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50 Years of Great Taste

The idea to commercially manufacture spaghetti sauce took root in 1943, when Ferdinand and Mafalda DelGrosso bought a small restaurant at 17th Street and Eighth Avenue in Altoona, Pennsylvania. They called it DELGROSSO’S CAFE, and within a short time it was hailed as serving the “best spaghetti dinner in town”. The homemade sauce that “Fred” and “Murf” prepared for their pasta dinners was the ingredient that set DELGROSSO’S CAFE apart from the others. Interestingly enough, the sauce was made from Mafalda’s mother’s (Marianna Pulcino) original recipe, which her mother had brought to this country as an immigrant around the turn of this century.
Based on the positive consumer reaction to the spaghetti sauce at DELGROSSO’S, Fred decided to experiment with the product, for he saw the potential for a successful commercial endeavor if he and his wife could market and sell their quality Italian sauces.
In 1946, he sold DELGROSSO’S CAFE and bought BLAND’S AMUSEMENT PARK and RESTAURANT, located eight miles north of Altoona in Tipton. Fred immediately set up a special kitchen in the park’s restaurant and began to experiment with the original recipe. From the beginning he decided there would be no short cuts used to produce “The Finest Sauce Made”, for the family name was soon to go on the package. He used quality meats, fresh vegetables, imported olive oil and cheese, the right cooking time, and his own variations of Marianna’s original recipe. When Fred was satisfied with his recipe, he consulted his wife, Murf, and they decided to start their small business. So, in the back room of BLAND’S PARK’S RESTAURANT, with Fred and Murf at the controls, DelGrosso Foods commenced production.
Fred and Murf began with four 10-gallon pots and a hand sealer, which took 24 revolutions to seal one can. They worked 10 hours to make one “batch” of their sauce, which totaled all of five cases, packed 24 cans to a case. Initially, the sauce was used only in the park’s restaurant, but as production continued, Fred and two long-time friends from Altoona formed a small sales force and gradually increased distribution by “pounding the pavement.”
The first expansion took place in 1951, when Fred built a small cooking room behind BLAND’S PARK. It contained four 20-gallon, gas-fired, hand-stirred kettles and an automatic can sealer leased out of Philadelphia. However, the sauce was still poured by hand, one can at a time by family members using pot holders. A “batch” of sauce now took about eight hours to can, and production was up to 10-12 cases. Also, at this time each can was hand labeled with a paper label bearing the company’s logo. This process literally took hours, but the DelGrosso family was proud of its products and wanted to establish a tradition to pass on to the next generation.

Growth and Expansion

Fred DelGrosso purchased Bland’s Park and Restaurant in late 1946 because he felt the “large” kitchen would be an excellent location to experiment with the dream of commercially producing pasta sauce. The few hundred square feet served Fred well until 1951. Then, the operations and office moved to a new building constructed in the Park, which tripled space to nearly 1000 square feet.
For the next 25 years the small block building expanded several times to accommodate the growing business. At times, the small DelGrosso plant was unable to warehouse the finished product it produced. During these times, guests at Bland’s Park could see forklifts crisscrossing the grounds as they moved finished product to the former Bland’s Park Skating Rink for storage.
The most significant step in the physical plant growth of DelGrosso Foods occurred in 1979 when DelGrosso Foods moved into a new state-of-the-art 40,000 square foot plant across the road from Bland’s Park. With the increased capacity, DelGrosso was now able to develop new segments of business. The 1980’s brought significant growth in private label packing and in the, then popular, generic segment.
As the private label segment grew, plant modernization and expansion took place in the early 1990’s. An 18,000 square foot warehouse was added, along with expanded office and label storage facilities. Modernization of the production line also took place with the design and installation of new conveyor systems, labeling machines and jar filling equipment. Offices, a lounge and other specialized areas were also added to accommodate regular visits by Rabbinical inspectors, as production of private label Kosher sauces began.
On site, but separate from the main plant, construction of a 4000 square foot meatball production facility took place in 1992. The growth of that product line continues with further expansion expected in the next several years. In 2000, the size of the DelGrosso Plant nearly doubled with the construction of a 55,000 square foot addition. The new facility houses warehouse facilities, a new boiler room, a new “drive-in” freezer and upgrades to the processing equipment.
The “branding of Tipton” became complete on the Fall of 2000 when the DelGrosso Family put their name on their beloved amusement park. DelGrosso’s Amusement Park will carry on the commitment to quality and family fun established by Fred and Mafalda DelGrosso more then 50 years ago.

Fred Mafalda
Jar

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