Larry E. Pisoni
I was born in Trentino, Italy in 1937 when Benito Mussolini was in power. Two years later World War II broke out and Italy found itself under Nazi occupation. In February, 1945 when the war was near an end, an event occurred that would determine the course of my life.
I was seven years old when one day in late February I saw a formation of American bombers soaring over our village. The sky was full of planes, fire, smoke and explosions from the heavy German flak on the ground. One of the planes was hit and I vividly remember seeing the airmen bailing out of it just before it crashed into a mountain. The following day I saw two of the airmen, who had been captured by the Germans in the town square. I will never forget those handsome Americans with their open friendly faces, so unlike the descriptions we children had heard in Nazi-Fascist propaganda. Later the valley was shocked by the news that those young men had been killed by the Nazis, while being walked to their headquarters twenty km. away.
We were shaken and saddened and many of us have never forgotten. Every time I passed by that fatal spot where those young men were killed I thought of them. After the Americans had forced the Germans to retreat, a small American Army command was stationed in our home. From those soldiers, I received my first chocolate milk, bananas and fruit cocktail, and I never forgot. This is how my lifelong friendship with Americans began. I decided that one day I would go to this wonderful land whose sons had sacrificed their lives to liberate us from tyranny. I had to learn English, that was not taught in Trentino at that time, so I started learning it on my own. After graduating from high school in Trento, I enrolled in Mount Union College in Alliance, Ohio. By studying hard, I managed to get a B average and a small grant from the Rotary Club. After graduation from Mount Union I convinced Carol, America's best, to marry me. Two children and a total of eight dogs later, we are still married after almost 57 years.
I didn't seem to fit into any box, so I created my own and pioneered another profession: I became an international hotel broker and tour operator back before this profession existed. This led to organizing cooking courses based on the Mediterranean diet, which Carol and I organized for over twenty years. It was during this period that I realized that a large enough portion of Americans were interested in good, genuine food. In 1994 I founded Gourmet Italia and entered into the commissaries in Europe. In 2012 we managed to get our products into 80 American commissaries US-wide in the States. We are now offering our Gourmet Italia products (dry pasta, extra virgin olive oil, canned tomatoes, sea salt, pizza, focaccia and flour) and Rigoni organic jams and Nocciolata to the American civilian market. We should soon be online in our mission to offer the finest Healthy, Earth-Friendly products. I am confident that quality will triumph because Americans are finally ready for it. As Winston Churchill used to say, "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after they’ve tried everything else."
Larry E. Pisoni