Food Scene

Talluto’s: It started with a dream … and a ravioli machine

By Bill Gelman

For those of you thinking of making a later in life career change, the story of Talluto’s may serve as the extra motivation to take the big step.

Flashback to the 1960s. Joseph Talluto, at 67 years young, decided he no longer wanted to work as a chef. So he stopped, sold his house and a purchased a ravioli machine. According to his grandson Joseph F. Talluto, who serves as vice president and COO, the sale of the house netted $7,500 and the ravioli machine cost $7,400. While many would’ve have used the money for a downpayment on a new home, the elder of the Tallutos decided to lay the foundation for something much bigger — a business that would support multiple generations of his family.

Along with son, Joseph A.M. Talluto, who still serves as president and CEO, they opened the first store in 1967, setting up shop in Southwest Philly. Fifty years later, the eldest of the three Tallutos and the original location may no longer be around, but his dream and ravioli machine are still going strong. The Talluto family hosted a 50th anniversary celebration at their flagship store in the Italian Market, 944 S. 9th St., on Saturday.

“We just wanted to celebrate and thank our customers,” the third-generation Talluto, who works in the business with his three sisters, said. “We are really genuinely appreciative of everyone who patronizes our stores, whether they come once or for 20 years.”

But the Talluto story has grown into something much bigger than a corner-store operation. After opening the Italian Market location in 1980, two years later, the family expanded the product line to include flat-cut pastas, tortellini and USDA meat products and began marketing in the food service industry, which included opening a 7,500-square-foot manufacturing facility at 29th and Ellsworth streets. These days, the operation is so big that the headquarters are now based out of a 50,000-square-foot facility in Norristown.

By the way, those famous ravioli, which are still made with the original recipe, remain in high demand to the tune of more than 20,000 a week — more than a million a year nationwide — according to Talluto. In terms of the machine, Talluto sees no reason to purchase a newer model.

“The new machines are exactly the same with more bells and whistles,” he said.

While the oldest of the Talluto family, with Sicilian roots, followed the work 365-days-a-year mentality, his followers have altered the business plan slightly.

“My father wanted to balance business with family. We make sure we are home for dinner and go back to the business afterward, if needed,” Talluto said.

With two kids at home, the Talluto products, including a variety of sauces, remain a popular dinner choice at home.

“It’s easy and wholesome,” Talluto said.

Excerpts from the 50-year story can be found on the website, but a quote that appears from Joseph’s son, who is now 72, may inspire others to never give up on a dream.

“For years my father spoke of one day opening his own ravioli store. In fact, it was often considered a joke around the house. I am not sure anyone, but he, knew how serious a dream this was … until the day he set forth to pursue it.”