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Since 1984, Ditalia has been delivering specialty Italian foods, gourmet gifts, provisions and groceries to food lovers across America. What started out as an idea hatched over antipasti has grown into a community of friends, family, and producers. It’s been an interesting journey and we’ve collected a lot of stories along the way. So get comfortable — maybe even make yourself a little snackiceddu. Here’s our story, fresh from the Ditalia archives.
Vincenzo Di Piazza arrived in America in 1958 at the age of twenty years old, inspired to create something new for himself and a family. He got his start as a mechanic at an auto shop. A few year later, Vincenzo married Lil, his childhood sweetheart from Sicily, and together, they started a family. After years of hard work and saving, Vincenzo opened his own auto shop in St. Louis, Missouri in 1972. The American Dream was beginning to come true.
The Most Important Room in the House
After long hours at Foreign Car Parts, Vincenzo Di Piazza always looked forward to coming home to the kitchen table. The kitchen at the Di Piazza's was a gathering place for friends and family just about every night of the week. Neighborhood friends made it a point to stop in to enjoy Nonna's Italian cooking and hear stories about Italy. On the weekends, aunts and uncles would gather together to celebrate the family with traditions mainly evolving around food. We're Italian, that's what we did and do to this day. Our culture seemed to always revolve around food in some way. From baking breads, cookies and desserts to making homemade wine, jarring "sugo" sauce, making salsiccia "sausage and so much more. It was fun learning how to crack jokes in our nonna's native Sicilian dialect. It was where good food and company mattered, where everyone was family. The Di Piazza kitchen reminded Vincenzo of everything he loved about Italy.
From Italia to Ditalia
In 1982, Vincenzo traveled back to Italy for the first time in 20 years. He reconnected with old friends and family, sharing meals he hadn’t enjoyed since he was a child. Back in the 80's, it was difficult to find specialty Italian foods in America and what you’d often find were items that lacked in traditional small artisan production. Vincenzo wanted to change this. Full of excitement, Vincenzo started learning everything he could about Italian cuisine. He visited Italy’s best olive orchards, pasta makers, and many more places, meeting producers who were dedicated to making food the traditional way. Over antipasti and dinner, he told these new friends he wanted to share their food with America. This was the start of Ditalia.
In 1987, Vincenzo closed the auto shop and opened Ditalia near the famous Hill, a historically Italian neighborhood in St. Louis, Missouri. The business began as a distributor to local restaurants, groceries, and families. Ditalia was among one of the first distributors in America to feature specialty Italian foods made the traditional way. Vincenzo soon earned a reputation for his knowledge of Italian foods. With much charisma, Vincenzo could talk about a product because he knew the family that made it, exactly how it was produced, and how it tasted. Customers knew they could trust Ditalia and many of the relationships formed in the early years still last to this day.
Ditalia was a family business from the start. And man, there was lots of family involved. Scores of uncles and cousins joined Vincenzo to help pack boxes and deliver orders across the city in the Ditalia truck. Vincenzo brought his kids to the Ditalia office to introduce them to chefs and teach them about Italian cuisine. The family dinners got a little bigger too. Producers from Italy and local customers began to join the family at the dinner table.
Enter the Internet
In 1997, Vincenzo's youngest son, Vince, decided to join his father at Ditalia. Vince was excited by this new invention called the “World Wide Web” and knew it could change the business. That same year, Vince and Vincenzo registered Ditalia.com and and were amazed by the results. Suddenly, Ditalia got requests for Italian foods coming in from across the world. The Ditalia family found themselves sending wheels of cheese to Japan and pallets of pasta to Mexico.
Ditalia’s expansion to the internet couldn’t have come at a better time. Americans were discovering the health benefits of olive oil and the pleasures of specialty Italian foods. Vince started traveling to Italy to learn each region’s unique dialects and cuisine and expand Ditalia’s collection of foods.
Introducing Gift Baskets
Inspired by Vincenzo’s love of sharing new foods with friends, Ditalia introduced a collection of gourmet gift baskets. Ditalia is proud to be among one of the first to offer gift bundles inspired by Italy online. With packages that combined oils, salumi, and sweets, customers could now gift Italy’s finest to friends and family. Ditalia has sent baskets to everywhere and everyone, from Alaska to Jay Leno’s garage.
Ditalia has grown since Vincenzo opened up shop in 1987. But, some things don't change. You will today still find family and friends all chipping in to send a diverse array of Italian foods and gourmet gifts all over the USA. We continue to source traditional Italian specialty products, improve the online customer experience and evolve our operations. Keeping with Ditalia’s tradition of teaching friends about Italian foods, Ditalia is now sharing recipes, stories from Italian producers, and more on our blog called the Secret Sauce.
Vincenzo is happily retired, but his vision for Ditalia still lives on. You will still always find Vincenzo at Ditalia cooking the team lunch and sharing his stories. Truly some things never change.