This article analyses the production and distribution of table olives, focusing in particular on the province of Trapani, in Western Sicily, where the 47% of the Italian production is concentrated and, over the last years, the «Nocellara del Belìce» protected denomination of origin (Pdo) was institutionalised. The study was conducted through ethnographic methodologies, in particular participant observation of the precarious settlements of the mainly Senegalese seasonal labourers, and 60 in-depth interviews with workers, farmers, traders, processors, institutional actors, between 2014 and 2018. First, by using the food regime approach, this contribution reconstructs three phases of the history of this value chain since the 1940s, with a focus on the figure (and transformations) of the so-defined «Neapolitan» traders, who are considered as the «inventors» of the Nocellara table olive. Then, two features of the last phase are considered. Concerning the construction of the «quality» of this product, it is argued that the institutionalization of the Pdo has favoured the most powerful actors in the chain, namely the «Neapolitan» traders and the retail chains, while the small-scale olive producers remained subaltern. Finally, the common representation of «Neapolitan» traders as Mafiosi is questioned, and the recent rise of «antimafia» productions is addressed.
Keywords: Typical food; Food regime analysis; Antimafia; Ethnography.