San Diego Residents Emiliano Gallego and Cesar Gallego expanded their family pasta business, Pagasa, after being labeled the “Mexican Pasta’’ by the pasta industry.
The stereotypes and labels overshadowed many years of branding efforts by positioning them as outsiders, but the Gallego cousins saw this as an opportunity to reclaim their heritage and take pride in being Mexican.
“Let’s keep it Italian and a few Americans (pasta), but no Mexicans in here“ and “We want to sell your product but we will put you in an ethnic section” are some of the comments Emiliano Gallego and Cesar Gallego receive when selling their product.
They’ve been in the business trying to prove themselves by providing quality pasta, but according to the Gallegos, it wasn’t enough for the industry in the U.S.
For four generations, the Gallegos have advocated that their product is traditional Italian pasta but for years their pasta has been put in the ethnic aisle because of stereotypes caused by being Mexican manufacturers.
Subsequently, Della Casa, a Mexican pasta brand was co-founded by Cesar and Emiliano Gallego and released in February 2021. The new brand was born from their frustration but was built to celebrate diversity in culture and transformation.
To overcome the industry’s challenges and add a unique taste to pasta, Della Casa announced their artisan spiced pasta made with Mexican spices, chorizo (a Mexican sausage) and different kinds of chiles, such as Jalapenos, chipotle and chile poblano.
“We fought to position our pasta, our family’s brand, as an Italian equivalent,” said Cesar Gallego. “We’re not any different…But it’s harder for us to get seen and given an opportunity to be part of their (Italian pasta) traditional pasta business.”
Cesar Gallego says their biggest obstacle is putting their product on the store’s pasta shelf because buyers don’t want to risk putting Mexican manufacturers’ products onto a shelf space that is primarily Italian-made.
“For many years, I fought to make sure that our pasta was labeled as Italian,” said Cesar Gallego. “Now, I realize that there is always an opportunity to showcase our own cultural identity while making sure we remain true to the process of pasta making.”
The co-founders are feeling proud and accomplished after receiving positive feedback from buyers and the community. They want to continue to develop their products and share that this new pasta is in town and it will make a difference.
The Gallegos hope to make Della Casa’s Mexican pasta available to San Diegans soon, while they continue to produce authentic Italian pasta for Pagasa.
Della Casa closed their first deal and will now be suppliers of United Natural Foods, Inc. (UNFI), a Providence, R.I. based natural and organic food company. More than 70 supermarket retailers Nationwide have a pasta sample including chains like Walmart, Sprouts, Kroger and Safeway.
“We are ready to show our clients what true Mexican pasta tastes like,” said Emiliano Gallego. “We were left with no choice but to spice it up and give sazón to pasta!”
The Gallego cousins say it was a story of disempowerment and then coming to realize that it’s time to own the label of the Mexican pasta and redefine what that meant.
The co-founders will continue over 80 years of their grandfather’s hard work to deliver quality pasta for the market in the U.S. and abroad but this time with a few extra spices.
López Olea is an independent writer.