PALM-AIRE — When Kristine Insalaco heads for the kitchen, there’s usually not a stick in butter in sight.
Instead, the Palm-Aire resident pulls out a slender bottle of olive oil straight from Italy. Whether cooking dinner or baking brownies or chocolate chip cookies, Insalaco has found her niche in what she hopes is liquid gold.
She and her business partner and boyfriend Fabio Giaoni recently launched their business, Sapora della Vita Italian Importers, and now are working as the exclusive distributor for certain hand-crafted olive oils straight from the vineyards of Italy.
“I want to let people have a little bit of Italy in their home and introduce them to something that’s delicious and good for you,” said Insalaco, a nurse at Manatee Memorial Hospital.
The company offers extra virgin olive oils from a family farm in Umbria, Italy, including four aromatic oils, which come in flavors of white truffle, rosemary, lemon and pepperoncino. Currently, all products offered are the Sapore della Vita line, but Insalaco and Giaoni are working on branding another olive oil, which is produced in the Puglia region of Italy, and introducing it stateside.
Insalaco is marketing the products to residents and retailers alike during her off time.
Insalaco met Gaioni in Sarasota about five years ago. Gaioni had been shooting a film in Crystal River and spent much of his off time relaxing in Sarasota for the month he was in the United States.
Insalaco had a hunch something may come of the relationship, even introducing Gaioni to her parents before he headed back to Italy.
“I just had a feeling,” she said. “There was something kind and gentle about him.”
The two kept in touch, and when Gaioni visited in November, both knew their relationship was special. Insalaco flew to Italy the following month to visit Gaioni and to meet his family.
“When I went to his house, I was amazed at his kitchen because there were so many bottles of olive oil,” Insalaco said.
But Giaoni said each had a distinct flavor with many uses.
“He said, ‘You really have to taste it,’” Insalaco recalled.
And with that, Gianoi lined up the bottles and asked his girlfriend which one she’d like to try. The first oil proved too strong for Insalaco’s taste. But the second, which Giaoni recommended because of its softer flavor, became Insalaco’s favorite — Sapore della Vita.
After Insalaco was laid off from her job in pharmaceutical sales and marketing in 2008, the couple officially launched a way to meld their cultures and an ocean-wide gap between them, testing the waters to become the exclusive distributor for the olive oil they both already loved.
“I said, ‘OK. I’m ready,’” Insalaco said. “I would bring the (olive oil) around for people to taste, friends and relatives. They loved it. It was a lot of fun. I thought this would be great (for a business).”
As the exclusive U.S. distributors of Sapora della Vita, the first shipment of olive oils came in October 2009. The company’s website launched five months later.
Insalaco said she and Giaoni are working to find other producers in Italy with which to do business.
“The key to our business is artisan producers,” Insalaco said. “We want someone who honors the craft.”
Sapore della Vita’s products will receive organic certification in December.
“(Because of that) our first goal is to get that recognized nationally and to expand retail business,” Insalaco said. “We want to be the market leader.”
Insalaco and Giaoni are hopeful business will pick up enough that Giaoni can move to the United States next year.
“We’ll be together finally,” Insalaco said.
For more information, visit its website, saporedellavita.com.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
SINFUL EXTRA-VIRGIN BROWNIES
1/3 cup Sapore d’ Arte Azienda Agricola Del Buon Trombone EVOO
1/2 cup all-purpose/plain flour, or “00” (if so, use an additional tablepoon)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 large eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup superfine/caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate (Insalaco recommends Valrhona)
2/3 cup lightly walnuts, chopped
• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line an eight-inch square baking pan with a lightly oiled and floured piece of parchment paper that overhangs the pan on two sides (this aids in removal later)
• Melt the 5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate over low heat on the stovetop or in the microwave and whisk intheoil. Let cool.
• Mix the flour and salt together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, beat the eggs and sugar until pale, thickened and billowy, about five minutes. Fold in the vanilla and the cooled chocolate mixture, then fold in the flour and optional nuts, stirring just until everything is combined.
• Pour into the prepared pan and distribute evenly. Bake 22 minutes.