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Liquid Gold

Alumni brothers’ award-winning olive oil is a family affair

As the holiday season approaches, thoughts begin turning to family and food. At TRE Olive, an award-winning olive oil brand run by brothers Joe Maruca ’96 and Michael Maruca ’01 and their cousin Diego Fazio, those two things are deeply intertwined all year round.

Their family has been producing olive oil in the Calabria region of southern Italy since 1934. In 1970, some members of the family immigrated to Western Massachusetts, where Joe and Michael grew up, but the American branch of the family tree has remained connected to its roots and visited Italy frequently.

The extended family, including adults and children, posed together in an olive grove

The family in a Calabrian olive grove in 1975

As times have changed, the family olive oil business has needed to evolve. “My grandfather mentioned to me during a visit that it was becoming unprofitable to make olive oil because the wholesalers would come in and buy oil at wholesale, and then turn around and bottle it and make a large profit,” says Joe. “But for us it was becoming unprofitable, doing it like that.”

Joe, who at the time was a marketing student at the UMass Amherst School of Management (now the Isenberg School of Management), had always wanted to start his own brand, and he seized the opportunity to do so in a way that supported the family business. “Extra virgin olive oil was becoming more and more popular here in the states,” he says. “So I thought we would create our own brand and give it a go.”

The three TRE Olive co-owners posed together with arms around each other’s shoulders

Left to right, TRE Olive co-owners and cousins Diego Fazio, Joe Maruca, and Michael Maruca

Thus, TRE Olive was born in 2010. The brand uses a direct-to-consumer model to ensure the oil’s purity, freshness, and quality, and it shows. TRE Olive won a Silver Award at the 2023 New York International Olive Oil Competition (NYIOOC), the world’s largest olive oil quality contest. It’s the brand’s fourth NYIOOC accolade (including two Gold and two Silver Awards) since 2020.

While the TRE Olive brand is co-owned and run by the three cousins who started it (TRE, pronounced tray, means “three” in Italian), the extended family still plays a role in the production of this liquid gold. “We’re the three owners of the brand,” says Joe, “but it takes a lot more. The land is owned by many of the family members. The mill is owned by my uncle. It’s certainly a family affair.”

Tasty tips

Look for fresh

When it comes to buying extra virgin olive oil, Joe says, “Fresher is always better. It’s not like wine where it improves with age, so if you get a nice bottle of olive oil, you don’t want to save it for a special occasion, because the longer you keep it in your cupboard, the more it loses its qualities.”

Stay cool

And he recommends focusing on those qualities when using it. Extra virgin olive oil is “more of a finishing oil,” he says. “You can sauté with it and use it for marinades and things like that, but you don’t want to use it excessively as far as cooking goes. You don’t want to deep fry anything in olive oil.”

Drizzle, drizzle

Instead, says Joe, add it as a final touch. “I put it on everything,” he says. “Any dishes: meats, soups, I just drizzle it right on top at the end. It just makes it that that much better, in my opinion. And there’s always the favorites like the caprese salad, things like that.”

Create a tradition

When Christmastime rolls around, the family celebrates with the classic Italian feast of the seven fishes. “My dad likes to make a fish salad with octopus and shrimp,” says Joe. “Putting it in with some fresh lemon juice, olive oil is perfect for a fish salad. That’s one of my favorite things.”

Find more delicious ideas on TRE Olive’s Instagram.