IL VIAGGIO - "THE JOURNEY"
The Palermo's story begins in Palermo, Sicily, where our founder, Gaspare "Jack" Fallucca, was born in 1930.
Growing up in the Sicilian countryside, the sweet smell of his family's cooking seemed to hang permanently in the air. It was here that Jack developed his love of good food. He fondly recalls the local tradition of family, friends and neighbors gathering each year at harvest time to celebrate and share the abundance of fresh produce, peasant foods and Italian specialties handed down from generation to generation.
In 1938, Zina Feliccia, Jack's wife to be, was born in a small town only a few miles away. As fate would have it, they met in Palermo, and eventually sailed separately to America. Each carried cherished family recipes in their suitcases, and a devotion to family in their hearts. Reconnecting stateside, they were wed in 1954.
TESTING THE LAND OF OPPORTUNITY
Following other family members, Jack and Zina settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the late 1950's, where they started their own family. They were blessed with three sons: Peter, Giacomo and Angelo.
In 1964, Jack opened Palermo Villa Inc., which began as an Italian bakery on Milwaukee's East Side. Initially selling Italian breads, cookies and cannoli, they began making Italian soups and sandwiches. Soon, they acquired the hardware store next door and expanded.
THE REALIZATION OF A DREAM: PALERMO VILLA
In 1969, Jack and Zina opened a restaurant to satisfy their customers' demand for their homemade Italian foods. The recipes they used came from old family specialties, some of which Jack and Zina created by memory - not to mention trial and error. Palermo Villa's specialties included Spedini, Bracioloni, cannoli and homemade pasta dishes. However, it was their pizzas and pizza breads which were most in demand.
An article in the Milwaukee Journal naming Palermo's "Milwaukee's Best Pizza" made the restaurant an even more popular spot. Sficinuni, thin crust, thick crust and the famous pizza bread and tomato bread were the preferred items. Jack's special calzones, another family recipe, were also a favorite.
During its early years, many celebrities of the day visited Palermo Villa, including Frankie Avalon and James Darren. But it was the owner of a local grocery store who would change the Fallucca's fortunes. He ordered sficinuni to go, but Jack suggested he take the pizza bread instead. After tasting it, the customer was so impressed he urged Jack and Zina to go into the frozen food business. The rest, as they say, e la storia (is history).
FROM RESTAURANTEUR TO FLEDGLING MANUFACTURER
Palermo's began making frozen pizza breads in 1978, in an old bakery that was renovated into a manufacturing facility on Milwaukee's South Side. Several years later, Palermo's introduced twelve-inch round pizzas with crusts that were par-baked on-premise. Pizzas and pizza breads were sold under the "Palermo's" brand name, and Jack Fallucca soon became known as "Papa Palermo." His expression "Dat's Da Best!™" spoken in his heavy Italian accent, was soon adopted as the company's slogan and became widely recognized throughout the area.
1983 saw the addition of a larger bakery and the introduction of "Zina's Thin Crust Pizza." Two years later, Palermo's further expanded into the market of Deli Pizzas, providing supermarkets with pizzeria-fresh pizzas for their deli customers. Dat is da best Then, in 1989, Palermo's introduced a revolutionary new product - the first pizzeria-style frozen pizza with a crust that rises as it bakes. "Palermo's Special Edition Pizza" was an instant success and was soon copied by national frozen pizza makers. ("Copied" being the polite phrase.)
In 1993, Palermo's successfully exhibited at the National Private Label Show, launching us into the private label pizza business. As consumers' taste for premium pizzeria-style pizza increased, Palermo's Rising Crust Pizza, Thin Crust, Deli Pizzas and Private Label products grew with them.
In 2003, Palermo's demonstrated their innovation once again with the introduction of "Primo Thin™," the industry's first ultra-thin crust frozen pizza. Offering a crispy & flaky cracker-like crust with both tradition and gourmet toppings, Primo Thin was an instant success with consumers across the country.
WITH A RESPECT FOR THE PAST, AND AN EYE ON THE FUTURE
Today, just as it was when Jack began our company, every pizza we produce is made with the utmost care and pride -using only the finest, high quality ingredients we can find. Ingredients that you just won't find on lesser pizzas. That's why our pizzas deliver a pizzeria-quality experience.
We also continue to introduce new creations. 2007 saw the premiere of our Naturally Rising Pizza with Rustico™ Crust," our authentic, super-premium rising crust pizza and Stone Baked pizzas with a Hearth Italia™ crust, which was created to provide a pizza as close to those enjoyed in the piazzas of Italy featuring a crust baked in our imported Italian marble-hearth oven. In 2010 Palermo's once again brought innovation to the frozen pizza category with the introduction of its Hand Tossed Style pizzas.
As the company's product offerings have grown so has its success. In March of 2011 Palermo's was named to the Deloitte Wisconsin 75 List for the second consecutive year. Each year the Deloitte 75 recognizes the Top 75 privately held businesses in the state of Wisconsin.
So, while our product lines, manufacturing facilities and employee count have grown tremendously over the years, we still maintain the same dedication as we did at the outset. Like Jack and Zina, we will never sacrifice our high standards for the sake of profits. That's the premise our company was built upon. And the one that will guide us into the future.