Looking for a little extra flavor for your home cooking? Di Olivas (115 N. Euclid Avenue, 314-367-6457) might have just what you’re looking for. The third location of this olive oil and balsamic vinegar tasting shop opened last month in the Central West End, offering new convenience to city-dwelling customers.
The first di Olivas opened in west county in 2009 and a second location followed soon after in old town St. Charles, a perfect fit within its quaint strip of shops and restaurants. Similarly, the CWE location is located right in the heart of the restaurant and shopping district between Forest Park Parkway and Lindell Boulevard.
The husband-and-wife ownership team was inspired to open the store after encountering a similar concept in Chicago. Says co-owner Robert Palleja, “The shop was charming and the owner was such a colorful character. We fell in love with the products and it soon became a regular part of our dating life.”
A St. Louis native, Palleja had spent years in the Navy and the Navy reserves, including three recalls after the 9/11 terror attacks. He later worked as a contractor in Iraq for two years before getting hired as a fuel handler at a Chicago-area power plant.
He and his wife eventually left the Chicago area for St. Louis, where she started an eyebrow-threading business. Realizing that high-quality oils and vinegars can be hard to find, they were inspired to open their own specialty store in St. Louis as well.
The primary items lining the shelves are, of course, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. All of the olive oil is extra virgin, meaning it is cold-pressed, has low acidity, and has been deemed by a panel of experts to be of superior quality and flavor. So-called "evoo" hails largely from the Mediterranean – Italy, Greece, Spain, Portugal and Sicily – as well as Argentina, Chile and California. Nearly every bottle on offer at the shop has won a national or international award.
Palleja maintains that di Olivas is the only store in the area to carry award-winning agumato olive oils that feature olives crushed directly with citrus fruit in a labor-intensive process that produces a richly flavored oil. The best-selling olive oil in the store is Picual from Spain, he says, while the favorite flavored oil is Tuscan Herb, a blend of a blend of garlic, basil and rosemary with a hint of sun-dried tomatoes.
The shop carries more than fifteen flavors of balsamic vinegar, the unmistakable sweet vinegar made from grapes and aged in wooden barrels. You’ll find three incredibly popular flavors that are unique to di Olivas, made in-house – maple bourbon balsamic, margarita white balsamic and an amaretto balsamic. The best-selling balsamic vinegar is the thick and pungent “25 Star” and the most popular flavor is the “margarita,” said to taste just like a margarita. It's great when added to the cocktail, used on a salad or as a marinade for chicken or seafood.
If you’re a bit daunted by how to use all of these distinct flavors, chef Codey Shaffer teaches regular classes on topics ranging from soups to risottos.
To further tempt your culinary cravings, di Olivas also carries specialty items such as gourmet sea salt, seasonings, flavored and specialty pasta, mustards, pasta sauces, a house-made pizza sauce, unique cooking gadgets and ceramics from Italy. Explains Palleja, "If you start with a high quality fat (like our oils), a high quality acid (like our vinegars) and a good high quality salt… everything else follows.”
Scroll down for more photos of di Olivas.
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