The Cerginola olive is arguably the most famous in the world. Today, you regularly see Californian “Cerignola” olives in the self-serve buffets at gourmet markets like Whole Foods, for example, and when you visit the cured olive shelves, you’ll find a wide range of jarred “Cerignola” olives preserved in oil and salt.
But most people don’t realize that the proper name of this cultivar is actually Bella di Cerignola or (even more proper) Bella di Daunia.
Daunia is a historic area in Puglia in the province of Foggia. It was home to the ancient Italian tribe of the Daunians, who left a rich legacy of artwork and artifacts from their civilization.
The area is the spiritual home of the Bella di Daunia olive (the olive we know as Cerignola). It’s called Cerignola because it’s farmed primarily and most famously in Cerignola township in Daunia.
Its origins are not known with certainty: Some believe it was brought to Puglia by the Spanish during the Renaissance; others believe it came from an olive cultivar popular among and dear to the Romans. Regardless of its origins, it’s in Daunia that this olive clone found its spiritual home and celebrity.
Prized for its size and tender, flavorful character, it’s called bella not because of its beauty (bello and bella, depending on the gender, mean handsome or beautiful in Italian. It’s not really that pretty, actually, when you think about it.
In fact, bella is more aptly translated as fair. And the Bella di Daunia or Bella di Cerignola is part of a larger family of fruits (yes, olives are fruits, not vegetables) named Bella (like the Bella di Roma) or the many pears known as Belle (like Honey Belle or Belle Lucrative).
Whatever you call them, can you think of a better pairing for Cantele Chardonnay than a gently cured Bella di Daunia?