In 1898, John Volpi arrived in America from his home in Milan, Italy, bringing with him little more than a craft and a vision. Having learned from his elders the ancient European art of dry curing, John had a dream of importing the centuries-old traditions across the ocean—thus continuing to serve his customers once they migrated to America.
Four years later, in 1902, he opened Volpi Foods at the intersection of two dirt roads in the St. Louis neighborhood known as The Hill. There, he created cacciatore—dried salami small enough to fit into the pockets of the local clay miners. He used only local ingredients and suppliers, and dried the meats using the same method he’d learned in Italy: opening and shutting windows to control the temperature and humidity of the air that circulated throughout the room. The response to John’s exquisite craftsmanship was overwhelming. He soon added delicacies such as prosciutto, guanciale, pancetta, and coppa.
As demand grew, John expanded both his products and his personnel, recruiting his fourteen-year-old nephew, Armando Pasetti, from Italy. His new apprentice traveled by boat to his new home in America, lived upstairs from the shop, and learned the business just as his uncle had: from the bottom-up.
Armando swept the floors, tied sausages, and eventually, mastered every aspect of his uncle’s craft—right down to the opening and closing of the windows.
In 1957, upon John’s passing, Armando took the helm of the company, which was now a thriving business. In 1980, he continued to meet consumer demand by bringing Volpi Foods national, and enlisted his daughter to help run the manufacturing plant. An eager pupil, Lorenza studied first-hand the techniques behind Volpi’s premium meats—and supplemented her culinary expertise with an MBA from Washington University.
In 2002, exactly 100 years after John Volpi opened his business, Armando passed the torch to Lorenza. Now, as president of Volpi Foods, Lorenza continues to refine her great-uncle’s craft—while adhering to the techniques he brought with him to America more than a century ago. Volpi Foods still relies exclusively on local suppliers. It still dries its meats by adjusting the temperature and humidity of natural airflows. It still prides itself on satisfying consumer needs. And it still sells cacciatore from its storefront in The Hill.
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