Sharing Success – Tom Cortopassi
With a heavy heart, I am sorry to share that my uncle, Dino Cortopassi, recently passed away from complications of a stroke he had in December. He passed peacefully, surrounded by family. He was 84 years of age.
While he officially retired from day-to-day operations of Stanislaus and Corto Olive Company back in 2004, Dino remained my valued mentor and confidant ever since. I already miss him deeply.
As our restaurateur customers know from his Christmas messages, Dino was proud of how both our companies continue to live by the immigrant values that our family has always held dear: Do the right thing. Never cut corners. Always be your best. And always keep your word.
What I admire most about Dino was his strong personal connection to our restaurateur customers.
Back in 1978, when Dino first bought Stanislaus from the Piciullo family, the conventional wisdom among foodservice packers was: “the distributor is the customer.”
Of course, distributors are indeed important to our business, but from the beginning Dino came to realize that our company’s success would depend on embracing, understanding, and satisfying the needs of quality-oriented restaurateurs. He understood that quality- oriented restaurants depended on superior quality and consistent ingredients to achieve success.
Building personal relationships with restaurateurs required establishing lines of direct communication. So, one of Dino’s earliest business priorities was identifying which restaurateurs used our brands so we could start communicating directly by mail.
La Trattoria is an example of such mailed communication. Dino founded La Trattoria back in 1990 to start helping Independents exchange proven business building ideas to better compete against rapidly expanding chains.
Because chains were larger, had deeper pockets, and enjoyed a huge buying power advantage, Dino recognized that “little guy” Independents simply couldn’t afford to compete on the basis of price.
So, through La Trattoria, Dino instead advised Independents to focus on their strategic strengths of superior quality food and warm personalized service. Since these areas happen to be weaknesses of large chains, this advice proved to be successful!
From his deep connection to our restaurateurs, Dino also began our annual tradition of sending Christmas greetings each holiday season. Much to his delight, many of our customers felt the same way and reciprocated by sending us their own holiday cards and letters!
If you had a chance to meet Dino in person, chances are that it was at Pizza Expo. Starting back in 1992, and every year since, Stanislaus and Corto have proudly hosted a large “pavilion” in the show dedicated solely to thanking our customers for their business.
From the beginning, Dino insisted that there would be no “sales talk” in our booth. So instead, our team
remains 100% focused on welcoming our guests, breaking bread together, and getting to know them on a more personal level.
Even long after retiring, Pizza Expo remained a highlight of Dino’s year. As he used to say, “Seeing our customers at Pizza Expo feels like a family reunion and an Italian house party rolled into one!”
Dino also believed that Independent restaurateurs faced enough challenges without having to deal with unethical industry behavior.
For example, back in the early 1990s, it made Dino mad when large tomato processors began putting restaurant food quality at risk by silently switching their old-line “fresh pack” tomato sauce brands to the cheaper, lesser quality “Re-Manufactured from concentrate” process, without telling restaurateurs on their labels.
Despite opposition by some of the world’s largest corporations, Dino, with the help of more than 5,000 Independent restaurants, was victorious in getting the FDA to change labelling laws that required that all Re-Manufactured tomato sauces must declare “tomato concentrate and water” on their ingredient statements!
Towards the late 1990, Dino also alerted restaurants when several large distributors began using unethical “bait and switch” sales practices to pressure restaurants to buy their Private Labels over packer brands. Dino fiercely believed then, as we still do today, that Independent restaurateurs (not distributors) have the right to choose the quality of ingredients you need to succeed.
Dino’s huge impact on the restaurant industry is undeniable, and we will miss his enthusiasm and larger than life personality. His spirit will always live on here at Stanislaus because we will honor him every day by doing things right, never cutting corners, being our best, and keeping our word.
Most humbly and with the deepest respect,