Jim and Laura Kirkley are in the oil business. But unlike John Paul Getty or John Rockefeller, they want you to taste, for the Kirkleys are owners of the just-opening Il Fustino (3401 State St., 845-3521, ilfustino.com), Santa Barbara’s first olive oil bar. “It’s very different from what I always have done, as I have an engineering degree and a high-tech background,” Jim explained. “But my wife and I were always interested in food and we traveled a lot for work. I ran into this concept, more prevalent in Europe, of an oilery. They serve oil from these fustis and you taste and they bottle for you.”
The fustis are gleaming stainless steel containers that contain regional, small-production, high-quality olive oil. Kirkley warns that in the U.S. the label “extra virgin olive oil doesn’t mean a damn thing. There are no rules and regulations. In Europe, they have stringent codes. What they can’t sell as extra virgin over there they sell here. The stuff that comes over in large quantities isn’t very good.” What’s more, oil sold in the U.S. is often old or heat-damaged, something that can’t happen at a place like Il Fustino. “All our oils will be certified by the California Olive Oil Council,” Kirkley said. “They’re very picky.”
So the Kirkleys invite you to come in, taste superb, fresh oil, and not just olive but avocado and walnut and sesame, too, plus fine vinegars and other oil-pairing foods, from pasta to tapenades. We might never approach the average 25 liters of olive oil per person annually that the Greeks consume, but Il Fustino might grease the skids closer, as it were.