Conte’s Pasta Company
Putting Traditional Italian Back on the Table
From homemade pastas to hand-tossed pizzas to fresh-baked breads, gluten is a common ingredient in traditional Italian food. When we are first diagnosed with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease, Italian is one of the cuisines to which we quickly tend to say, arrivederci!
Fortunately, the gluten-free marketplace has expanded and improved greatly in the past years, making many of our favorite foods readily available in gluten-free form. Conte’s Pasta Company is one company that has helped us reclaim our favorite gluten-free Italian foods. They have taken traditional, authentic Italian recipes and modernized them to fit the needs of today’s consumers.
Conte’s Pasta Company came to America by way of Angela Conte, a woman with a deep passion for the food of her home country. She moved to America from the Abruzzi region of Italy in 1970, bringing along her authentic home recipes. In 1978, Angela and her family opened Conte’s Restaurant, where she made fresh pasta and savory tomato sauce that had customers flocking to the door. The number one request from customers was to purchase the pasta for use at home, and thus an idea was sparked by Mauro “Mike” Conte (her son) to manufacture and distribute Conte’s foods for home use.
Angela and her family decided to switch from running a restaurant to operating a manufacturing center, providing frozen Italian foods to grocery stores across the country. Though frozen foods may not seem traditional in a home-cooked sense, the recipes remain authentic and true to Angela’s Italian roots. The company succeeded in bringing the food of generations past to the table in a modern, convenient way.
The next step in the company’s development was to get ahead of the times by creating products for those on a gluten-free diet. It was nearly 20 years ago when Conte’s Pasta was first approached by a distributor who informed them of the demand for gluten-free products. Mike Conte, the owner of the company, decided to give it a try. He and the Production Manager, Ron Walters, began testing recipes and experimenting with the process of making gluten-free pasta.
“It was almost two years of off-and-on experimenting and trying different things until they eventually came upon a recipe that would work with the equipment,” said Judy Sabella, vice President of Operations. “Each time when they would go to produce the product they would actually have to tweak the machines a bit to make it work that particular time.”
The company started on a small scale and sold its gluten-free products to just a few distributors at first. They did not market the gluten-free line until about 10 years ago when they put up a small sign at a food expo that said “gluten-free pasta available.” Even without samples to give to attendees, the attention they received at that show was overwhelming.
“We could not believe the number of people who were stopping at the booth asking about it,” Sabella said. “And from that point forward, it just exploded.” The company then began mass producing and marketing its new gluten-free line. At that time, Conte’s Pasta produced its gluten-free line on its regular equipment, undergoing rigorous procedures to ensure quality and safety.
“We had to go through the process every night of completely breaking down the equipment, taking it apart and making sure that every single piece of it was cleaned and sanitized if we were going to be doing gluten-free the next day,” Sabella said. “The following morning, before production began, they would go through that whole cleaning process again just to be certain.” The company would then test the products and, according to Sabella, they never once tested positive for gluten.
The company’s dedication to providing authentic Italian food to as many homes as possible, regardless of food sensitivities, was further proven when Conte’s created a dedicated gluten-free facility in 2009. That decision helped to boost the confidence that consumers had in the safety of the company’s products while allowing Conte’s to increase production. The company’s gluten-free line now makes up 60 percent of its total production.
The addition of the gluten-free line did not just put convenient Italian food back on our home dining room tables, but on the tables of many restaurants, including Chuck E. Cheese. Conte’s Pasta partnered with Chuck E. Cheese back in 2012 to provide bake-in-bag pizzas for kids (or parents) on a gluten-free diet. The pizzas are sealed until the child or parent opens them and even come with an individually wrapped disposable pizza cutter to prevent cross contamination.
Whatever the needs of today’s consumers, Conte’s delivers. From meeting the demand for frozen Italian food, to adapting their ingredients for gluten-free diets, to providing restaurants with gluten-free options, Conte’s has learned to change with the times and modernize their products.
Giving up gluten can be difficult, but giving up all Italian food would be unbearable. Thanks to Conte’s Pasta Company, the only thing that’s unbearable is having to decide whether to cook the cheese ravioli tonight or the stuffed shells. Or maybe the pierogies.