Articolo disponibile anche in: Italian

Cantina Barbagianni is a characteristic restaurant in the heart of Florence. It has a cozy entrance and two cellars where you can dine by candlelight and discover a timeless Florence.

Born in 1970, it has changed names and ownership many times. For the last 30 years, it has been called Cantina Barbagianni. In 2005, Efrem de Zolt decided to bet on this historic restaurant, maintaining the characteristics which have always defined it: tradition and innovation.

Efrem, an excellent sommelier, decided to focus on typical dishes of the Tuscan tradition, sometimes with an added touch of creativity, and to choose the best wines according to quality/price.

Thus began a path based upon the best prime materials and chefs. Efrem has recently moved to the kitchen to become chef, leaving the dining room in the expert hands of Leandro Bocchicchio, the new director, ready to greet customers with care and professionalism.

Efrem and his partner, Lina, first became interested in quality olive oil by taking a course organized by AIRO in collaboration with the Promo Firenze Laboratory; then for passion.

It became a “fixation”, and they decided to choose an oil that met their requirements. They soon realized that its proper use could make it a great and secret ingredient to give their dishes a touch of freshness, aroma, and unusual taste.

They were able to measure their customers’ interest, particularly foreigners, thanks to their position in the historic center of Florence. They decided to take advantage of their knowledge of food and wine at the service of their clients and began to organize courses to show their customers the important potential for this product.

Before this experience, that perception has had in respect of quality olive oil?

“During our restaurant experience, we always had the sensation that something was missing: extra virgin olive oil. Therefore we don’t only offer the proper combination of food and wine, but also of food and oil. For each dish, you need the proper oil to exhalt taste and perception. Over time, we had used fine quality olive oil, but we felt we needed a selection of better oils, creating sensorial synergy. An oil for fish, an oil for meat, an oil for vegetables, an oil for food preparation, and, why not, an oil for dessert. Fortunately, we became familiar with AIRO , and since then we are sure that the oils that we propose are the best in the nation. Therefore, not only Tuscan olive oil, but excellent oils from other regions. Each enhances the flavor of a dish.”

When did you understand the importance of olive oil in the restaurant business as a real resource and not just an accompaniment? And how can oil today help give value to your service?

“We understood the importance of olive oil by using it. When we finish up a dish with good olive oil, the flavor is improved. Therefore, it is not only a simple addition, but a necessary component, an ingredient as important as all of the other ingredients that make up the dish. Not using a good olive oil is like removing the soul from the dish”.

There have been continued cases of fraud in the world of olive oil. It seems that the label doesn’t always tell the truth. How does a restaurant deal with this in the correct rapport between quality/price and choose a good oil without making an error?

“By relying on professionals in the sector. Through associations like AIRO, we are sure that the products that reach our restaurant are not counterfeit, and that what we read on the label corresponds to the truth. We use many certified organic oils question and this, for us, is a sign of attention as well as a mission that we always like to undertake. We used to depend on trust, since we didn’t have a technical experience in the field. Now, after a short introductory course proposed by AIRO and with the help of know-how, along with the precious advice that they give us, we are sure that we include a quality oil in our dishes or what we offer at the table”.

When you sell olive oil to your customers, how do they react when the oil is proposed? Has something changed over the years in the attention the client gives to this product?

“Our customers do not expect it, and therefore usually react with much surprise. Usually low quality olive oil is proposed at the table, and this is the standard to which more or less the customer is used to. Having a good olive oil on the table or knowing you are eating a dish containing a select olive oil, which pays attention to the senses, is surely an added value. The more demanding customers pay a lot of attention to this aspect,  and in the past we had received some criticism for the olive oil offered. We must say that when this happened we were thrown off balance because we were offering our best dishes… without the correct completion. We appreciated the criticism, because it is a sign of passion for good food, And from there  began our trip on the discovery of the finest extra Virgin olive oils, aiming at the best rapport between quality and price. We end with a forecast”.

What future do you see for olive oil?

“As I said before, olive oil is a protagonist on the table. This is its present and its future. This will not escape the diligent, and we wish that in all restaurants, not only in ours, that oil had a place of honor. A restaurant with a capital “R” can not continue to consider olive oil as a secondary element, and the customer needs to be led to the culture of olive oil, which is often completely missing. To enhance an ingredient with the correct oil and explained to the customer how and why it is done is a great lesson, not only for the palate, but also for the valorization of our excellent national product”.