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Owners Stephen and Suzanne Capizzano of Capizzano stand on their front steps on Coggswell Street near Bess Eaton on Monday. The store is a extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar store that features estate teas, spices and sea salts. Jill Connor / The Westerly Sun

At new Pawcatuck store, oil you can sip like wine


STONINGTON — Steve Capizzano’s parents, like those in many Italian families in Westerly, instilled in him from an early age an appreciation for the simple pairing of crusty bread and quality olive oil.

“Growing up in this area, it was all about the olive oil, all about the vinegar,” said Capizzano, recalling that even the old China Village restaurant served bread.

After living in New Hampshire for many years, Capizzano has returned to his old stomping grounds with his wife, Suzanne, to open a specialty olive oil and vinegar store.

Tucked away behind the Pawcatuck Bess Eaton on Coggswell Street, Capizzano Olive Oils and Vinegars is in the final stages of renovations before it will open for business in August. The store will offer tastings and bottles for purchase of more than 30 varieties of extra virgin olive oils, flavored oils and balsamic vinegars, all supplied by a California-based supplier with an olive grove in Tunisia.

“I think we really started researching about three years ago,” Steve Capizzano said, holding up a copy of “Extra Virginity: the Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil” (2011) by Tom Mueller, which he referred to as the bible of the olive oil industry.

Though the couple both previously worked in the health care field — Steve as a department coordinator in a wellness center, and Suzanne as a physical therapist with a side practice teaching Qigong martial arts — both said they saw their new role as small business owners as fitting with their prior careers.

“We’re seeing it as an opportunity to build community, to build health education,” said Steve.

Added Suzanne, “We’re trying to develop a community around better eating,” explaining how high levels of polyphenols, an antioxidant present in freshly crushed olive oils, have a variety of health benefits.

While all olive oils contain some level of polyphenols, those that are freshly-crushed contain a much larger amount, with relatively fewer harmful fatty acids.

“The olive oil you buy in the supermarket might have been sitting on the shelves for 12 months,” Suzanne Capizzano explained. “We want to bring transparency and authenticity in the production and selling process to the community.”

Each of the oils sold at the Capizzanos’ store will include a crush date from the supplier, with most of the first varieties crushed in the late fall or early winter. The oils will also reflect which of the fruits are in-season at the time, Suzanne Capizzano said. The couple has already chosen the first batch of oils and vinegars, which traditional extra virgin olive oils, along with more unusual types, like an infused harissa oil, a white truffle oil, a Black Mission fig vinegar and a Blenheim apricot vinegar.

While the store will serve bread to accompany the samples for the tastings, the purist way to taste oils and vinegars is to sip them alone, out of a small cup, Steve Capizzano explained.

“It’s like a nice glass of wine,” he said, noting how it’s best to smell the oil and aerate it, similar to tasting a fine wine.

The store will also sell estate teas from around the world, and the Capizzanos hope to make their business a location for events and guest speakers as well.

Their relocation and new career move has presented the couple with new challenges.

“Starting a business, it’s work, it’s a lot of work,” said Steve Capizzano. “The challenging part is to get everything to fit together. I think we’ve accomplished that.”

Suzanne Capizzano added that ensuring that each step they took and each choice they made that supported their goals of transparency and authenticity was important.

“We wanted to walk the walk and talk the talk, and to be mindful in taking each small part of the project,” she said.

Both credited family members for their part in the process, with Steve honoring his parents, Florence and Angelo, for his upbringing, and Suzanne recognizing her brother, Scott Baker, a builder in New Hampshire who renovated both the interior and exterior of the space. Baker installed the hand-designed cabinetry and hardwood flooring.

Suzanne said the work had strengthened the couple’s relationship.

“We’ve had a very good marriage, but to know we could do this, as husband and wife, well it’s a great thing,” she said.

For more information on Capizzano Olive Oils and Vinegars, call 860-495-2187 or email capizzanoco@gmail.com

nlavin@thewesterlysun.com



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