Home Dining Olio Toscano in Cucina: Workshop and Dinner at Farinolio

Olio Toscano in Cucina: Workshop and Dinner at Farinolio

by Peter Candia
Farinolio Dinner hosted by Chef Laura Orlando

La Dieta Mediterranea— that is the diet of the Mediterranean, is both healthy and delicious. The common denominator within this diet is none other than extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). EVOO is versatile, but at its core “it is an ingredient” as Chef Laura Orlando of Farinolio in Westfield, NJ puts it. To showcase this, Orlando held an exclusive dinner revolving around the theme of EVOO. Deemed “Olio Toscano in Cucina: Workshop and Dinner,” it was a meal centered around the greatness of Italian olive oils and it offered a glimpse at a new page for Orlando: Farinolio dinners.

Farinolio simply means “flour and oil” in Italian and the name could not be more literal. The bakery and cafe has been bringing the simplicity of Italian pastries and sandwiches to the heart of Westfield since opening in 2018. Being open for just breakfast and lunch offers Orlando a unique opportunity to utilize the space for an entirely different concept in the evening, a vehicle to convey her message: “The simple taste of Italy.” 

Orlando has been doing small, ticketed-events that explore a broad range of menus and styles since early last spring and I finally got the opportunity to attend one myself this past week. Farinolio has been on my radar since it received a glowing recommendation from my friends at Fiorentini. They gushed that it is the only spot in New Jersey that offers the quality of the bakeries that they would frequent back home in Florence. 

So, on September 23, with an open mind and stomach, I attended my first event at Farinolio. Undoubtedly, I will be back for more. 

 

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Intro – Dinner at Farinolio 

The evening started with an introduction by Chef Orlando, who highlighted the two olive oils we would become familiar with throughout the evening, complete with a packet explaining the intricacies of tasting high quality oils. The oil’s color (known as “Il Colore”) and aroma (known as “Gil Aromi”) were the two things we were told to look for.

Olio Cassiano IGP 

This particular EVOO is produced in the hills of Tuscany. The olives are harvested in October when they are still slightly under-ripe. The oil is comprised of 40 percent frantoio, 30 percent moraiolo and 30 percent leccino olives.  These varietals lend an intensely golden hue to the oil that is peppery, with notes of grass and fruit on the nose. This oil shines when paired with vegetables and cooked meat. 

Olio Cassiano DOP

This oil is produced in a concentrated location and was therefore even more special. Hailing from San Casciano— a small commune nestled within the Chianti Classico region of Florence, this oil shares many of the same appraises as the wine that comes from the same region. The olives are harvested nearing the end of October into early November and the ripe fruit combined with an entirely by-hand harvest creates an oil that is complex in both color and flavor. 

When poured onto a plate, the oil presents a vibrance that is alluring to the eye. Aromas of marjoram and artichokes complement the full-bodied taste that hints at notes of pine nuts and is completed by a tinge of spice on the back of the palate— something Orlando explained is the sign of a great EVOO. 

These two olive oils became the stars  for the rest of the meal. 

Course 1 – Schiacciata Martelli

Tomato and mozzarella sandwihc, DOP oil on left and IGP oil on right

Olio Cassiano DOP on Left, Olio Cassiano IGP on right | Photo taken by @pete.candia

This course was just a simple sandwich containing fresh made mozzarella cheese and tomatoes. Along with the sandwich, guests were offered extra schiacciata bread— Farinolio’s specialty.  It was such a simplistic, yet effective approach to tasting the two oils. This was the only course of the night where we would be able to taste both EVOOs side by side, and there was not a better outlet to do so than through the simplistic deliciousness of handmade bread, cheese and tomato. 

If you taste one olive oil today and one tomorrow, it might be difficult to differentiate the unique characteristics between the two. However, Orlando allowed us to differentiate them more easily by giving us a blank canvas to taste both oils. Each oil was complete with flavors and aromas that made it its own luxury. 

Course 2 – Fettunta

Fettunta topped with eggplant, red onion and sun dried tomato

Fettunta | Photo taken by @pete.candia

Farinolio is a bakery after all, and a damn good one at that, so it should not be any surprise that more bread was in the cards. Fettunta is an Italian word for fetta, or sliced bread, that is toasted in olive oil on a grill. It can accompany a soup or stew, or in this case, be topped with roasted vegetables creating a bruschetta-like dish loaded with flavor.

Orlando topped it with sliced, toasted ciabatta,red onion that was caramelized in honey and Olio Cassiano IGP, roasted eggplant and sun-dried tomato. This casual appetizer acted as a finger food and the pepper notes of the olive oil created a backbone for the candor of simply roasted vegetables to live off of. 

This was quite literally divine. The sweet red onions and roasted eggplant were contrasted by a punch of acidity from the sun-dried tomato— which are intensely concentrated in flavor and umami. The meal was done family style, so there were extra pieces of vegetable-topped fettunta left that I tried to hold myself back from eating so as to not get full early. My willpower failed me as I was unable to resist reaching for another. 

Course 3 – Risotto

A bowl of citrus and hazelnut risotto

Citrus Hazelnut Risotto | Photo taken by @pete.candia

What Orlando prepared next was a carnaroli risotto with citrus, hazelnuts and Olio Cassiano DOP. She explained that the risotto was cooked in the traditional method, but instead of vegetable or meat stock, Orlando instead opted to cook the rice in a mixture of water, fresh orange juice and the zest from both lemons and oranges. 

This created an incredibly fragrant risotto that was the perfect companion to the convoluted and ostentatious olive oil. Orlando further explained that this dish was a nod to the great Massimo Bottura of Osteria Francescana— a former best restaurant in the world— who prepared a similarly citrus themed risotto for Orlando in the past. “I would never try to copy him, but this is inspired by [him],” she stated. Toasted hazelnuts offered earthiness and the entire dish, which may sound almost sweet in description, was incredibly balanced and well-played. 

The rice is initially toasted in olive oil, but the finished product is garnished with even more— a method known in Italian as “mantecato.” 

Upon completing the course, Orlando explained her entire process from beginning to end and answered any questions guests may have. It is clear that along with bringing great food to Union County, Orlando wants to inspire guests to cook at home. At Farinolio, there are no secrets. 

Course 4 – Fagioli All’Uccelletto e Salsiccia

Beans and roasted sausage at the Farinolio dinner

Fagioli e Salsiccia | Photo taken by @pete.candia

It doesn’t get more comforting than sausage with beans, but this was a far cry from the American “franks and beans.” Orlando stewed cannellini beans in a tomato sauce flavored with garlic and sage and topped it off with a link of juicy, roasted sausage. The entire dish was finished with Olio Cassiano IGP. 

This was fabulously hearty and the perfect solution to the creeping autumn weather that was just outside the door. Like the dishes that came before it, this exemplified the simplistic approach that Farinolio is trying to convey. Nothing about this dish was overtly complex, but when done right, it can taste as if it is. Instead, it was simply well cooked beans and sausage— other than a great EVOO to finish, you don’t need much more than that. 

Course 5 – Frutta Arrosto

Roasted fruit, ricotta cream and crumbled pistacchio cookie fills a cup

Frutta Arrosto | Photo taken by @pete.candia

For dessert, Orlando paired roasted, seasonal fruit with ricotta crema, pistachio biscotti crumble and the velvety Olio Cassiano DOP to finish. 

The bowl was packed with roasted gala apples and red pears as well as fresh (and raw) blueberries for contrast. Sweet, sour, creamy and crunchy, this was one of those desserts that hit every flavor note and textural experience that I was seeking. It was a clear example of how olive oil is not just for savory food— it is equally as tremendous and useful when applied to desserts.  

Overview –  Dinner at Farinolio 

This will not be my last dinner at Farinolio. I have been entirely wooed by the prowess of Chef Laura Orlando and the entire concept at this quaint bakery/cafe. If you have never been to Farinolio, I recommend stopping by for breakfast or lunch to grab one of their famous pastries or sandwiches. However, you should absolutely not overlook the long list of events that they have to come. Whether it is booking an exclusive dinner or stopping in for an espresso and a bombolone, walking through the doors of Farinolio is guaranteed to leave you happily satisfied. 

If you are interested in attending an event, look no further:

Agriturismo: Farmhouse Style Cooking Class and Dinner

Friday, September 30, 2022

5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.

Friday, October 7, 2022

6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Friday, November 18, 2022

6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

Dinner Party: Lasagna Night

Friday, October 14, 2022

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

Dinner Party: Risotto Night 

Saturday, October 29, 2022

6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.

 

View the full list of events here.

 

Have you attended a dinner event at Farinolio? Let us know in the comments!

 

 

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