Your Questions About Olive Oil Answered

Q: What is olive oil?

A: It is the natural juice from the olive that starts to deteriorate slowly from the time it is picked and pressed, as it ages it becomes oxidized and eventually turns “rancid”.

Q: What are the different classifications of oil?

A: Extra-virgin- is the pure juice extracted by mechanical process at low temperatures from the fruit of the olive tree. It comes from the first pressing, under conditions that do not lead to alterations in the decantation, centrifugation and filtration, to the exclusion of oils obtained using solvents, chemical or biochemical action. It must not have any mixture of oils of any kind, thereby maintaining its health and taste attributes. Rich in anti-oxidants, it is not to contain more than .8 acidity, not to exceed 20 in perosidy and when judged by an accredited panel of judges, to have a superior taste being classified as extra-virgin.

Virgin Oil– is extracted as in extra virgin but has an acidity of no more than 3.3%. There can be no refined oils in it and is usually represented as extra virgin on labels. It may be judged to have a good taste, but not having all the attributes of the extra virgin.

Olive Oil- is a blend of refined oil that have been chemically treated to neutralize strong tastes and to hide defects. It contains more than 1 % acidity, often used in canned products and sold as good olive oil, deceiving the public being that acidity is removed and flavoring often added, yet classified in the U.S. as pure olive oil, particularly in restaurants.

Pomace Oil- is oil extracted from the pomace (remains after pressing) using chemical solvents, as well as heat. It is a blend of refined olive oil and although could have some virgin oil in the blend, it can be consumed but may not be called olive oil except in the U.S., and often used in restaurants.


IMG_3799Villa Lucia’s 2013 olive harvest has begun. Our hand pickers have begun this week to pick by hand the certified organic olives that shortly after picking will be pressed into what we consider our liquid gold. Stored immediately after pressing into stainless steel containers, our oil will be ready to be shipped to Luciana’s Ristorante in Dana Pt. California, as well as other locations to meet the requests from our regular and new customers, Supplies are limited but we estimate that we should have as in previous years about 2000 liters of organically certified extra virgin olive oil, meeting the requirements of the International Olive Oil Council.olive_branch

After years of not becoming involved in the classification and verification of meeting the standards of the IOOC, the USAD and the FDA has finally recognized the merits of this food item and the necessity to end one of the largest frauds in the food business. Olive oils finally are being controlled and certified by the FDA, eliminating many of the expensive brands that have infiltrated the market and were nothing but refined oils. fooling the public with products that could be costly but lacked the nutritional value and health benefits. Thanks go to the FDA which Villa Lucia hopes will continue to see that refined oils and blends that do not meet the standards of the IOOC will no longer be permitted to infiltrate the market with false labeling
and deceive the public.
Our oils can be ordered by email,, and will be met asap after pressing. They are sold in gift stainless steel containers of 250 ml for 20 euros(28 dollars) or 3 liter family stainless steel family containers for 150 euros(205 dollars), not including shipping. We ship refills in tins that are good for temporary storage to be used to refill stainless containers. We suggest that our oils be used as a condiment to enhance flavors and not as a frying oil which the refined commercially sold oils can best meet that need. Our production is once a year so best to buy the necessary quantity if able to maintain it in a cool, environment, or Villa Lucia may store in our large stainless steel cellar containers and ship during the year to meet a new request as well as to refill orders.

250ML REFILL 8.00 EUROS(11 dollars)
1L REFILL 30.00 EUROS(40 dollars)
5L REFILL 140.00EUROS(190 dollars)



American Plastic Surgeon in Tuscany

When my two friends came, off-season, to have face and nose surgery, they stayed in our popular chicken coop away from the main house to recuperate. One day as I was working, looking out of my office window in the front of the house, observed a car that had pulled up with 4 passengers. At the moment of their arrival, unknown to me, my friends, bandages and all, were walking in back of the house, knowing there were no customers around. Not aware of the two patients in back, I was curious when seeing out of my office window the 4 walking down our driveway, make a quick u- turn back to their car. Sitting in their car for a few minutes allowed me to go out to see what was going on, As I approached the car, a gentleman walked over to me and asked,” what kind of place is this? Is this a clinic? I thought it was a B&B. Everyone in back is bandaged.” I tried to explain that my husband is a plastic surgeon and I run the B&B. The two women hearing this from the open car window, leaned out and asked in harmony,” is he good?” Years ago in medical residency Jorge did take part in performing sex-change operations. So I answered giving a a little wiggle, arms stretched out with dropped hands, smiling said, “well, what do you think? I use to be Luigi”. With that four strange looking faces, without a comment, glanced at me as the driver hit the pedal and took off. Watching it screech down the driveway, I regretted my humor not appreciated as well as losing the possibility of having 4 reservations.

Orange Coast Magazine: I Love Lucy’s Tuscany

magazine cover

As featured in Orange Coast Magazine June 2004 edition

Recipes include Lemon cello and Villa Lucia’s Torrone

Lemon cello: traditionally served after a meal or before bed time.

*Important note: the lemons must be untreated, meaning they do not have wax or any other substances on them.


10-12 lemons

1 bottle of pure alcohol

1 bottle of water

1 pound of sugar


Peel the lemons, trying not to get too much of the white layer into your peels, then add the other ingredients and cover. Let it rest for five to six days. Occasionally stir; maybe once a day. At the end of five days, test for flavor. If it’s OK, strain and bottle. Additional sugar or lemons may be added to desired taste. I prefer less sugar. In the United States, since you cannot get pure alcohol, some of our attendees have used vodka with good results. Optional: I have added a bunch of basil leaves (40 to 50), which seems to enhance the finished product without changing the taste, and gives it more transparency. Soak together for the five days.

Villa Lucia’s Torrone


2 pounds of almonds, toasted and chopped

9 ounces of honey

1 pound, 2 ounces of sugar

1 egg white


Stir the egg white and honey in a pan that will hold all the ingredients. Be sure to use a low flame so as not to cook the egg. Add the sugar and stir constantly over a medium flame for about five minutes to incorporate the sugar. Add the almonds and stir constantly for about five minutes to coat all the nuts. Wet a work surface, marble, or chopping board, put the sticky, hot torrone on it, roll flat, and then cut into squares. Optional: While the torrone is still hot, you may sprinkle the top with chopped pistachios, colored sugar, or another colorful topping.

Lost in Translation

 Finishing planting the tomatoes, looking at my glovelist stained and dirt filled cuticles; I began to wonder if I was right in leaving city life in California for farming? At dinner that night, Claudia, my French girlfriend, reading my mind suggested with her little French accent to “fa un appuntamento per una man-i-cure” “ make an appointment for a manicure”. Our farm hand from Sicily speaking a dialect from the South as well as having difficulty understanding the Tuscany dialect with a French accent, shook his head in disbelief. I questioned his perplexed look. I soon ascertained his misunderstanding of Claudia’s words when he answered my query by asking, “ I am so confused and don’t understand why do Americans need “appuntamento per mano in culo” meaning to have an appointment to put one’s hand up one’s a—.(culo).

You Need Horses
Shortly after arriving in Italy I invited our agricultural advisor for dinner to be informed as to what I needed to do to fulfill my agriturismo license requirements. After an hour debate over horses which I understood he insisted I must have, I became very upset being that I had no desire to have them. His insistance was leading me to leave the dinner table and possibly even Italy.. I could not tolerate at this time, more work and to have to deal with the taking care of cavalli, horses, was out of the question. He explained I would not have to ride since, a farm hand would have to do the work of transporting our olives to the mill, cut wood, and clean the fields. With a look of discuss he turned to me to explain that there was no way I could put these things in a car. With a deficiency in italian farm vocabulary, I continued to insist as well as he did until we both laughed when realizing he was referring to horsepower for my tractor and not horses.

Right Accents Important
In italian, one must be sure to put the right accent on the right syllable. I was excited to share with my dinner guests my excitement that I had just heard that Montecatini was most likely to be selected to be the town to get a casino, what a thought was a gambling location, I explained to my Italian dinner guests my excitement. “Why “? they all questioned me. My answer was to enjoy myself as well it would be very profitable for all of us. Questioning looks but no comments were made, until I added that I did not gamble but loved going to Las Vegas for fun. Giuseppe then responded that he knew that prostitution may be legal there but would not be legal in Italy. Answering to my question as to what did prostitution have to do with it, his answer was they prefer not to have a bordello in town. The confusion was eventually settled being that I had not known that the accent could have such a different meaning to a word spelled the same. I wanted a gambling house, casino, and they understood that I wanted a whore house, casino. All because I failed to put the accent on the last syllable.

Happy 100th Birthday, Mom!

I would like to dedicate this artisan blog to my mom, who at age 100 can still make pasta by hand, as she did at age 7, standing on a stool to help her mother with this daily chore of making pasta for her family. This too will soon become a lost art. Many may learn to make pasta but few would ever be able to achieve the paper thin sheet of a meter in diameter circle of fresh pasta made in a matter of minutes. The skill of those elders who made pasta, often the basic staple for nourishment, will soon die with them. This is the reason I wish to document my mother as I wish to do with many other artisans that one can experience today, yet soon will be artisans of yesterday.
mom on a crate
This is a picture of mother making pasta in our What’s Cooking Bistro where she made homemade pasta for 27 years, serving Orange County, California. We were the first restaurant known in the USA with 12 kinds of freshly made pasta, loved by all.

Picture of mom in our Tuscany kitchen was when she visited me in 2007, teaching pasta making at age 94. Her technique the same. The finished product, smooth and elastic as it should be. Singing as she worked the dough, as I remembered in my youth. Still skillful with the knife as she cuts the rolled pasta sheets to make fettuccini, even if at a slightly slower pace, being the only difference I could note in her 93 years of pasta making.

drop box 21

Watching her through the years always amazed me how she could click that circle of thin dough back and forth on her yard long wooden rolling pin. I practiced it in my youth, but in my teens turned to the newly popular pasta machine. Mother always said as good as it may be, pasta by hand makes a superior product. I disagreed with her, that is, until the queen of Italian cuisine, Marcella Hazen confirmed mother’s statement when meeting her at a convention. She explained that the warmth of the hand creates a dough superior to any machine. I never did tell my mother what I was told.

Taccini Brothers


The Taccini family of Vinci, well known in Tuscany, has been making ceramics for the last 500 years . They have major works of art that have left their bottega outside of Vinci, for countries around the globe. I met the 4 Taccini brothers and their father soon after arriving to Tuscany in 1985. Our friendship through the years has brought them a number of times to our home in California including a trip to assemble a large ceramic wall panel of medieval musicians, called, il concerto. This colorful masterpiece, 120 inches in length and 40 inches in height is made of five, 24 x 40 inch panels. Alessandro, the brother who makes most of the objects out of clay, brought the individual panels with him from Italy. He assembled the pieces into one major panel that was placed on the wall of one of our restaurants, their only major work of these dimensions in the USA.


Our family has been particularly involved with Alessandro, the brother whose forte since the age of 10 has been involved with the making of ceramic objects from the Tuscany clay. His brothers usually take over with the painting and firing up the kiln for these works. When arriving with our guests to the Taccini bottega, Alessandro’s hospitality and generous giving of time, is overwhelming. He demonstrates with his deft hands the making of various shaped objects as well as allowing many of our guests to try their skills at making a piece of art. He is always available to give advise and suggestions to the novice artist in our groups. Many have purchased Taccini art from paintings, sculptures, wall hangings as well as a complete set of dishes. I love visiting the bottega not only for the art presented but also for the friendship of the family exuberant with passion for their work. It is sad when questioning if his sons or nephews would continue as ceramic artisans, he answered “no”, explaining that one can teach technique but not the passion that has directed him in life since the age of 10. This will soon become another lost art of yesterday.




As Papa Antonio’s car screeched out of our driveway, I wished I could have left with him, Turning to Jorge, his face, red with anger, looked at me and asked “ what are you going to do?” I reminded him that he agreed to half a cow as well, and besides, he is the doctor.” It is just another kind of meat.” I said. Angry as all hell, Jorge went into our library and walked out with a book in hand, soon positioned upright on the kitchen counter, he proceeded to butcher the cow. I, needless to say, returned to my computer, hating any sign of blood, and certainly having no desire to assist in this new endeavor. Although it took him about 15 hours, our kitchen a bloody mess, he did an amazing job, cutting special cuts as the book suggested and putting them all in piles for me to organize into baggies. That I could do. As I piled them into our freezer, Jorge reminded me that our neighbor told him that we must rotate the meat daily since there was too much meat for our freezer having to work overtime to freeze properly. Then Jorge added, “One more cow in this house and I am out of here, you understand.?” Looking upwards to the ceiling, arms stretched high, he repeated the usual question , “ God why me?

Later that day when Papa’s wife called I heard Jorge communicate to her that yes, we do love the tongue and certainly they could have the brains. I understood the message, the head was going to arrive soon. But later that day we were asked to go to Papa Antonio’s house. Happily we went to pick up the parts we desired.. When we arrived I became aware of all the neighbors surrounding a big animal head on a butcher block in the center of their big farm yard. Our smiles vanished upon seeing Papa Antonio’s wife come towards us to greet us with an apron for Jorge and a big farm saw. I knew he was in trouble. As all the neighbors greeted us with big happy smiles followed by cheers of Bravo Bravo Dottore, I was hoping Jorge would stay calm, for I understood the next step. Although fluent in Italian he looked over to me and in perfect English asked, “What the hell do they want me to do?” My answer,” I quess, you are to perform a craniotomy on a cow?” With a forced smile on my face, I begged him in english to hide his anger and try to smile as I was doing and then I added, “You wanted the tongue.” Guess that was the only way we were going to get it. As Jorge sawed away at the skull, working hard with the unsuitable farm saw, the neighbors all shouted together, “Bravo. Bravo Dottore” as Jorge looked up heavenly asking, “ God Why Me?”