Sixty years of pasta
Gondola Macaroni Products, Inc.
Photos by kc kratt
1985 Niagara Street, Buffalo,
874-4280 or gondolamacaroni.com
When Wendy Colla-Bianco was a little girl, sitting on massive fifty-pound bags of pasta-grade flour in her grandparents’ macaroni business, she never thought she would be running the place a few decades later.
Her paternal grandparents, Guido and Maria Colla, started Gondola Macaroni Products in 1958. The family story goes that a car accident settlement provided the capital needed for a tortellini-making machine, and a home-based pasta company soon followed. It was located in the Colla’s West Side house for ten years before it moved to its current location in the Black Rock neighborhood of Buffalo.
It’s not that Guido Colla didn’t have any experience before that. His family owned a pasta factory in his hometown in the Veneto region of Northern Italy. In addition, after immigrating to the United States, the Gioia Macaroni Company employed him as a machinist. When the business launched, this expertise allowed him to build other machines used in the macaroni-making process; some are still used at Gondola today. The extruder is named “Guido” in his honor.
Wendy Collo-Bianco is now the president of the company. She and her husband John make the third generation to run the family business after her parents and aunt turned things over.
Gondola makes about 2,800 pounds of pasta every week. The company is noted more for its stuffed pastas, but a sizable percentage of noodles are made, in varying widths, lengths, and flavors. Linguine, fettuccine, tagliatelle, and angel hair make up about twenty-five percent of the business.
“It’s a big responsibility, and we definitely don’t want to screw it up. People will say, ‘The next generation took it over and they screwed it up.’ I don’t want to fall into that category!” Colla-Bianco says. “It’s very important to me to keep it consistent and keep it growing and going better.”
Currently, a decidedly modern approach ensures that the company stays current, including the use of social media and traditional advertising to increase name recognition and sales; this did not happen before. Also, there are plans to augment the specialty pasta offerings, as they continue with the old favorites of fresh and dried pasta that customers have long enjoyed.
Aside from the store on Niagara Street, there are a number of local markets, independent grocers, butchers, and specialty food shops where Gondola products are sold. Sales are increasing, according to the Collo-Biancos.
Upgrades in infrastructure with a new furnace and central air conditioning also include investments in new pasta-making machinery and equipment such as a more efficient freezer. This is further indication that the business is in it for the long haul.
On top of that, there is further good news to report: the fourth generation is on the way. When the new baby will start working in the family business remains an unanswered question. Before that happens, no doubt she will spend much of her time sitting on fifty-pound bags of flour, watching her folks create the makings for thousands of food memories for Western New Yorkers.
Gabe DiMaio blogs and podcasts about food at guysandfood.com.