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Sciabica’s family history, olive oil deeply intertwined

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Sciabica’s family history, olive oil deeply intertwined

This picture showing three generations of the Sciabica family appears on the company’s website story about the history of the family and how the business got started in 1936. In the picture are Dan...

Photo courtesy Sciabica’s/

POSTED July 21, 2012 1:19 a.m.

MODESTO - When Father Francisco Naranjo of Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Lathrop was looking for suggestions to help their church-building fund-raiser, his parishioners strongly recommended Sciabica’s extra virgin olive oil.

After learning more about this California product from a family-owned company in Modesto whose history in the Golden State goes back more than a century, the pastor was completely sold on the idea. Padre Francisco, as his parishioners often call him, soon found out more, not only about the close-knit and multi-generational Sciabica family but also the award-winning product that comes out of a prominent tree in the Bible and which the family has perfected.

The story of the company’s world-famous extra virgin olive oil is tightly intertwined with the family’s history. To the Sciabicas, olive is oil is all about family.

Seventy-six years after they began producing starting with the Marsala® Brand Olive Oil, the story is still all about family.

It all began when Nicola (Nick) Sciabica immigrated to the United States in 1911, bringing with him his knowledge of the ancient art of producing olive oil that he learned back home in Marsala, Sicily, where he was born in 1887. After living in Waterbury, Connecticut, then San Francisco, he finally found the warm Mediterranean climate that was “like home” in Modesto where he moved in 1925 with his wife and their three sons.

The Marsala® brand that Sciabica’s first produced in 1936 was a nod to the birthplace of Nicola Sciabica in Sicily.

The family continues to live, farm, and produce olive oil on the same land in Modesto that they originally farmed as a grape vineyard not for making wine for sale but for selling a fresh product for winemaking. During prohibition, people were allowed to make small amounts of wine for their personal use. The Marsala ® Brand Olive Oil “is the undisputed oldest continuously produced California Olive Oil available today,” according to the family company’s official web site.

The family’s history on the web site also includes a photo montage with the caption: “Sciabica’s evolution in olive oil production: In 1936 we shoveled olive mash into bags to ‘squeeze’ the oil out. Today, modern centrifuges ‘spin’ the oil.” The family history piece is also accompanied by a picture of “three Sciabica generations: Daniel, Nick, Joseph and Jonathan Sciabica.”

The website reads like a primer on olive oil and all its plethora of varieties – everything you always wanted to know about olive oil. For example: did you know that olive oil has a flavor, and that there is a distinct difference between the strong “intensely fruity” olive oils and the delicate olive oils? The difference lies in the season when the olives are harvested. “The riper the olive, the sweeter the oil,” according to the information on the company’s web site which likewise contains a list of the other Sciabica’s products available.

Olive oil tasting and “video tour” available at Sciabica’s in Modesto

When the Manteca Convention and Visitors Bureau held its annual Ag Tour a few years ago, one of the stop overs in the itinerary was Sciabica’s in Modesto.

The company’s Gift Shop and Tasting Room offers opportunities for shopping as well as tasting of all their products. One can also have a “video tour” of the company in the tasting room which is open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Nick Sciabica & Sons is located at 2150 Yosemite Blvd. in Modesto.

If you prefer to shop online, you can do so via, said fourth-generation Sciabica family member Jonathan Sciabica.

For those who are not Internet-shopping savvy, he suggests shopping for Sciabica’s famous olive oil at the following major grocery shopping outlets: O’Brien’s, Raley’s, Kellers, Diablo Foods, Dreager’s, New Leaf, and Rainbow Grocery. You can also find Sciabica’s at the Modesto Farmer’s Market and at the San Francisco Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building on Saturdays.

For more information, visit or call 1-800-551-9612.



209 staff reporter

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