A former circus performer left the big top to hunt down the world’s most refined oils, which he now sells from his Paris boutique.
Credit: Marie Hennechart

Before his full-time job involved scouting rare oils, Cedric Casanova was a slack-wire walker and performer. That is, until a knee injury and the advancing age of 33 forced the half-Sicilian, half-French connoisseur to slow down. “All I really wanted to do was work as a fisherman in Sicily,” he says. And so he did for one year, during which he schlepped so many tins of olive oil to friends back in Paris that someone suggested he start charging for them. “When I finally did,” he says, “I sold one hundred kilograms in four days.” The oil in question came from Sicily-based Marco Mule, a close friend of Casanova’s since the age of three, who produces an oil so flavorful it’s best used only as a condiment.

Dealing oils out of his Paris apartment like an illicit substance went fine for a while, and Casanova continued to make trips to Sicily to help his suppliers harvest and to source other local specialties such as ricotta salata.

Last year, he opened a boutique on the scruffily bohemian Rue Ste.-Marthe, in Paris’s 10th Arrondissement. The store is stocked with niche Sicilian olive oils and novelties such as sun-dried-tomato tea, preserved tuna heart, and bottarga (tuna roe). Word has spread, and he has since been bringing a taste of Sicily to diners all over the city, from the Hôtel Plaza Athénée to the Élysée Palace. Next, Casanova is turning his sights to North Africa, where he’s looking to find the best oil in Algeria. “They have beautiful olive oils—more robust than those found in Italy—rarely seen outside of the region.”

La Tête dans les Olives

Former circus performer Cedric Casanova quickly rose to fame in the Parisian food world after his small Sicilian olive oil store in the 10th Arrondissement was discovered by influential food critic François Simon. He has since become the exclusive purveyor of olive oil to famed restaurant Alain Ducasse. Stored in shiny metal oil bins with spigots, each oil bears the name of its producer, such as Paola or Marco. Aside from olives and oils, the store stocks a range of artisanal Mediterranean foodstuffs, from sun-dried tomatoes to bottarga (cured fish roe).