Updated: Feb 11, 2022
You don’t have to be Italian to appreciate the flavors, beauty, and culture of Italy, and no passport is needed for a trip to Mazzone Olive Oil in Sarasota. From the moment you walk through the door, seeing the wide selection of pasta, wine, and, of course, olive oil will make you feel like you’ve been transported to a small village market in Italia.
Palm Avenue Wealth Advisory Group of Raymond James in Sarasota recently sponsored a “A Night in Italy” at Mazzone where owners Cinzia Testini and her husband Mike Forbes treated the group to an evening of delicious food, boutique wine, Italian song, and a little history about Cinzia’s family roots in Ruvo di Puglia, which is located in the city of Bari in southern Italy.
The oil at Mazzone comes from the family estate in Puglia, where the hand-harvested olives are stone milled and first cold pressed immediately after harvesting. From the high-quality extra virgin olive oil — which garnered a gold award in the New York International Olive Oil Competition each of the two consecutive years it was entered — to the variety of flavored 100% organic oils, tasting is always encouraged, and they are happy to offer serving suggestions. Flavored oils are available in garlic, oregano, rosemary, orange, basil, pepper, and my favorite, lemon, which I drizzle on salads, fish, and even pasta.
Grapes for the wine are also harvested in Puglia, and everyone was invited to try a red, white and rosé that Cinzia and Mike selected from the store’s large wall of wines.
“A Night in Italy” was Palm Avenue Wealth Group’s first event since the pandemic, and everyone was ready to be immersed in the experience, which began the moment we were greeted with a glass of prosecco and led to a table of appetizers including prosciutto-wrapped cantaloupe, dates stuffed with goat cheese, truffle polenta, Cerignola olives, and a traditional Italian frittata.
Palm Avenue Wealth’s T.J. Goelz, co-founder and senior vice president, Investments, and Joe Malave, vice president, Investments, have held this client appreciate event in the past and were glad to be able to offer it once again. “Everyone always has such a great time,” Malave said.
A slow stroll around the store allowed us to admire the many varieties of dried pasta, balsamic vinegars, oils and other cooking products, as well as beautiful ceramics, linens, wood charcuterie boards and other specialty items for the kitchen.
Cinzia and general manager Amy Shelton then demonstrated how to make focaccia — an olive oil rich Italian bread — before inviting us to make our own that we would take home at the end of the evening. “Be the boss of the dough!” Cinzia exclaimed as everyone dug their hands into the sticky mixture.
Keeping with Italian tradition, Cinzia and Mike invited the more than 20 guests to claim a seat at the long family table to enjoy a meal that was as beautiful as it was delicious — olive leaf shaped pasta (foglie d’oliva) with a traditional Pugliese meat sauce, salad with a light oil dressing, and beef braciola. Dessert was a delectable brownie and vanilla bean ice cream drizzled with orange olive oil followed by our choice of limoncello or caffé sport, which Amy describes as a sweet drink where espresso and cocoa meet sugar and pure grain alcohol.
Everyone at the table joined in singing “That’s Amore” (fortunately the words were provided Karaoke style on a big screen), and Mike and Cinzia serenaded the group with a few songs in Italian as Mike played the guitar. Bravo!
It’s easy to see why the tours of Italy that Mazzone sponsors are booked for 2022. They offer trips to Puglia, where guests enjoy being immersed in the family estate, and to Piemonte where winery tours, truffle hunts, and a view of the Italian Alps are on the agenda. They are planning on adding Sicily to their tour offerings.
Those who can’t make it to Mazzone located on Tamiami Trial in South Sarasota, can pick up olive oil, olives or some fresh burrata at the downtown Farmer’s Market held 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays year-round.
The individual focaccia we made earlier in the evening was ready, fresh out of the oven, which meant it was time to say “ciao.” But now that we feel like family, we’re sure to be back!