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Specialty Food Stores: Old Town Oil

By Lisa Shames in Food on Oct 2, 2007 4:20PM

rsz_IMG_1809.jpgWhile the mention of the word "oil" can often bring about heated debates on rising prices and the war in Iraq, that’s not the case at Old Town Oil, which specializes in 100-percent extra virgin olive oils and aged balsamic vinegars. This sliver of a store, located in the heart of Old Town, quietly opened three months ago and is the brainchild of four foodie brothers. After various trips around Europe, sampling the quality olive oils there, they came to the collective decision that Chicagoans needed in.

To be classified as EVOO (insert Rachael Ray joke here), the oil must be from the first pressing of fresh olives; low in acidity (.08 percent or less); extracted without heat, steam or water; and the oil then needs to be evaluated by a panel of experts. Whew! That didn’t deter the Dine brothers, who have stocked their store with over 30 top-notch olive oils from around the world, including Spain (arbeqina, picudo, castile), Tunisia (blood orange, basil, meyer lemon) and Italy (porcini). There are 12 balsamic vinegars available, too, native to the Modena region of Italy, all aged for a minimum of 12 years. We recommend checking out the newest arrival, red apple balsamic vinegar.

We love the way the oils and vinegars are stored in traditional stainless steel fustis imported from Italy — think kegs, but way cooler — and how each purchase is bottled and sealed to order; they make nifty gifts. Because they really believe in their products, tasting is encouraged. The small paper cups provided mean oil spills are no big deal, at least here, anyways.

Old Town Oil is located at 1520 N. Wells St., 312-787-9595. Their hours of operation are 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Sunday.