Something hit me last week during Thanksgiving shopping, while standing at the deli counter in Lombardy's in Mattituck, LI.  I realized that most people can not tell the difference between olives and have a hard time shopping for them.  A woman next to me started asking me a lot of questions, I guess I looked credible?  She was trying to remember which ones her Dad likes, I finally pinpointed what she was looking for: Gaeta.

I on the other hand was buying my go to cheese/salumi plate olives: Castelvetrano.  The small, bright green Sicilian olives with buttery texture.  They are heaven.

Here is a quick guide to Italian olives to help you out next time you are in your local Italian specialty shop. 

Brine Cured vs Oil Cured-The brine cured olives will be smooth and plum while the oil cured ones will be more wrinkled and coated in oil.

Castelvetrano-A bright green Sicilian olive, great for snacking and of course for cheese plates. Almost always with the pit and brine cured.

Cerignola-From Puglia, come in red, black and green.  Brine cured and quite large.  They are also great for snacking/cheese plates.  They are mild and buttery. 

Gaeta-Dark purple or black. Soft tender flesh, citrus flavor. Can be found both brine cured or oil cured.  Great in pasta, especially Puttanesca.

Saracena-From Sicily, small dark black olives.  Cured in salt and more pungent. Great for pizza!

Taggiasca- Smiliar to a French Nicoise olive, small with a lot of flavor. Grown in Liguria.  Great for tapenade. 

Of course you can mix them all together, a variety is great.  I personally love when they are marinated in oil and citrus rind, amazing.....

I hope this helps, olives make a great addition to any salumi or cheese plate, they are great in pasta, pizza and salads.  They also make the perfect hostess gift when attending a dinner party.