When Bona Furtuna founder Steve Luczo purchased the land in Corleone, Sicily, where his grandparents were born, he fulfilled a lifelong dream. Today, 90 percent of the sustainable farm—which has olive groves, tomatoes, and wild herbs—is held in a biological preserve, so that he and his family can continue to protect the natural heritage of the land.
In a way, Bona Furtuna is both young and old. Its existence sprung out of a story Luczo’s grandmother used to tell him about her homeland when he was a child. “I remember her loving description to this day, and her simple phrase that the land was beautiful. It had olive trees, wild oregano, fennel and asparagus, fed by so many springs with pure drinking water that they were hard to count. It was a magical land at the foot of a beautiful mountain,” he recalls.
He made a promise to himself that he would one day track down his grandparents’ birthplace and reconnect with the land. “In some sense, Bona Furtuna began 55 years ago,” Luczo tells us. “My grandfather would always say ‘bona furtuna‘ whenever we said goodbye. I knew even as a young boy that the phrase would be part of my life.”
In 2008, Luczo—who also happens to be chairman and CEO of data storage provider Seagate—was telling the story of his grandmother to his friend Pasquale Pistorio, then-president of the semiconductor company STMicroelectronics. Pistorio, a Sicilian himself, offered to help Luczo find the land. A year or two, several international flights and many conversations with Corleone officials later, Luczo was able to locate the plot of land and its owner, who turned out to be a distant cousin of his grandmother Rosa. By the next year, he had purchased the land his grandmother was born on, and began stewardship efforts.
Today, the line includes 100 percent organic extra-virgin olive oil, organic Corleonese tomato sauces, and natural herb and sea salt blends. All excess profits go directly to Sicilian charities. We asked Luczo to tell us more about the Bona Furtuna story, how he uses the products, and why it’s so important for him to give back.
Bona Furtuna plays into a greater mission for you to give back to Sicily. What are some of the investments you’ve made to the land and its people?
Steve Luczo: We’ve directly and indirectly employed hundreds of people now over the last eight years.
Our employees are now getting married and starting families as a result of the economic opportunity that the farm provides. Our investment in land and improvements such as roads, irrigation, electrical, agricultural improvements, buildings and ingoing farming is significant. We have also given extensively to charities in Sicily that provide assistance to students and the mentally and physically challenged. We’ve also provided computers and musical instruments to local schools, and we have sponsored various arts exhibitions. In addition, we’re privately funding an archeological project—we have found ancient human bones dating back to 3000 B.C.
Our greater objective is to establish a profitable business so we can sustain these activities and provide a template for the Sicilian government to apply to other communities.
Much of what you’ve done has happened alongside your main gig, as chairman and CEO of Seagate, a top provider of data storage products. How does one find the time for a passion project like this while leading a company with more than 50,000 people?
SL: I have a lot of energy, and I don’t sleep much. [Laughs] I am also highly focused and like to get things done. We have an incredible team in Sicily as well: Pasquale Marino, or “Mimmo,” is the ultimate polymath and he only sleeps five hours per day! We also have an amazing team stateside. I love what I do at Seagate and at Bona Furtuna. Somehow, the time and energy is available.
What are you working on next for the Bona Furtuna brand?
SL: We are developing organic essential oils. We have several other products under development. They are quite unique so they can not be disclosed just yet, but they are special. The land is guiding us as to what’s next. It’s been an amazing thing to let the land open up and show us the way.
Tell us more about Bona Furtuna’s extra-virgin olive oil and sauces. What are your favorite ways to use them?
SL: I use our olive oil in almost everything. I find the oil to be of medium spice and fairly smooth. I taste tomatoes and artichoke. It finishes nicely and is neither abrupt nor explosive. Some people limit it as a “finishing oil” due to its quality, but I don’t have that discipline. Our children like to have two teaspoons in the morning, right out of the bottle. Most often I use it on salads of any kind—and always on tomatoes with mozzarella, with our sea salt and oregano herb blend. I also like to marinate pork chops rubbed with our Sicilian herb blend, in the olive oil and some balsamic vinegar. Grill them for 10 minutes. It’ll be fabulous.
I use our tomato sauce as the base in my world-famous spaghetti sauce that was taught to me by my grandmother. It’s a secret!
When you make it back to Sicily, have you noticed it changing much?
SL: I get to Sicily about four times per year. It seems to be getting on more Americans’ travel agendas. I haven’t noticed any changes, other than it is changing me. It’s getting harder and harder to leave. Sicily is a magical place and the rural inland is still quite undiscovered. It’s nice to find a place so unique in today’s massively connected world.
The people that are part of the Bona Furtuna family in Sicily are a lot like my grandparents: hardworking, tough, caring and loving. The are completely connected to the land and they hold it in their hearts. I feel my grandmother in everything we do there, and I think she and my mother know what we are doing and are guiding us every day.