Queen Creek Olive Mill is located at 25062 S. Meridian Road in Queen Creek. For more information, call 480-888-9290 or visit www.queencreekolivemill.com.
© Richard Maack
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Good PressIt's improbable, to say the least, but some of the
best food around is at del Piero, the trendy little eatery
at Queen Creek Olive Mill. Talk about fresh.
By Maryal Miller
Queen Creek Fascinating are things that seemingly make no sense, yet somehow manage to be both strangely fantastic and surprisingly successful — Jamaican bobsledding, the Slinky and The Governator, to name a few. Arizona's only working olive mill and farm, the Queen Creek Olive Mill, is among the conundrums.
The mill is the brainchild of Perry Rea, a Canadian-born former Detroit auto industry exec with no formal gastronomic or agricultural pedigree, who moved his family to pastoral Queen Creek 12 years ago. Recreationally, Perry planted a few olive trees on his "retirement" property, and purchased a press to see if he could churn out some oil. He triumphed when Beau MacMillan — Rea's hockey buddy (Rea is a Canuck, after all) and Sanctuary Resort's famous "Iron Chef" — sampled his EVOO (extra virgin olive oil) and bought it. The buzz was born and before long, despite the dicey drive to the mill, olive-oil lovers came knocking on Rea's far-flung door. Literally. He supplied their demand for oil and the Queen Creek Olive Mill was officially in business. As Kevin Costner can attest, if you build it, they just might come.
"People laugh when I tell them I went from motor oil to olive oil," Rea jokes. "This wasn't my plan, but this hobby of mine morphed so quickly, I couldn't stop it from growing."
Today, the completely sustainable farm harvests 16 different varieties of olives (the Spanish Mission is Rea's gem) to produce markedly fresh, Tuscan-style oils that are particularly, as Rea describes, "herbaceous." Sure, a 2,000-tree olive grove in the middle of the arid desert on the outer limits of Maricopa County might seem as outlandish as some Canadian car guy shilling olive oil, but the olive tree is actually indigenous to similar landscapes in the Mediterranean region. Moreover, in Arizona, the trees have no natural predators, so Rea's plants are pesticide free, leaving his oil unsullied.
"I have no problem saying that I have the freshest oil in North America. No oil is fresher than mine," Rea boasts. "And it's healthier."
In fact, his funky fresh EVOO became so popular, customers beseeched Rea to open an eatery at the mill to utilize it. And so, he did just that, opening del Piero, which is housed inside a 5,000-square-foot farmer's market, amid mill-made goodies and heaps of local bounty. The curious visit del Piero in droves to taste the illustrious Kalamata sandwich, stacked with salami, leafy greens and the mill's own sun-dried tomato and parmesan tapenade. Other delights, like homemade bruschetta and gourmet paninis on rosemary focaccia, use entirely in-house and local ingredients, and shine alongside natively fermented wine.
The mill's carnivorous Queen Creek neighbor, The Pork Shop, supplies the meats, including the smoky pepper-encrusted bacon used in del Piero's fluffy egg and provolone frittata. Rea's personal favorite, the EVOO waffles, are served all day, everyday. No doubt, olive-oil waffles at a small eatery in Queen Creek sounds preposterous, but somewhere in the Greater Antilles, a Jamaican bobsledder just wept tears of joy.