Chef Boyardee Was Here

Before there was Chef Boyardee (don’t sneer, food snobs), there was chef Hector Boiardi. This gastronomic giant was born in Italy in 1897, arrived at Ellis Island at the age of 16 and proceeded to build a culinary reputation thatincluded stints as the head chef at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, cooking for President Woodrow Wilson’s wedding reception and, ultimately, opening a restaurant in Cleveland — Giardino d’Italia — in 1926.

But eventually, patrons of his downtown restaurant started asking the chef to bottle up his beloved spaghetti sauce so they could enjoy it at home as well.

Sensing that Boiardi was a little too difficult to pronounce, the chef went phoentic, changing the spelling of his brand’s name to the more marketing-friendly “Boy-ar-dee.”

If you’re interested in old-school Boiardi, check out original recipes from the chef (which, of course, call for the use of his canned sauce). Once handed out to Stop-N-Shop patrons, the recipes have now been preserved in the University of Iowa’s digital libraries. Check out digital.lib.uiowa.edu and search for Boiardi.

You’ll never look at a can of beef ravioli the same way again.
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