From Farm to Enzo’s Table: Ricchiuti family’s award-winning olive oil takes off

Pat and Vincent Ricchiuti. (Photo contributed)

California—when outsiders think of the golden state, they often imagine its expansive coastline, the beauty of Yosemite and the Sierra Nevada mountain range, and the iconic golden gate bridge. The Valley is often overlooked with few envisioning its bountiful orchards and vineyards.

The Ricchiuti family wants to change that. When those across the nation think of California, the Rucchiuti’s want them to imagine the taste of its almonds, stone fruit and olive oil—specifically Enzo Olive Oil.

The first batch of Enzo Olive Oil—a product of Ricchiuti Family Farms and P-R Farms—hit the shelves of the family’s Willow and Sheppard Bella Frutta store in 2011. Just four short years later, the reach of Enzo Olive Oil brand has expanded so greatly, with the brand’s six flavors gaining popularity well beyond the corners of the Central Valley, that little Bella Frutta store changed it’s name to Enzo’s Table last year to ensure both passersby and those receiving the store gift catalog’s across the country knew the link.

The six varieties of Enzo Olive Oil—Delicate, Medium, Bold, Meyer Lemon, Garlic and Basil. (Valerie Shelton)

“We’ve received lots of awards through our olive oil brand and people outside of the area couldn’t make the connection that Enzo Olive Oil was Bella Frutta so we decided to rebrand the store as Enzo’s Table,” P-R Farms Director of Operation Vincent Ricchiuti said. “Since then sales have taken off even more now that people are making that connection and it’s been a lot of fun.”

All six Enzo Olive Oil varieties offer a unique flavor profile. Need to add some richness to an Italian-style dish? Enzo’s infused garlic olive oil or basil olive oil can do the trick. Looking to keep your chicken juicy on the grill without smothering it in butter? Try the infused Meyer Lemon olive oil as part of a lemon chicken recipe. Just want a light olive oil to drizzle over your salad? Enzo’s delicate olive oil adds just a hint of flavor. Craving a stronger olive oil? Enzo’s got an oil for that too! It’s called Bold. Then, of course, there is the good ‘ol standby, Enzo Medium Olive Oil.

Locally, Enzo’s medium, bold and garlic flavors have received the most attention, taking home silver and gold awards from the inaugural San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil competition, held at the Fresno Fairgrounds in May.

Despite being a young brand, Enzo Olive Oil has already won 65 awards domestically and internationally, Ricchiuti said. The olive oil has won competitions in New York, Japan and Italy, as well as up and down the state of California.

“We really are producing a high-quality olive oil that is 100 percent estate grown,” Ricchiuti said. “Every olive that goes in every bottle is from our family’s ranch. It’s also 100 percent organic.”

Although the prestige of winning awards across the globe is great, winning the local competition was tremendously meaningful to the Ricchiuti family.

“We just competed in the first annual San Joaquin Valley Olive Oil competition and we took home a few medals, a gold and a couple of silvers and it was really exciting to see that competition happening here,” Ricchiuti said. “We’ve been competing in competitions in Napa and Los Angeles and throughout the state but there wasn’t one here in the Valley. When the Big Fresno Fair came out saying they were going to do this we were very excited and wanted to make sure we were a part of it. When we won it was even more special because we were able to win in our own backyard and we were the only local olive oil company that took home medals so that was also very special.”

The Ricchiuti family has long-established roots in the Clovis area.

It all began when Vincent’s great-grandfather Vincenzo “Enzo” Ricchiuti moved to the United States from Italy. He stayed in New York for a short time before venturing west to California’s Central Valley, where he started the family farm. At the time, the farm consisted mostly of road crops, namely cotton and tomatoes. Vincenzo would lease and rent land for these crops. It wasn’t until his son, Vincent’s grandfather Pat Ricchiuti, returned from the service post-WWII that the family business, named P-R Farms after Pat, really took off.

With Pat behind the helm, the small family farm grew into a major farming operation with permanent crops like almond trees. Today, the Ricchuti’s own roughly 5,000 acres of crops throughout the Valley. Ninety percent of that acreage contains almond orchards.

Pat passed away in 2008 and since then, Vincent and his father Patrick, the president of P-R Farms, have continued to expand on Pat’s vision, acquiring more land, planting olives and creating the Enzo Olive Oil brand.

Vincent was also the pioneer of the Saturday and Sunday tradition of having food trucks out near the Enzo’s Table store. This move has proven successful, both as a gathering place for nearby Clovis and north Fresno residents and as a way to create a buzz about the store in the community.

“I love eating off food trucks in general,” Vincent said. “I travel a lot and one of my favorite places to go is Venice Beach where there is a great food truck scene and then San Francisco’s Off the Grid event and the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. They have all these events and the core of them is food and eating off food trucks and mobile food and I saw it as an opportunity because we did not have an event like this in Fresno or Clovis at the time. I reached out over Twitter to a couple of the trucks. TAKO BBQ was the first one to come on a Saturday and they’ve been here very Saturday since.”

Since then, more food trucks have made Enzo’s Table a regular stop, including Benaddiction, Dusty Buns, Casa de Tamales, Morton’s Grill, Ooh de Lolli and Crumb Snatcher Goodies.

“I have a waiting list of trucks that want to get in,” Vincent said. “It’s been a lot of fun. People are really able to come together around food and it’s a great way to share stories and really connect with one another. Out this way in Northwest Clovis, this is very unique. All these residents around here now have a place to come on Saturday or Sunday. They ride their bikes here, they have lunch, and ride back. It’s become a really fun event.”

With more and more people visiting Enzo’s Table, the store has also extended it’s offerings. Aside from selling Enzo Olive Oil, P-R Farms fruit and nuts, and fresh vegetables from the garden behind the store, Enzo’s Table also has a selection of Fresno State goodies—ice cream, milk, corn on the cob and grapes—and specialty items from Jacobson Salt to coffee beans supplied by local roasters.

“We try and really create and everyday farmer’s market for our customers so they know they can swing by and get the very best stuff,” Vincent said.