Highland Beach, FL – The renowned figure behind Fontanini Meats, Eugene “Gene” Fontanini, has sadly passed away, leaving behind a legacy that transformed a small family meat market in Chicago into one of the nation’s leading specialty meat companies. Gene’s impact in the industry was substantial, culminating in the sale of the company to Hormel Foods for $425 million in 2017.
The story of Fontanini Meats began in 1960 when Gene’s father, Oriano Fontanini, laid the foundation with a humble butcher shop in a predominantly Italian neighborhood in Chicago. During the 1970s, Gene Fontanini’s expertise in the pizza industry steered the family business towards supplying meats to numerous pizzerias across the Chicago metropolitan area.
In a move that solidified their presence, the Fontanini family expanded their operations in the 1980s by acquiring a plant previously owned by Swift Eckrich in the stockyards of Chicago. This strategic move enabled them to distribute their products nationwide, marking a significant milestone in their business journey.
SoccerSam Fantauzzo posted on Facebook,
“My condolences to the family and friends of Pizza Industry Icon Eugene Fontanini.Gene took his parents little meat market in Chicago and became one the biggest speciality meat companies in the country. Gene sold his baby in 2017 to Hormel Foods for 425 Million!I had the privilege of meeting Gene in 1985 at the first ever Pizza Today Pizza Convention.“He soon visited Rochester and helped me turn my small basement School Pizza Division into something special with Fontanini Products. We soon visited local distributors and Wegmans with the help of the late great Mike DeBole.Linda and I had the privilege of being at Gene’s 60th Birthday party in Vegas and many Florida dinners with long talks and guidance from him over the years. Recently we talked about his new pizza venture in Coral Springs Florida.Gene was one of my favorite pizza role model friends and a true business genius!”
Reflecting on Gene Fontanini’s impact, Wiseguys A Chicago Eatery-Round Rock shared, “He, his sister Joanne, and his company were pivotal supporters during our inception, helping shape our vision with their exceptional products. Even after Hormel Foods acquired Fontanini, Gene and Joanne remained committed, ensuring our continued support. Gene embodied the old-school ethos, always the life of the party, reminiscent of a scene out of the Sopranos. His beef, sausage, and meatballs were instrumental in the success of Wiseguys.”
Gene Fontanini’s obituary and details regarding funeral arrangements are anticipated to be released by his family, honoring the life and achievements of this visionary icon in the Italian food industry.