What's a Fustini?
Milligan and his wife, Lane, developed a fondness for high-end olive oil and balsamic vinegar, the intensely sweet-tart-syrupy specialty of Modena, Italy, while he was working for 3M. Based in the Twin Cities, he worked in international marketing, and the couple spent a lot of time in Italy. Three years ago Milligan, fifty-seven, took an early retirement, and they opened their first Fustini's in Traverse City, naming the store after the metal kegs (fustini) that olive oil is shipped in. Kerrytown's is the fourth Fustini's--the others are in Petoskey and Holland. Milligan says this store is probably the last: "We're retired, and we opened these stores in places where we like to spend time. We love Ann Arbor. Lane went to school here. Her daughter went to school here." And Lane's sister, Jill Gardner-Bakewell, who lives in Adrian, will be the manager when the Milligans return to their home in Traverse City.
Fustini's offers nine varietal olive oils from around the world, but Italy and other oil-producing countries are enthusiastically doing whatever it takes to goose consumption of olive oil, and Americans like it flavored. Milligan says the flavors--chipotle, lemon, herbs, porcini mushrooms--are infused at the pressing facility. Dried, pulverized essences are "suspended, so you'll never see sediment. You get the same flavor at the beginning of the bottle as at the end."
The balsamic vinegars are even more weirdly flavored--violet, coconut, and chocolate are some of the strangest, though Milligan says the unadulterated traditional eighteen-year-old is the best seller.
Fustini's, 407 N. Fifth Ave. (Kerrytown), 213-1110. Mon.-Sat. 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Sun. noon-5 p.m. fustinis.com