John Alonzo Interview
(Capone Family Secret
Premium Pasta Sauces
During the Roaring 1920’s Al Capone’s Warehouse was raided by the police 137 times in an attempt to seize illegal alcohol. Interestingly enough, there were only a few items found on every single raid and it wasn’t alcohol.
It was the recipes of the “Capone Family Secret” Italian Favorites, which includes Pasta Sauces. This Secret was never made public. It remained confidential for over 80 plus years.
Today, thanks to Al Capone’s relative, Dominic Capone III, the Capone family recipe have been made public.
John Alonzo, Sales And Marketing Director for Capone Family Secret talked with us about the co.
Q – I’ve identified you as the Sales And Marketing Director for Capone Family Secret. Is that correct?
A – No. I’m Managing Partner.
Q – That means you put in money in the co.
A – I put the money in. I founded it with Dominic. I pretty much do everything, about 90%.
Q – Was it expensive to get this co. off the ground?
A – Well, I mean I wouldn’t say it was expensive. It’s nothing close to when you start a line with the money you’d have to put into it to make it where we’re at. I think we just kind of got lucky with Jewel off the bat. That formed the co.
Q – So, as we speak, this pasta sauce is only available in Chicago?
A – Right now it’s in 190 Jewel Osco Food Stores. That’s it.
Q – John, I can see a product like Capone Family Secret just flying off the shelf in New York State.
A – Well, I actually got some very interesting things to talk to you about as far as New York and New Jersey are concerned. How we started this co. was with the four sauces. That’s with the Capone Family recipe for Marinara Sauce, the Vodka sauce, the Arrabiatta sauce, and the Tomato Basil sauce. We introduced those into Jewel. It was our only chain store. We don’t do any independent stores. We did it exclusively for Jewel. It was such a large chain we didn’t want to trade that for 10 or 20 independent stores. That started in ’09. We started the co. in ’08. In Nov. of ’09 we entered into Jewel. Our whole goal with the co. was not necessarily to do sauce. That wasn’t our original idea. Our idea was with the Hot Giardiniera. That was our original plan because the Capone Giardiniera recipe dates all the way back to the early 1900’s. For the 100 years the Giardiniera has been out in Chicago, it’s never been outside of Illinois. You can even go down to Springfield, Illinois which is downstate and they don’t know what Giardiniera is. So, we figured with the Capone recipe and the actual product itself and of course the name we can go nationally. That’s our goal with the products. That was our main focus. We got very heavy into the sauce in the beginning and kind of pushed off all the rest of our products until 2011. We just introduced them.
Q – The pasta sauce, that’s the growth industry isn’t it?
A – I mean, it’s pretty much saturated. We’re a gourmet sauce so we’re up against your Emerils of the world, your Raos from New York. You’re looking at between a $5.00 and a $9.00 item. We don’t compete with Ragu. We’re gourmet. We’re where we need to be, and should be. Our sauces we believe are that good.
Q – So, you’re between $5 - $9.00 a bottle category?
A – Right now we’re at $5.49. We do a $5.49 in Jewel and every other month we do a two for $5.00 sale.
Q – What some stores will do is put the gourmet sauces in the gourmet section, not with the rest of the pasta sauces. When they do put the gourmet sauces with the other sauces they’re not on eye-level. They’re on the bottom shelf.
A – That’s where the problem comes in with a lot of these chain stores. Here in Chicago, we like to call it extortion. What that means is the food stores want to charge you for shelf space. To get eye level in Jewel would be about $30,000. Of course our sauces we think are the best. We get a pass without paying that because they like our sauce. Other people can come in right next to me and pay the $30,000. They charge you to sell your product. That doesn’t make too much sense to me. They should buy it because it’s good and it sells. For me to go national in 10,000 stores would cost a lot of money. To re-coup that money would be tough.
Q – And, you’re selling this sauce just in the United States aren’t you?
A – Correct.
Q – You don’t sell your products online to people overseas then?
A – Our online business is just for the United States.
Q – How many bottles of the pasta sauce are you making yearly?
A – From ’09, we’ve done over 100,000 jars.
Q – That’s impressive.
A – Yeah. Jewel helps a lot. We do a decent amount of on-line business. We introduced what we call our Italian Favorites line which will give you your Hot Giardiniera, Muffuletta Salad, and your Roasted Red Peppers. We added our hand-made pastas to the line. We feature all that on the website now.
Q – The recipe for the pasta sauces was handed down from generation to generation? Is that how Dominic got a hold if it?
A – Correct. It came down from the Capone family. It was kind of kept secret. That’s why we went with the Capone Family Secret because of his Uncle that wouldn’t let him retail it. Even his father wouldn’t let him retail it. When the Uncle passed away they kind of said o.k. let’s try this. So, we’re fortunate to be the ones to be able to introduce this to the world.
Q – Why wouldn’t the Uncle want the sauces and other products retailed?
A – The Capone Family kind of keeps to themselves. They don’t want to let their secrets out. Dominic is in the restaurant business. He has multiple restaurants, Capone Restaurants. He does serve the sauce there, but, he didn’t retail it until 2008.
Q – His restaurants are in the Chicago area?
A – Correct.
Q – Does he call them Capone’s?
A – Yes, he does.
Q – What are you doing in New Jersey?
A – We’re partnering up with Johnny Meatballs. Johnny Meatballs was on the VH-1 reality show My Big Freakin’ Wedding. He does strictly meatballs. He has a meatball cart and runs around and does all the celebrity appearances. On his cart be has our Giardiniera relish and our Roasted Red Peppers that he’s featuring. So, he’s going to be introducing our sauce in the New York – New Jersey area.
Q – So Capone Family Secret will soon be making its debut on the East Coast.
A – Yes.
Q – But, how soon we don’t know.
A – We’re hoping very soon.
Official website: www.caponefamilysecret.com
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