Imported Italian Food: Fine Olive Oil, Pasta, and Balsamic Vinegars

by Asako Maruoka / Jul 29, 2008 /
Asako Maruoka's picture

One of our newest partners is an Italian gourmet food store, OliveNation.com. We chose to partner with them for the high quality of their imported Italian food, the fabulous recipes on their site (yes, I'm a foodie), and their relationship with food producers in Italy. I was lucky enough to sit down and chat with Amit Mitra, who owns Olive Nation with his Italian wife, Chiara. I thought that our wandering educators would be interested in the story behind the business. Here's what he had to say...

WE: Please tell us about OliveNation.com...

AM:
We try to find really good ingredients in Italy and import them to the US for our customers. We started with olive oil, pasta, balsamic vinegar, coffee and sea salt but in the future we would like to add honey, sauces, spices, and other items. Because we don’t compromise on quality, it takes us a long time to add products. We have a particular interest in gluten-free items because we have friends who are celiac patients and we would like to help them with their diet.

Olive Nation

Dinner

 

WE: What made you decide to start OliveNation?

AM: While I am of Indian background, my wife's (Chiara) family is Italian. We go to Italy at least once if not twice a year. We got really frustrated at having all this wonderful food in Italy and not be able to have them here in the US, so we thought that if we found a way to import these items and make them available not just for us but for everyone, then we all win. Therefore, one of our philosophies is that if we don’t use the item or cook with it in our kitchen, then we don’t offer it for sale on the website either.

 

Imported Italian Food from Olive Nation

Chiara's father in his olive grove


WE:
How do you find such high-quality food?

AM: It's hard and fun. We search the web sites, news, food shows, festivals,...We ask for a lot of samples. Mostly, something is always missing. But then every once in a while we taste something and know immediately that this is going to go on the web site.

 

Imported Italian Food from Olive Nation



WE:
Who is your typical customer?

AM: People who have been to Italy and are looking for the same high quality items back here in the States. People who are interested in tasting and eating high quality items, even though they cost a bit more.

Olive Nation

Olive Flowers

 

WE: There are so many businesses, especially on the internet - why is OliveNation unique?

AM: I can only talk about the US. Chiara's father makes his own olive oil. Someday we will offer it on the site (maybe). In Venarotta, all our neighbors are farmers who grow olives, grapes, truffles; make oil, wine,...We, therefore, get to see and understand first-hand what is the meaning of high quality. What does food taste like without artificial additives and chemicals and flavorings! For us, this is personal. How many retailers out there can say that if we don’t use it in our kitchen we don’t stock it? Sure, we could carry the more popular olive oils and sell a lot. But I can’t in good faith say that olive oil made from olives that have been trucked into Italy from 5-7 different countries is great oil. We can’t defend that as great quality. We could carry some of the more popular balsamic vinegars from Modena. But 99% of them have wine vinegar in them. True balsamic does not have wine vinegar in it. So we can’t sell those either. It's not just about credibility. It's our pride that is at stake here. Sure, we strive for profit - but not at the expense of quality.

 

Olive Nation

The view from the kitchen window


WE: I see that you offer recipes on your website - they look so delicious! Are you guys always eating?

AM: I can’t say that either of us are thin. Yes, we are always eating. Although now that we are older, we pay a lot more attention to the quality of what we eat. That dovetails nicely with our business philosophy. Use great ingredients. Eat simply and savor the flavors. We would offer more recipes if my photography skills weren't so bad. Well, also, when we cook something, we have an overwhelming desire to eat it right away.

 

Olive Nation

Dining in Italy

 

WE: Your family estate is in the Marche region of Italy. How much of the year do you get to spend there?

AM: Oh, a week at most. Its unfortunate. With technology coming along the way it is, maybe in the near future we can spend more time over there. Oh, I hope so!

 

Imported Italian Food from Olive Nation

Eating well...

WE: Is there anything else you'd like to share with us?

AM: Thanks for giving us the opportunity and for getting to know us.

 

 

WE: Thanks so much, Amit! I enjoy both your website and your imported Italian food, and now that I know your family, I will keep ordering (and eating) this high-quality Italian food. Thanks again!

For more information on OliveNation.com, including a special discount for our wandering educators, please click any of our links above.

 

Special Savings: Save an addtional 10% when you order from Olive Nation. Just click on one of our links above and use this coupon code 38C72008

 

To read their lovely blog (which will make you hungry...), please see:

www.olivenation.com/blog

 

 

 

 

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Comments (1)

  • Ed Forteau

    11 years 1 month ago

    Nice interview.  We just placed an order.   The closest imported Italian food grocery store is over an hour away, so when you factor in the gas, this is pretty affordable.  And we noticed shipping is free on orders of $29 or more. 

    Ed Forteau

    Publisher, WanderingEducators.com

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