From Our Editors
More than 50 stainless steel Italian fusti containers line the walls at Amphora Lafayette, ready to dispense samples and full bottles of aged balsamic vinegar and single-varietal, extra-virgin olive oil harvested from farms in both hemispheres. The shop’s globe-spanning selection process isn’t just for variety—it also ensures freshness year-round, in accordance with the old saying “It’s always olive-oil season somewhere.” The curators of this bounty select Italian white and dark balsamic vinegar as well as unique specialty oils, including roasted butternut squash, pumpkin and Italian truffle.
Once they’ve added them to the casks, they post harvest dates, acidity levels, and polyphenol counts for each extra-virgin olive oil to give an idea of its antioxidant content and flavor strength. Each staff member touts a comprehensive understanding of the chemistry and uses of olive oil and vinegar, always happy to share recipe ideas to jazz up everyday dinners or science fair volcanoes. They’ll also help put together gift sets and wrap any bottle for free.
Beneath its high ceilings, the atmosphere harkens back to far more ancient times, with a marble tasting counter and oil containers balanced atop the rough clay of the giant, authentic amphorae that give the company its name. Guests stop in not just to do some shopping but to take in a laidback learning experience—the San Francisco Chronicle found a visit to the shop “as much fun as it is educational,” and manager Nate Bradley reported to Diablo Magazine that they’ve occasionally “had people spend two hours in here just exploring.”