Fourteen years after Gennaro "Jerry" Mascio spearheaded the idea of pre-cooked polenta in a tube, he has a new concept: pre-cooked grits in a tube.
Fourteen years after Gennaro “Jerry” Mascio spearheaded the idea of pre-cooked polenta in a tube, he has a new concept: pre-cooked grits in a tube.
It’s all boiled corn in the end — the polenta is yellow, and the grits are white — but Mascio counts on the convenient, ready-to-eat aspect of his products to appeal to people too busy to boil their own.
He’d like to sell pre-cooked steel-cut oatmeal as well, because it takes more than 30 minutes to boil properly, but he hasn’t found a way to store it without refrigeration.
Mascio’s company, San Gennaro Foods in Kent, produces nearly a quarter-million pounds of polenta a month. Encased in sausage-type tubes called “chubs,” they are sold nationwide under the San Gennaro brand and seven private labels.
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If you buy pre-cooked polenta in a tube, it probably came from Kent.
Like most people, Mascio prefers it sliced and fried with spaghetti sauce on top. That’s a second-day recipe for polenta in Italy, where Mascio was born and where his grandfather owned a pasta company.
Fresh polenta is often rolled out like pizza dough, and each person stakes out a section for their own toppings. Mascio’s father liked olive oil and garlic, but other people added tomato sauce, onions, crumbled sausage and cheeses.
Mascio’s family moved to Seattle in 1959, when he was 7. His father worked for a local macaroni company, then for Sears.
His mother oversaw the daily operations of a pasta-making operation in the family’s basement that bootlegged fresh ravioli at DeLaurenti Specialty Food & Wine in Pike Place Market.
After the feds busted them for not getting Agriculture Department approval, the family went legal with the proper facilities and became a popular fresh pasta brand called Mascio’s. They sold the company in 1992, and their son Gennaro went into the polenta business.
His company’s name, San Gennaro, is a play on his first name. It also pays homage to the Catholic saint who is the inspiration for feasts and revelry every September in Italy and New York City.
Last year, San Gennaro moved to a more spacious 31,000-square-foot facility in Kent and started cooking up new product ideas. Owned by Mascio, his wife, son and daughter, the company has 13 employees, including Mascio’s sister, Anna.
San Gennaro’s pre-cooked grits — called “Southern-style grits” — will be on shelves this year, Mascio said. “Southerners are the only people in this country who eat grits, but we’re trying to change that.”
Like the polenta, it will retail for about $3 for 16 to 18 ounces. Mascio recommends eating grits with a little butter or cheese, for breakfast or as a side dish.
The dish might even catch on in restaurants, like polenta has. If so, San Gennaro might see a boost in grocery sales, but it probably won’t sell much to restaurants. Mascio finds they prefer to boil their own corn.
— Melissa Allison
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Retail Report appears Fridays. Melissa Allison covers the food and beverage industry. She can be reached at 206-464-3312 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Amy Martinez covers goods, services and online retail. She can be reached at 206-464-2923 or email@example.com