Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Local…and Italian

Since you meet them in the aisles of our stores, you probably know that our Whole Foods Market Team Members are passionate about food. What you may not know is that our local vendors are some of the most zealous food people you'll ever find! These folks have devoted their lives - often at great financial risk and always with great personal dedication - to making high-quality, natural food. Pretty incredible!

One inspiration for some of our producers' love for food is their family history. Italians are well-known for great food and enthusiastic eaters, and our Local Producer Loan recipients are no exception. Elisa Gambino, Philomena Aceto and Jim Blumetti were all inspired by their Italian roots and took some time to talk about their products and their passions.


Via Elisa Fresh Pasta Elisa Gambino Product: Fresh Pasta What's your family history with Italian food? My parents were first-generation Americans and before moving to the U.S. my grandmother was the baker in her small town in Italy. As a child my mother had a wood-burning stove in her backyard. My mother learned to bake from my grandmother and we always had the best pizza and other baked delights at home. So I think it was this experience that made me appreciate the wonder of a good dough! What made you decide to start your food company? I started my food company because I could not find any freshly-made pasta here in Atlanta, and I thought that if I made wonderful pasta, people would enjoy it and become loyal customers. What's your fondest food memory? My fondest food memory was when I was a teenager and we moved to Rome and I enrolled in school there. I could not believe how wonderful the school food was; we had fresh pasta, fresh fruit salads, pork roast, roasted vegetables. Everything was made from scratch in a real kitchen where they made real food. I actually looked forward to the school lunches. It would be difficult to find children here in the U. S. that could wax poetic about their school lunches. Which is the favorite of your products you make? I love everything we make or I would not make it. My favorite dish to serve when we have guests is a trio of freshly made tortelloni. I serve porcini tortelloni, roasted squash tortelloni and lemon tortelloni with brown butter and sage. What has Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program meant to you? The loan program made it possible for us to make our pasta faster without sacrificing the quality. We bought a super-speedy cutting machine with our loan. Whole Foods Market treats their vendors with respect, from paying their invoices on time to taking care when they display our products; they are the ideal customer.


Philomena Food Company
Philomena Aceto Product: Italian breads What's your family history with Italian food? Well, I grew up in an Italian family where we cooked everything fresh, and we always had lots of traditional dishes. Meals were a big deal for us. What made you decide to start your food company? I felt like I could do better than what was out there, and I have! What's your fondest food memory? That would have to be our Christmas dinners - the eggplant parmesan and stuffed artichokes. The homemade pasta - yummy! Which is the favorite of your products you make? Our breads. Both stuffed and artisan, they're a real quality product. What do you enjoy about working with Whole Foods Market? I like working with Whole Foods Market very much. I have met a lot of great folks, and I have made some great friends. They are always so supportive when I am in the stores.


Blumetti's Gourmet Foods Jim Blumetti Product: Pasta sauce What's your family history with Italian food? I am of Italian decent from both my mother and father's side of the family. Both were first-generation Italian-American. My grandparents operated a small corner grocery store as I was growing up, where my entire family helped to make Italian-style items for sale along with everyday grocery and produce. What made you decide to start your food company? By the time my own children were born, they had no connection to their Italian side of the family. All of my relatives had passed on, and the grocery store was a very distant memory. I wanted to give my children a sense of this rich history and the culture that was uniquely theirs. What's your fondest food memory? Helping my grandmother in the kitchen prepare foods for our very large family, extended family and the grocery's store guests who would come to buy our products. Which is the favorite of your products you make? All of my sauces are my favorite in their own way. Each has something in them handed down directly from my grandparents and great-grandparents. But I do tend to get stuck on a different flavor for a period of time, then move on to the next. Right now I'm in my "Artichoke Portobello Marinara" mode and loving it! What has Whole Foods Market's Local Producer Loan Program meant to you? The loan program was the only way we could have brought out 3 new sauce flavors at the same time as quickly as we did. Whole Foods Market has been extremely supportive of our personal challenges as a small business with patience and concern for our growth and stability.