Thirty-One Days of Italians
Contributing to America - Business
Thirty-One Days of Italians
2016-17 List of Names
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2013-14 List of Names
Italian American History
Ideas for Lesson Plans
Index of Names
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Italian Book Reviews
The History of Italian Immigrants
Celebrate Italian American Heritage Month
Promote Italian American Heritage
Italian American Doll
Con Amore
2012 List of Names
2011 List of Names
2010 List of Names
2009 List of Names
2008 List of Names
2007 List of Names
Sponsorship Levels
Sponsors and Supporters
Fiscal Sponsor
Prior Updates



Fred DeLuca (1948-2015) Seeking a way to pay college tuition, in 1965, Fred DeLuca partnered with family friend Dr. Peter Buck, and opened a submarine sandwich shop that become SUBWAY®, the top franchise sandwich restaurant in the world.

Born in Brooklyn to Italian-American parents, Deluca was raised in the Projects, moved to upstate New York, and then to Bridgeport, Connecticut. After graduating high school, he had plans to go to college to become a medical doctor, but was not able to pay the tuition.

DeLuca was inspired when Buck suggested opening a sandwich shop, and within a few days he started making plans to open one. The grand opening, as Pete's Super Submarines, was successful, but sales began to rapidly decline. Still, a second and third sandwich shop opened, and the partners kept focused on the goal of 32 shops in 10 years.

A few years later the name was changed to SUBWAY® Restaurants, and in 1974, looking toward expansion, the first franchise opened. Today SUBWAY® Restaurants is the largest submarine sandwich shop franchise in the world with 40,000 restaurants around the world. The privately held company has been ranked Entrepreneur magazine’s number one franchise opportunity 16 times in 22 years. SUBWAY® is the top food business franchise in the 2015 Franchise 500, rated number three in the top ten. It is on numerous lists as one of the healthiest fast food restaurants, and is the top “Sandwich Shop Brand of the Year” in the annual Harris Poll EquiTrend Rankings®. SUBWAY® has 44,270 locations in 110 countries.

In 2013, DeLuca was diagnosed with leukemia, and while receiving treatment he continued to supervise the company. He died in September, several weeks after the 50th anniversary of SUBWAY®.

Official SUBWAY® Restaurants’ Web Site

Entrepreneur’s Hall of Fame


How I Did It (Inc., 2013)


Subway, Unscripted (Interview, 2010)


New York Times Obituary



Ernest (1909-2007) and Julio Gallo (1910-1993) Founders of E. & J. Gallo Winery in Sonoma County, California, in 1933; now Gallo Family Vineyards, the largest family owned winery in the world. After Prohibition was repealed, the brothers worked to build the winery into a leader in the wine industry. From cultivating the grapes, to bottling the wine, to delivering a quality product, E. & J. Gallo maintained control over the entire operation by utilizing sustainable agriculture, in-house bottling facilities, and marketing techniques developed by Ernest Gallo exclusively for the company. The brothers’ efforts have produced an award winning winery and wine, including being the only American winery named "International Winery of the Year" three times, and awarded the "Winery of the Century" by Wines of the Americas Competition.

E. & J. Gallo Winery

Gallo Family Vineyards

Los Angeles Times Article, April 2008

Gallo Winery: How it Began

E. & J. Gallo: Through the Years


Domenico Ghirardelli, Sr. (1817-1894) Immigrated from Rapallo (Genoa), first to South America and then to California during the Gold Rush. With prior experience as a merchant and apprentice candy maker, and with his knowledge of the chocolate trade, Ghirardelli established a confectionery company in 1852. In 1865, his company developed the Broma process, a method of extracting cocoa butter from the cacao beans, that is now used by most chocolate manufacturers. In 2002, Ghirardelli Chocolate Company celebrated its 150th year in business.

The Ghirardelli Story

A Friendship Formed in Chocolate

The Ghirardelli & Co. Ruins


Amadeo Pietro Giannini (1870-1949) At 14, Giannini left school to help his stepfather run a produce business. Five years later, he was a partner, and at 31, he sold the business to retire. Three years later, he opened the Bank of Italy – based on the concept of lending money to the working class – offering mortgage, automobile, and installment loans. After the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, he salvaged the bank’s resources and loaned money to help rebuild the city. He provided financial backing to start United Artists and the California wine industry, and to keep Walt Disney’s Snow White from going over budget.

In 1928, he purchased Bank of America with plans for a nationwide banking system, and when he died in 1949, Bank of America was the largest bank in the United States. A. P. Giannini revolutionized banking, establishing the foundation for the modern banking system.

Who Made America?

TIME 100: Builders and Titans

A.P. Giannini: His Legacy to California Agriculture (PowerPoint)

Bank of Italy (Photo - Historic Architecture in Fresno, CA)

Bank of Italy (Photo - National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco) 


Lee Iacocca (1924) Became CEO of Chrysler Corporation in 1978, and in four years turned it from the verge of bankruptcy into receiving record-breaking profits. Iacocca convinced the federal government to provide assistance to the company and was able to pay the loans back seven years earlier, resulting in millions of dollars in profit to the government. Under his realm, the K-car and minivan were produced. As the former president of Ford Motor Company, he is sometimes referred to as the "Father of the Mustang" for his involvement in its design.

In 1982, he headed the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation to raise funds for the largest American restoration to date. With proceeds from his autobiography, in 1984, he established The Iacocca Foundation – in honor of his late wife – to provide grants to fund diabetes research.

Lee Iacocca

TIME Magazine Cover, April 1985

Motivation is Everything


Jacuzzi Family (1900s) After migrating to California from Italy in the early 1900s, the Jacuzzi brothers, mechanics by trade, produced aircraft equipment and created the first closed cabin monoplane. An airplane accident changed the direction of the company, and some of the brothers began making hydraulic pumps for irrigation; another started a vineyard. In 1947, Candido Jacuzzi developed a hydrotherapy pump – placed into the tub to circulate the water – to aid his son’s treatment. In 1966, he enclosed the pump, making the first whirlpool tub. The family sold the whirlpool business in 1979.

Jacuzzi, Inc.

Jacuzzi History in Valley

In the Jacuzzi Tradition

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards


Robert Mondavi (1913-2008) Guided by his passion to integrate the values and traditions of his Italian heritage into the American wine industry, Mondavi revolutionized it. After years of working in the vineyards and learning about the industry, in 1966 he opened Robert Mondavi Winery to create premium wines and established one of the most recognized vineyards in the world. He introduced old-fashioned wine making techniques to the California wine industry, and changed the production process to create a Sauvignon Blanc – Fumé Blanc – setting the standard for it in America. Mondavi produced wines using cold fermentation, aging in small barrels, and basket pressing, blending new methods with the old-world techniques, and in 1970 he was one of the first to export California wine.

Robert Mondavi Winery

Mondavi's Legacy: Reinventing Napa Valley (NYT, 2008)

Robert Mondavi Institute for Wine and Food Science 


Amedeo Obici (1877-1947) Founder of Planters Peanuts, one of the most recognizable brands in America, Amedeo Obici was 12 years old when he immigrated from Ordezo, Italy (near Venice) to America. When Obici was seven, his father died, and several years later his uncle (his mother’s brother) who lived in Scranton, Pennsylvania, suggested that Obici move to America to stay with him. Obici traveled alone and some sources cite that he mistakenly wound up in Wilkes-Barre, where the Musantes, an Italian-speaking family, was found to translate and provide a place to stay until Obici’s uncle was contacted.

In Scranton, Obici went to school and worked at several jobs including a fruit stand; but he later returned to Wilkes-Barre and worked at the fruit stand owned by the Musantes, where roasted peanuts were also sold. Obici found that the peanuts were a popular snack and noticed that the smell of the roasting peanuts attracted customers. He decided to sell peanuts, and devised a portable roaster that he made from scrap parts. By 1895, he had saved enough money to bring his mother and siblings to America, and had enough left to open a fruit stand that included a peanut roaster.


In the next few years, Obici, who became “The Peanut Specialist,” partnered with Mario Peruzzi and in 1906 formed Planters Peanut Company, incorporated in 1908 as Planters Nut and Chocolate Company. He developed a new way to roast and blanch the peanuts, which improved their taste and appearance, and with his innovative marketing techniques, attracted many more customers. To remove the middleman and be closer to the peanuts fields, Obici built a processing plant in Suffolk, Virginia in 1913. In 1916, Obici held a contest for a logo; the winning entry – by 13-year old Antonio Gentile – was given a top hat, cane, monocle, and spats by a company artist.


Obici married Louise Musante in 1916 and in 1924, the couple moved to Bay Point Farm, a 1870s farmhouse with several structures on 263 acres bordering the Nansemond River in Suffolk. Obici relocated the farmhouse to the banks of the river, and remodeled it in the style of a villa he had seen in Italy. In 2003, the estate was placed on the National Register of Historic Places for being “associated with the lives of persons significant in our past” and because the “property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction …;” but several years ago the house was closed, needing repairs, and it is currently in danger of being demolished. The local preservation group is working to keep and restore the house.


In Suffolk, Planters greatly increased its facilities and production, and in the next decade the company expanded to include several plants in the United States and one in Toronto, Canada. Under Obici’s guidance, the company manufactured its own packaging materials and utilized its resources, producing oil from broken peanuts and selling unused product to minimize waste. In the early 1930s, Planters started opening retail stores throughout America; Planters Peanuts had become a national brand. In 1961, Standard Brands acquired the Planters Peanut and Chocolate Company, in 1981 it merged with Nabisco to form Nabisco Brands; and in 2000, Kraft Foods became the owner of Nabisco Brands.


Obici and his wife were well known for their generosity; they hosted many charitable events at Bay Point Farm and built a clubhouse on their property for the employees of Planters. When Louise died in 1938, as a memorial to her, Obici created an endowment for a hospital. He died in 1947, and four years later, the Louise Obici Memorial Hospital was built. The Obici Foundation was established in 1985, and in 2006, the hospital merged with Sentara Healthcare, and the Obici Healthcare Foundation was established.


Obici Healthcare Foundation: Our Founder


Planters History


Amedeo Obici Short Bio


After 100 Years … (2006 Article, The Virginian-Pilot)


Bay Point Farm (National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, PDF)


Bay Point Farm (Photographs)


Obici House (Photograph)


Historical Marker (Wilkes-Barre, PA)


Antonio Pasin (1896-1990) Arriving in America in 1914 from a small town outside of Venice, within several years Pasin was able to save enough money to start a small business crafting wood wagons. By 1923, he hired his first employees and named his company Liberty Coaster Company, after the Statue of Liberty. Inspired by the automobile industry, he started using metal stamping to make wagons, and named the first steel wagon Radio Flyer in honor of Marconi’s invention of the radio and Pasin’s interest in flight. Throughout the Depression, his company was one of the few that ran at full capacity and his exhibit at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair brought world fame to the red wagon. As one of the oldest toy companies in America, it is still family owned and it’s the only company that makes steel, wood, and plastic wagons. Pasin was inducted into the Toy Industry Hall of Fame in 2003.

Radio Flyer History

Radio Flyer, Inc.

The Antonio Pasin Story (Video)

The World’s Largest Wagon

Wagon Master: Robert Pasin

Rollin' With The Changes


Jeno F. Paulucci (1918-2011) Working at a young age to contribute to his family, today, Paulucci is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in America. Growing up in Minnesota, Paulucci helped his immigrant parents by selling fruits and vegetables, a job that would lead him to further his career in the food industry as the founder of Chun King Chinese Food, Jeno’s Pizza, and Bellisio Foods, the parent company of Michelina’s (named after his mother). To date, Paulucci had started more than 50 companies, and – over the years – has earned numerous awards and honors for his entrepreneurial and employer skills.

One of his earliest awards was in 1972, as the United States Employer of the Year. Recent honors include United States Entrepreneur by Ernst & Young in 2002, and the International Lifetime Achievement Award for Activism, Entrepreneurship and Leadership in 2005. Paulucci is the founder of the National Italian American Foundation and, with his wife, the founder of the Jeno and Lois Paulucci Family Foundation, an organization that helps the poor, disadvantaged, and elderly lead more productive lives.

Jeno F. Paulucci

The Master Chef (Inc., 2007)

Frozen Food King Still Has Plans (2006 Interview)

20th Century Great American Leaders

Jeno, The Power of the Peddler

Pizza Roll Commercial, 1960s (YouTube)

New York Times Obituary


Leonard Riggio (1941) After working in a book store for several years, Riggio opened his own in New York’s Greenwich Village in 1965. It quickly became successful and in 1971, he purchased the floundering Barnes & Noble, which began in 1873 as C. M. Barnes Company, merging with Noble & Noble in 1917. Within a few years, with an overhaul of the company, and the first television commercials for a book store, Barnes & Noble was on its way to recovery. Acquisitions and super stores followed and today, Barnes & Noble is the largest bookstore chain in America. Riggio is also the CEO of Barnes & Noble College Booksellers.

The History of Barnes & Noble

Leonard Riggio: Bargain Book Baron

Funding Homes in New Orleans

The Baron of Books, Business Week, 1998


Anthony T. Rossi (1900-1993) From Sicily to New York to Virginia and then Florida, after starting several successful businesses, in 1947, Rossi purchased a fruit packaging company and sold gift boxes of oranges and grapefruits. He named the company Tropicana. As the popularity of the gift boxes increased, he added sectioned fruit and made juice from the smaller oranges. In 1954, he developed a pasteurization process to extend the shelf life of the juice. He was also instrumental in adding citrus products to school food programs and he established the Aurora Foundation for retiring missionaries. Rossi was inducted into the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 1977 and the Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame in 1987.

History of Tropicana Products, Inc.

Florida Agricultural Hall of Fame

The History of Aurora Mission

New York Times Obituary


Copyright 2007-2016 Janice Therese Mancuso
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without permission except when published with this credit: Excerpt from Thirty-One Days of Italians, ©2015 Janice Therese Mancuso.