Italian Origins

Late 1800's shot of Aiello Family

Our story begins in the late 1800s in Southern Italy. Economic hardships combined with political and social unrest led many Italians to leave the country in search of a better life in America. The Aiello family of Bagheria, Sicily, was among these immigrants, settling in New York near the turn of the century.


Early Endeavors

By the early 1900s, most of the Aiello family had settled in New York City, where two of the brothers, Francesco and Carlo, ran successful bakeries. Carlo also imported Italian products including canned tomatoes and tomato paste, which were food staples intrinsic to the cooking of the burgeoning Italian population in New York City and surrounding areas.   


Aiello Brothers & Company and the "contadina"

Aiello Brothers & Company Exterior Photo

As the drumbeat of war grew louder and the onset of World War I became inevitable, the Aiello family sensed an opportunity. A German blockade in the Atlantic stifled European exports and left the Aiellos and millions of other Italian Americans without canned tomatoes from their homeland. After consulting with family in the tomato canning business in Sicily, Francesco, Carlo and Giuseppe Aiello and brother-in-law Anthony Gangi founded Aiello Brothers & Company. In 1914, the upstart company built a tomato canning factory in Highland, New York, becoming the first U.S. producer of canned tomato paste. 

To increase their brand appeal to the Italian consumer, especially to the Italian immigrant women who cooked for their families every day, Francesco Aiello’s wife suggested they call their brand “Contadina,” which in Italian means “country girl” or “woman of the field.” 


Contadina To California

Vintage Contadina

Despite early success, Francesco, Carlo, Giuseppe and Anthony weren’t satisfied with the quality of their tomatoes. The biggest challenge was the short growing season in New York, which forced them to harvest before the tomatoes were fully ripe, negatively impacting both the color and flavor of their canned products.

The Aiello brothers heard that in California they could find rich soil and a climate similar to the famous tomato-growing regions of their native Italy. When they visited for themselves, they were convinced that California was the answer to their quality concerns. They moved the company from upstate New York to San Jose, California, and completed their first canning season in Santa Clara Valley in 1917.


The Contadina Brand

In 1918, Aiello Brothers & Company trademarked the Contadina brand and added to the label a depiction of a “woman in the field” holding a basket of tomatoes. Rosalia Gangi, Anthony Gangi’s wife and the youngest Aiello sister, was the inspiration for the woman on the label. The “contadina” became an apt symbol of the care the Aiello family gave to growing and canning Contadina brand tomatoes and a symbol of the family’s ties to Italy.


Commitment to Quality

The Aiello’s persistence and intuition soon paid off. Bolstered by investment from new partners, Contadina’s California-grown tomatoes quickly developed a reputation throughout the country for premium, “Italian” quality. In 1922, the Contadina brand won the first grand prize at an international exhibition in Milan, Italy, for its exceptional tomato paste. 


Contadina Today

Modern Contadina can branding

Generations later, Contadina still stands for the highest quality and for delicious, authentic Italian flavor.