The heritage of our company began over a century ago in the small village of Montelepre, Italy, located on the sunny Mediterranean island of Sicily.
The people of Montelopre took great pride in their close ties to agriculture which at the turn of the last century was the mainstay of the region. For most, sunrise to sunset was spent planting, cultivating and harvesting the crops, tending to the animals and maintaining their vineyards and orchards in the surrounding countryside. Delicious and bountiful food, warmly shared with friends and family, was at the very center of their lives and served as a catalyst for storytelling that deeply rooted generations in principles, tradition and heritage.
Wheat to make homemade pasta and fresh crusty breads, tomatoes, olives and olive oil and an abundance of fruits and vegetables were often harvested from the family’s own land. And cheese, wonderfully delectable Italian cheese, produced by artisan cheesemakers who made just a form or two a day from the milk of their small herds, almost always adorned the table.
It was into this culture that Filippo Candelo, the founder of Grande, was born in 1891, and it was here that Filippo learned the art of making fine Italian cheese.
In Filippo’s early life, work was hard but family and friends were always close. This tight circle was expanded in a wonderful way when Filippo married Provvidenza in a small church in Montelepre in 1925. While it was painful to think of being separated from his roots and the land he loved so much, but Filippo recognized the difficult economic reality of the times. He looked across the Atlantic to America.
Once in America, Filippo purchased a small dairy farm and orchard together with his first cousin. The Great Depression made times on the dairy farm ever more challenging. Driven by his passion to succeed, Filippo made the decision to move to Wisconsin to find employment as an Italian cheese specialist. He arrived by train, late in the winter of 1940, a stranger, not knowing where he would be sleeping and able to speak only a few words of the English language.
Fate however assisted Filippo. In Wisconsin for only a short time, he met an Italian cheese buyer with whom he had been friends in the Old World. It was this meeting that sowed the seeds of a new cheese company, formed by Filippo and a handful of family and friends, which they named Grande, the Italian word for “greatness.” Filippo worked tirelessly to ensure the fledging company’s success. It was not uncommon to work 15 hours a day, seven days a week, handcrafting cheeses in scalding water.
In the early years, Grande primarily made Italian eating and grating cheeses such as Provolone and Romano. Slow cured, as much as a year or longer, these traditional styles became favorites of Italian immigrant families across the United States who yearned to recollect the fond memories of fine food shared with family and friends in the Old Country. In later years, pizza became popular and Grande began to produce its trademarked Mozzarella, which soon became recognized in fine Italian restaurants and pizzerias as the most exceptional of cheeses for pizza.
The unique taste of Grande’s cheeses, derived from Filippo’s unswerving passion for excellence, proved to be the impetus for the company’s growth over the years to come. It ultimately took over half a century for Filippo to achieve his dream, but he was finally able to see his company establish itself in the marketplace with a reputation for making “The finest Italian cheese money can buy!”®
Today, more than 70 years after the founding of the company, Filippo and Enza’s legacy continues to live through the integrity, interpersonal respect, and visible passion of all Grande Associates. Filippo’s commitment to excellence and determination are the foundation of our heritage, and they have been preserved and nurtured through our formal Mission and Culture Statements.