A mind-boggling array of outstanding extra-virgin olive oils from around the world are available to home cooks nowadays. We highlighted a few of our favorites, from Spain, New Zealand, California, and elsewhere, in "A Cook's Guide to Olive Oils" (May 2010). But no country offers a greater variety than Italy, where oils from Tuscany, Liguria, Abruzzo, Sicily, and other areas offer distinct flavors and textures that lend themselves to different uses in the kitchen. Here's a guide to some of the best regional Italian oils available, and recommendations for what to do with them.
Sicilian oils are known for their ripe, robust flavor. Made from olives handpicked in the Trapani region of Sicily, Fontanasalsa (pictured at left) is a full-bodied olive oil that smells faintly of fresh-cut grass and tastes of green vegetables and artichokes. This is the oil you want to drizzle over roasted squash or sauteed zucchini. You can buy it at DiPalo's; $24.99 for 750 ml.
Zisola (center) comes from the region of Monti Iblei, a mountainous area in the southeast of Sicily that produces some of Sicily's most coveted, flavorful oils. Made from a mix of native olives, including the tonda iblea cultivar, the oil is fruity, spicy, and well-rounded and can be purchased from Olio2Go; $32.95 for 500 ml.
Produced on a 5,000-tree olive farm, Titone (right) is available in very limited quantities every year. With a robust flavor that tastes like the essence of deep green olives, the oil is just right for garnishing steaks and swordfish. You can buy this Sicilian organic olive oil from Olio2Go; $29.95 for 500 ml.