The Casa Di Lisio story would make a wonderful movie script.
“We had come home from a trip to the Caribbean and had fallen in love with the scampi sauce at the hotel,” Lou Di Lisio explained. We asked for the recipe and the chef refused. So we came home and my wife and I went to work trying to recreate them for us to enjoy and share with family and friends. We made them from scratch so we knew to get to the right flavor that only the highest quality ingredients would enable us to create the true flavor we were after.”
Lou and Lucy Di Lisio started Casa Di Lisio Products in their home in Connecticut in 1973. The Westchester company’s first sauce was a French style scampi sauce later called Sauce Provencal. Casa Di Lisio was the first company to put frozen Pesto Sauce on the market for foodservice. They broke new ground when they launched a frozen sauce that combined the highest quality Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts. For 40 plus years in business they have made and sold over tons and tons of Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts.
As we enter 2015, Casa DiLisio continues to be the only manufacturer who uses only fresh Basil and Pine Nuts in their Pesto Sauce. All of their sauces are made with only the finest ingredients and freshest herbs.
So that legend grew out of their Connecticut home kitchen as friends and neighbors and nearby stores clamored to stock the Di Lisio sauces. “It’s interesting that people told us, if you go outside of major cities like New York that people don't have the type of palette to be able to appreciate a great sauce. We found early on that when we sampled the product, people all over loved it.”
Many competitors through the years have brought entries to the marketplace that has featured cheaper ingredients that were machine processed. “Our approach is very simple. We do tastings for our distributor sales teams with our product and the cheaper competition. In each case the room goes quickly silent because the salesperson that is in front of the chef every day knew that their customer simply would accept nothing less than Casa Di Lisio quality.
The Mt. Kisco, NY firm's growth fits perfectly with how the foodservice industry has expanded. “We are a natural fit for a multiple unit operator of any size. They typically have an executive chef who creates the menu and then a General Manager and cooking team that execute at each of the units. So we enabled them to create a dish and then execute consistently because our sauces are being made with the freshest ingredients and being frozen.”
The bumps in the economy have made the firm more valuable to their customers. “In many cases, there have been major cutbacks in the kitchen so a chef who used to be able to make large quantities of sauces fresh 10 years ago, simply doesn't have the manpower to support that today. So our sauces enable the chef to maintain consistency and quality,” Lou Di Lisio explained.
The firm's commitment to freshness has put them way ahead of their time. “We've been gluten free for over 40 years. In addition, we've been doing vegan product before it was a hot topic. This has enabled us to be a major attraction to buyers in the healthcare and college and university segment,” Lou Di Lisio continued. Casa Di Lisio VEGAN Basil Pesto Sauce brings the number of outstanding Vegan Sauces they have to offer to four.
Most recently food allergies have become a major priority for food service buyers. “Our nut free Basil Pesto sauce provide a food service operator to serve fresh Basil Pesto without the concerns of the Allergen issue,” added Linda Di Lisio, the firm's Director of Marketing and Sales. The fresh smell of basil welcomed the Total Food Service team upon arrival last month at Casa Di Lisio's home in Mt. Kisco, NY. “There's simply only one way to make pesto,” Lou Di Lisio explained.
“You need to buy the highest quality fresh basil, pine nuts and cheese. Regardless of the price in the marketplace, we simply will not compromise. We then prepare the sauces by hand.” According to Lou Di Lisio, 37 years ago you couldn't sell pesto sauce, no one knew what it was. Last year Casa Di Lisio produced and sold over 750 tons of Pesto Sauce. Casa Di Lisio is also one of the very few companies using only FRESH BASIL in their Pesto Sauce. The commitment to quality led to the American Culinary Federation awarding the nation's only Gold Certification to their Pesto Sauces.
In addition to their Basil Pesto with Pine Nuts they have the following Gold Medal winning sauces: Sun Dried Tomato Pesto (VEGAN), Fire Roasted Red Pepper Pesto (VEGAN), Puttanesca Sauce, Cilantro Pesto, Creamy Alfredo, Roasted Garlic (VEGAN), White Clam Sauce, Walnut Pesto, Sauce Provencal and Napolitano Tomato Sauce and Basil Pesto without Nuts. Their sauces are freshly made 52 weeks a year, using only the finest ingredients and the secret touch of tender loving care. They make all of their sauces in small quantities and freeze them immediately to preserve the delicate, unique flavor and consistency.
Lou Di Lisio has always been one of the industry's trust visionaries in his ability to direct the firm's ability to read the ever-changing needs of the food service marketplace. “The dining public has intensified the demands of the chain operator. They typically have an executive chef that works in a corporate environment to build the menu. The actual restaurant kitchen is then operated by a culinary team in which the goal is to execute consistency. Our pesto and full line of sauces enables the chain operator to manage consistency.
“I left IBM to come work here” noted daughter Linda. “My Father told me that it was no place for a girl. Well here I am 30 plus years later and I never left. I can't tell you how much I have learned from this man (Dad-Lou) working by his side. His commitment to the quality of our products and the needs of our customers simply never ceases to amaze me.”
Casa Di Lisio's quality has made it a nationwide leader. The firm has a client base that reaches throughout the Caribbean, Hawaii several countries around the world. The food service industry such as white tablecloth restaurants, hotels, resorts, pizza restaurants, contract feeders, airlines, cruise lines, universities, hospitals, multi-unit restaurants, and home replacement markets are currently using Casa Di Lisio’s frozen sauces.
The expansion of the line has been driven by Lou Di Lisio's vision for continually creating new menu solutions for the firm's customer base. This has included a new breed of pizza chains that are utilizing Casa Di Lisio sauces to create signature pies and a major national c-store chain utilizing the sauces to launch a line of gourmet sandwiches.
Casa Di Lisio's goal to create the ultimate in Italian Frozen Sauces has simply never wavered. With a family member present to oversee the quality and consistency of their freshly made products, the Di Lisio family signature is on every serving to ensure their delicate, unique flavor and consistency.
Today the line's importance for the foodservice operator has grown dramatically as a more educated dining patron demands consistent quality. This is especially true in Metro New York where more competitive real estate prices have enabled major chains to compete with the Tri-State area's traditional base of independent restaurateurs.