Meet Fratepietro’s Fifth-Generation Olive Farmers
For a taste of some of the best—and largest—olives in the world, look to the southern region of Puglia in the “heel” of Italy's boot. Crops like olives, figs, and tomatoes thrive in Puglia’s 2,500 hours of sunshine a year, and those long hours under the sun allow the local produce to develop a uniquely concentrated flavor.
There are over 60 million olive trees growing in Puglia, in more than 50 distinct varieties. But perhaps the most prized are Bella di Cerignola, a type of olive that’s only cultivated in the town of Cerignola on the Tavoliere plains. On these flat lands, the Adriatic sea breeze from the east and the crisp air from the Apennine mountain range to the west combine to produce the perfect climate for olive cultivation. It’s here that our favorite Pugliese producer, Agricola Fratepietro, has been growing Bella di Cerignola for five generations.
Photos courtesy of Azienda Agricola Fratepietro
The Fratepietro story began more than 130 years ago, when Giovanni Fratepietro acquired farmland in the Cerignola area from his grandfather in 1890. Giovanni passed down the olive tradition to his three sons—Carlo, Benedetto, and Domenico—and in 1990, Domenico’s son Giovanni came on board to help innovate the agricultural company. Today, the Fratepietro family estate is run by Giovanni’s son Andrea, alongside his wife Valentina, with Giovanni still helping to manage the land.
Fratepietro’s green and black Bella di Cerignola olives are picked by hand to ensure each one is perfectly ripe. These firm, crisp olives are then jarred in a slightly salty brine that’s an ancient family recipe, resulting in a juicy olive with just the right crunch. Because Bella di Cerignola olives are mild in flavor, they’re a great “starter” olive for those who aren’t usually fans of this versatile fruit. They’re delicious as a standalone snack, an aperitivo accompaniment to cured meats and cheeses, or as an easy pairing with wine and cocktails.
Along with the claim to fame of being the largest olives in the world, Bella di Cerignola olives are beloved for their characteristically nutty flavor and buttery texture. They have been grown in the valleys of northern Puglia for centuries—some say as early as the 1400s, when the variety was brought to the region by Spanish merchants, which is why it’s also known by locals as Grossa di Spagna. Today, they’re DOP-certified, meaning they can only be considered true Bella di Cerignola olives if they’re grown in this specific region.
In addition to the olives themselves, Fratepietro offers a versatile extra virgin olive oil made from a blend of their Bella di Cerignola and Coratina olives (one of the most widespread olive varieties in Puglia). If you could only keep one olive oil stocked in your kitchen, this is the one we’d choose! They also grow luscious tomatoes that they sun-dry in the hot Pugliese summer and firm, plump artichoke hearts that come ready to use packed in rich, flavorful oil.
Shop the Giadzy pantry to taste the unique Italian delicacy of Bella di Cerignola olives yourself and enjoy all the fruits of the Fratepietro family’s labor.