Family has long been a touchstone for chef J. Scott Martino of Lancaster-based Cortazzo Foods. When he left his full time job as a chef at The Restaurant at Donecker’s and devoted himself to making pasta sauce, he used his grandmother Marianina Cortazzo’s recipe for arrabiatta sauce and named his company after her.
When he decided, from the very start of his endeavor, to give a percentage of all his profits to charity, it was his grandfather who inspired him. His grandfather, Scott says, was a self-made man who gave generously. In his seventies, he built a skatepark for kids! When Scott incorporated, he put his philanthropic stance in writing, pledging to give a percentage of everything Cortazzo Foods made to charity.
Soon, Scott began to move from giving to a variety of charities as needs came to his attention and started to consolidate his giving strategy instead. Once again, the thought of family inspired him in this.
Around the time Scott was thinking about how to maximize Cortazzo’s philanthropic impact, he was preparing an Italian dinner as a fundraiser for Schreiber Pediatric Center. Seeing families interact at the fundraiser–not just amongst themselves, but with other families at other tables–impressed Scott with how important food is in connecting people. It brought memories of the smell of ziti cooking in his grandmother’s house when he was a kid, and of Sunday afternoons with friends, watching a game and stirring a simmering pot of sauce whenever they went into the kitchen.
Right at this time, LCCC had just opened their Food Hub to provide meals for hungry Lancaster County families. Originally, Scott wanted to give them jars of pasta sauce. The Food Hub leaders worried that the jars would be too heavy for people to carry home. They said he could have a bigger impact with money–that it would actually mean more meals since, according to some estimates, food banks are able pay 10 cents a pound for most food.
Cortazzo began to give part of their profits to the Food Hub and run a T-shirt fundraiser where each $20 T-shirt equals 20 meals for someone in need.
Why Scott Martino Wants Everyone at the Table
The sauce-making company is now on a mission to bring “everyone to the table.” This mission, once again, finds its roots in Scott Martino’s family. On his 23rd birthday, Scott’s mother asked him what he wanted for his birthday, and he said that he wanted his whole family to be there.
That had not happened for many years. When he was twelve years old, his parents divorced and family dinners changed forever. But for his birthday, Scott wanted everyone to come–his mom, dad, stepmom, stepdad and sister.
They made it happen. It was awkward. But it was also a very loving thing to do: to gather together because it was Scott’s request. And family dynamics began to change. Now, he says, “everybody’s really tight. We’re an awesome family unit.”
Scott hopes that the joys that his family experiences around meals–whether gathered around the table or standing around in the kitchen, eating over the kitchen sink–will be what other families experience too. “Our hope is that more people can heal.” Believing that people know when food is made with love, Scott trusts that healing can happen over food.
It isn’t always simple for Scott to fulfill this vision. The work is hard. But he loves what he does and he knows that his family is behind him. At first, he admits, they were nervous for him. He’d quit a well paying job to strike out on his own. And not only was his financial success uncertain, he was determined to give away a percentage of everything he did make! But now, he says, his family has connected with his work. This, he says, makes it easier to keep going when the work is hard. And he even has his sister, Missy Stoltzfus, working alongside him. For two years, Missy–or “sis,” as Scott calls her–had been talking about working for Cortazzo. Then, finally, she decided to join him to head up Cortazzo’s marketing.
With family behind him, Scott Martino looks ahead to the goal of feeding and connecting more families.
Want to meet Scott and sample Cortazzo’s pasta sauce? Stop by our market this Saturday, October 15, 2016, from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.!