn how healthy oil and balsamic vinegar are and how well these stores are doing across the U.S.” She also notes that these types of stores originated in European countries many years ago, so it’s no wonder why small business owners throughout the U.S. are catching on. As for her inventory, Giglotti stocks only the best products from around the world and goes through an Oakland, California distributor whose family has been in business since the early 1900s. Pointing to the integrity of the product available through said distributor, she notes that “the olive oils in my store are all fresh, first pressed, cold pressed pure extra-virgin.” Picasso’s offers an eclectic selection of “both fused and infused olive oils as well as olive oils that come from different kinds of olives from around the world, with a taste indigenous to the type of olive.” Offering oils that appeal to all different taste buds, Giglotti points out that the intensity of the olives range from mild to bold, and many in her selection are international gold medal winners.
Picasso’s dark balsamic vinegars are another popular item that Giglotti has thoughtfully selected. Hailing from the Reggiano Modena region of Italy and aged for more than 18 years in a wood cask, these vinegars have a smooth taste comparable to fine wine. Another product you probably won’t see at King Soopers are her 12-year old white balsamic vinegars. This product also has many great health benefits, as there are no added sugars or sulphites.
Going through a company that has been in the olive oil business for more than a century surely has its benefits, as Giglotti’s store offers a bold selection of gourmet oils (like the heavenly truffle oil), dark balsamic vinegars, wine vinegars, and over 60 extra-virgin olive oils from around the world. Something else that sets Picasso’s products apart from your standard grocery store selection is the fact that Giglotti chooses her oils and vinegars based upon testing results performed by the University of California – Davis’ Olive Oil Center. One of the largest testing labs in the nation, the Center has high standards for testing the sensory quality of olive oil and only certifies those that are the cream of the crop, so to speak. For that reason, Giglotti confidently states “the olive oil and vinegars carried in my store are the finest quality you will find in the U.S.”
Perhaps one reason for the increasing demand for shops that focus on olive oils, vinegars, and other similar products like Picasso’s is the recent attention from the medical community and advocates for incorporating natural health practices via products we are used to using for one purpose, and one purpose only. The health benefits of olive oil have become more and more publicized, one of the main reasons Giglotti became passionate about the business. Most of us are familiar with the various gourmet cooking uses of olive oil and balsamic vinegar, but there has been a great deal of support from the medical community for these products as well. According to health-guru and TV personality Dr. Oz, using balsamic vinegar on pasta reduces the sugar intake into our system by 20%. Additionally, olive oil has been praised for its positive affect on individuals with diabetes, cancer, and heart problems. Olive oil is also said to promote a healthy nervous system, reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol, lessen the risk of breast cancer, aid in good digestion, moisturize the skin and strengthen fingernails.
Giglotti’s Longmont storefront offers more than just a wide selection of the finest and top-quality oils and vinegars from around the world. She also carries pestos, Italian sea salts, a selection of dipping spices, gourmet mustards, locally made salsas, chutneys, soaps, health-conscious chocolates, and relishes. A personal hobby of the shop owner is raising Alpacas, in which she carries handmade, ready-to-wear items made directly from their beautiful fiber.
For the olive oil enthusiast, or those just interested in seeing what the hype is all about, Giglotti will be putting on several events and classes in the near future that will offer people tastings and an inside look at the industry. For more information check her website or send an email to Picassosoliveoil@gmail.com.
Although only a Longmont presence for four months, Giglotti is succeeding in bringing the community into the world of gourmet olive oils and vinegars through her diverse, universal selection and personal interest in the products.
– Story by Allie Wall – photos by Paul Litman