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Kitchen Thievery: the Rice-a-Roni Story

March 4, 2011

So I was chowing on my Rice-a-Roni yesterday when it occurred to me that since this “treat” is not even manufactured in San Francisco, I better do some research to find out how it scored such awesome marketing. The results of my historical journey were both jarring and intriguing, so if you crave a tale of theft, cultural plagerism, and pasta, read on…

Basically here’s how it went down: This Italian guy named Domenico DiDomenico (I couldn’t make that up if I wanted to) had a successful little produce stand in the Mission and was totally happy until he married a bossy Italian woman named Maria whose family owned a pasta factory back in Italy. She guilted him into starting a similar business in California, and Gragnano Products, Inc. was born. Before long, they had a thriving business pawning off their pastas on the restaurants around San Francisco and their two sons had joined the company.

Then one night, the kind little Armenian landlady, Mrs. Pailadzo Captanian, invited the DiDomenico brothers over for dinner and served a traditional Armenian rice dish that incorporated noodles and chicken broth. The brothers asked for the recipe, produced several sample batches, and subsequently launched the dish that would become an American pantry staple and now a division of PepsiCo. And the little landlady was left with no fortune or fame, or even a lifetime supply of rice-a-roni!

And that is why I feel guilty every time I eat the San Francisco treat.

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One Comment
  1. liza permalink
    March 4, 2011 11:58 am

    Of course it was a gourmand Armenian who contributed to the staple!!

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