Meet one of the rising stars of the Istrian olive oil scene.
In my previous article about Istrian olive oil I had pointed out the reasons that there are no olive oil barons on the Istrian peninsula. However, there is a princess – Nicoletta Balija.
Nicoletta took over the already well-established Balija olive oil operation after her father sadly passed away some nine years ago. Together with mother Duilia, she managed to preserve the quality of the oil continuously year after year, as the oils prestigious awards earned in recent years witness.
The 34-year-old conference interpreter (Croatian-Italian-English) never planned to become involved in agriculture, but she took on the challenge of continuing the family business and rolled up her sleeves. She was well aware that a lot of effort, skill and experience are required to continuously assure the high quality of the blend of olive oils that carry her family’s name.
In advertising her brand and in conversation, she hardly ever emphasises that there’s a woman behind the Balija brand, and that she had to work hard to earn recognition within the male-dominated Istrian and Croatian olive oil scene.
“At a fair in Split, a visitor tasted the oil and showed great interest in meeting the producer for he seemed to be under the impression that I was a hostess at the stand. When I explained that the oil was mine, he dismissed it contemptuously and left. At first I was surprised by his reaction, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Later I laughed.”
Those times have long passed. Today, Nicoletta is a columnist for the country’s leading olive oil magazine.
When in Istria, you can meet Nicoletta and experience an olive oil tasting at her recently opened Arboretum Pub in Fazana. Afterwards you can enjoy an Angus beef burger, or taste some Istrian and/or tapas from the Italian region of Apulia, where Nicoletta’s husband Emanuele hails from.