Jacuzzi Hot Tub

The Jacuzzi hot tub and spa were invented by the Jacuzzi family, whose family of seven sons and six daughters came to America in 1907. In 1915, they formed the Jacuzzi Brothers Incorporated, which supplied the American military with propellers. In 1926, they developed the deep well (jet) water pump that led to the famous whirlpool bath. The Jacuzzi family immigrated to the United States from the province of Pordenone, Friuli, Italy and they eventually settled on the West Coast in Berkeley, California where they became machinists.

Rachele Jacuzzi, one of the brothers, began making aircraft propellers, inspired by an airshow he had seen at the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition in nearby San Francisco. They designed a unique propeller known as the “Jacuzzi toothpick”. Rachele and his brothers created an aircraft manufacturing company in Berkeley called “Jacuzzi Brothers”, which remained in business until 1976, although their product line changed over the years. In 1921, brother Giocondo was killed when one of their planes crashed between Yosemite and San Francisco. As a result, in 1925 the Jacuzzi Brothers stopped making aircraft. Rachele turned the company’s know-how in making hydraulic aircraft pumps into manufacturing a new kind of deep well agricultural pump. Their design turned out to be an innovative new pump and they received a Gold Medal at the California State Fair in 1930.

In 1948, brother Candido used the company’s expertise in pumps to develop a submersible bathtub pump for his son, Kenneth, who had developed rheumatoid arthritis in 1943, at the age of 15 months and suffered from chronic pain. The boy received regular hydrotherapy treatments at local hospitals, but Candido could not stand to see his son suffering between visits. He realized that their agricultural water pumps could be adapted to give his son soothing whirlpool treatments in the tub at home.

In 1955, the firm decided to market the pump, dubbed “J-300”, as a therapeutic aid, selling it in bath supply shops. To generate a little publicity for the unknown product, portable Jacuzzis were included in the gifts given to contestants on TV’s Queen for a Day. It was pitched as relief for the worn out housewife. When Hollywood stars like Randolph Scott and Jayne Mansfield began offering testimonials, the Jacuzzi whirlpool bathtub started to acquire its fame. Jack Benny was hired as a spokesman for Jacuzzi.

In 1968, Candido Jacuzzi brought to market the first self-contained, fully integrated whirlpool bath by incorporating jets into the sides of the tub. Dubbed the “Roman Bathtub”, the jets used a 50-50 air/water ratio to improve the experience. The Jacuzzi became a symbol of a luxurious lifestyle. Hundreds of thousands of Jacuzzi portables were installed, both indoors and outdoors, at recreation centers and private homes and Hollywood celebrities began making personal use of them.

Despite its popularity, however, the whirlpool bath was still mostly a sideline at Jacuzzi Brothers. By far the bulk of Jacuzzi Brother’s revenues came from sales of water pumps and marine jets. Today, Jacuzzi branded hot tubs, baths, showers, toilets, sinks and accessories are commonly found in residential homes, hotels and aboard cruise ships and have become popular in high-end spas around the world. Jacuzzi products are distributed in about 60 countries worldwide.

Francesco, Rachele and Valeriano Jacuzzi

 Mr. Coffee

Mr. Coffee was invented by Vince Marotta, who also developed a better way to extract oil from coffee beans and invented the paper coffee filter. Vincent Marotta spent his youth in Cleveland, Ohio. The son of Italian immigrants, Marotta assisted his father, who could not speak English, in operating the family business, which was coal mining. Upon graduating from high school, where he had excelled in several sports, Marotta enrolled at Mount Union College. The St. Louis Cardinals had already signed Marotta to a contract to play professional baseball, but the young man decided to attend college for at least one year before pursuing a professional baseball career. Unfortunately for Marotta, World War II happened and he was drafted into the United States military. Following Marotta’s service in the armed forces, he returned to Mount Union College, where he excelled in football, as well as track. Upon graduating, Marotta briefly played professional football with the Cleveland Browns.

After retiring from football, Marotta embarked upon a career in construction and land acquisition. At first Marotta built garages, but quickly expanded his company and built subdivisions and shopping centers. By 1968, Marotta had emerged as a leading construction firm in the Cleveland area.

In 1968, Marotta also sought to develop a better home coffee maker. While home coffeemakers had existed for decades, Marotta was not pleased with earlier versions. In 1972, Marotta and Samuel Glazer unveiled Mr. Coffee. This coffeemaker, known for its convenience and speed, almost immediately became a bestseller. By 1975, North American Systems, Inc., the first manufacturer of Mr. Coffee, was selling approximately thirty-eight thousand Mr. Coffees each day. Eventually, Sunbeam Corporation and American Household, Inc. each acquired the production rights to Mr. Coffee. In 2006, Mr. Coffee, now manufactured by Jarden Corporation, remained the world’s best-selling coffee maker for home use.

Vince Marotta

Castro Convertible Sofa

The convertible sofa was invented by Bernard Castro (1904-1991) who came from Italy and opened an upholstery shop in New York in 1931. In 1945, he invented the famous space-saving sofa that” even a child could open”. Born on Aug. 11, 1904, near Palermo, Sicily, Mr. Castro came to the United States with his father in 1919. He never finished high school but went to work as an upholsterer’s apprentice. In 1931 with $400 in capital, he opened his first store, which eventually became a chain he named ’’Castro Convertibles’’. Bernard Castro married Theresa Barabas on Valentine’s Day 1942. Their two children were Bernard, Jr. and Bernadette. Bernadette became famous in the New York area as the company’s official four-year-old spokesperson. Castro was a genius not only at designing a piece of furniture vital to people in space-cramped apartments during the Depression, but at marketing his product.

“By 1948, he discovered this new medium called television,” said his daughter, Bernadette. “There was just one station in New York, Dumont, and he was actually the first person to buy a local-spot commercial. When he called up and said, ‘I want to put a commercial on TV, they said, Go make one and bring it to us. ” At his death in 1991, he had sold over 5 million of his convertible sofas through 48 retail showrooms in 12 states, becoming a multimillionaire in the process.

Castro Convertibles was acquired in 1993 by Krause Furniture, a competitor. Bernadette Castro managed the sale to Krause but retained the large portfolio of commercial real estate her father had acquired in both retail and industrial. Those properties in New York, Florida, Connecticut and Virginia put the family in the real estate business. The Castro Convertible brand was retired until 2010 when Bernadette Castro and her children relaunched the business with one of the most popular original products, the Castro Convertible Ottoman. Rather than sell in retail locations, the new Castro was sold online.

Bernard Castro

Chef Boyardee

Chef Boyardee, the man behind the nation’s leading brand of spaghetti dinners, pizza mix, sauce and pasta, was really Ettore Boiardi, an Italian immigrant from Emilia Romagna. Boiardi was born in Piacenza, Italy in 1897, to Giuseppe and Maria Boiardi. On May 9, 1914, at the age of 16, he arrived at Ellis Island. Boiardi followed his brother, Lorenzo, to the kitchen of the Plaza Hotel in New York City, working his way up to head chef. While working at the Greenbrier Hotel in Greenbrier West Virginia, he directed the catering for the reception of President Woodrow Wilson’s second wedding. His entrepreneurial skill became polished and well known when he opened his first restaurant, Il Giardino d’Italia, whose name translated as “The Garden of Italy”, at East 9th Street and Woodland Avenue in Cleveland in 1926. The patrons of Il Giardino d’Italia frequently asked for samples and recipes of his spaghetti sauce, so he filled cleaned milk bottles for them.

Boiardi began to use a factory in 1928 to keep up with orders, setting his sights on selling his product nationally. Touting the low cost of spaghetti products as a good choice to serve to the entire family, Boiardi introduced his product to the public in 1929. In the 1930s, he began selling his pasta and sauce in cans. In 1938, production was moved to Milton, Pennsylvania, where they could grow enough tomatoes and mushrooms. Proud of his Italian heritage, Boiardi sold his products under the brand name “Chef Boy-Ar-Dee”, so that his American customers could pronounce his name properly. During World War II, the company was the largest supplier of rations for the U.S. and Allied Forces.

Boiardi appeared in many print advertisements and television commercials for his brand in the 1940s through the 1960s. His last appearance in a television commercial promoting the brand aired in 1979. Boiardi continued developing new Italian food products for the American market until his death in 1985, at which time the Chef Boyardee line was grossing $500 million per year for International Home Foods.

Ettore Boiardi

Big Mac

Michael James Delligatti was born in Uniontown, Fayette County, PA in 1918. Delligatti’s father’s job forced the family to move frequently. He never went to college and started his career working for Isaly’s Dairy, a chain of family-owned dairies and restaurants in the 1950s. By the mid-50s, Delligatti wanted to open his own restaurant and decided to attend a restaurant show in Chicago in 1956. At the show, a McDonald’s booth caught Delligatti’s attention and led to an invitation to a McDonald’s that had just opened in Illinois. Delligatti discovered if he went with McDonald’s, the money he’d save on paper goods purchased through the company would pay for his franchise fee.

In 1957, Jim Delligatti opened his first McDonald’s on McKnight Road in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh. He was one of McDonald’s earliest franchise owners; by the 1960s, he was operating a dozen stores in the Pittsburgh area. Delligatti had an exclusive territorial franchise for metropolitan Pittsburgh but was struggling with sub-par store volumes. He decided that the only way to broaden his customer base and increase sales was to add to the McDonald’s menu.

For the next few years, Jim Delligatti spent time and energy to create a new product for the McDonald’s menu. Delligatti used every opportunity to partner with other multi-store franchise owners and McDonald’s top managers to discuss the need to improve the menu and to gain sales through a new target market. Delligatti’s eventual idea was to combine two-all beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles and onions on a sesame seed bun. The special sauce recipe remains a secret, but it is recognized as a variant of Thousand Island dressing. Original names for the burger included “Aristocrat” and “Blue Ribbon Burger.” The name, “Big Mac”, was created by Esther Glickstein Rose, a 21-year-old Advertising Secretary who worked at McDonald’s Corporate office in Chicago.

One of Delligatti’s obstacles in getting the Big Mac approved for sale was its proposed price of 45 cents—twice that of a regular cheeseburger. It took the support of Ralph Lanphar, a regional manager in Columbus, to obtain corporate permission to test the Big Mac. This permission was limited—Delligatti could only test the sandwich at his Uniontown store and he was told he had to use the standard McDonald’s bun. When this bun proved far too small for all the contents of the Big Mac, Delligatti ignored management’s requests and ordered a larger, three-piece bun. Within a few months, the new Big Mac was increasing the Uniontown store’s sales by better than 12 percent. The sandwich was a hit.

Jim Delligatti

Dynamic Tension

Charles Atlas invented the body-building technique, called “Dynamic Tension” in 1921 and was dubbed “America’s Most Perfectly Developed Man” by Physical Culture magazine. By the 1950s, the former Coney Island janitor had over one million followers.

Charles Atlas, born Angelo Siciliano (1892 – 1972), was the developer of a bodybuilding method and its associated exercise program that was best known for a landmark advertising campaign featuring Atlas’s name and likeness; it has been described as one of the longest-lasting and most memorable ad campaigns of all time. According to Atlas, he trained himself to develop his body from that of a “scrawny weakling”, eventually becoming the most popular muscleman of his day. He took the name “Charles Atlas” after a friend told him he resembled the statue of Atlas on top of a hotel in Coney Island and legally changed his name in 1922. His company, Charles Atlas Ltd., was founded in 1929 and, as of 2010, continues to market a fitness program for the “97-pound weakling”.

Born in Acri, Calabria, Italy, Angelino, as he was also called, moved to Brooklyn, New York, in 1905 and became a leather worker. He tried many forms of exercise initially, using weights, pulley-style resistance and gymnastic-style calisthenics. Atlas claimed they did not build his body. In 1922, he met Dr. Frederick Tilney, a British homeopathic physician and course writer. Atlas and Tilney met through Bernarr MacFadden, who was using Atlas as a model for a short movie entitled, “The Road to Health.” Atlas wrote a fitness course and then asked Tilney to edit the course. Tilney agreed and Atlas went into business in 1922. Tilney himself had an extensive background in weight training.

Atlas’ “Dynamic Tension” program consists of twelve lessons and one final perpetual lesson. Each lesson is supplemented with photos of Atlas demonstrating the exercises. Atlas’ lesson booklets added commentary that referred to the readers as his friends and gave them an open invitation to write him letters to update him on their progress and stories. His products and lessons have sold millions and Atlas became the face of fitness. Among the people who took Atlas’ course were Max Baer, heavyweight boxing champion from 1934 to 1935, Rocky Marciano, heavyweight boxing champion from 1952 to 1956 and Joe Louis, heavyweight boxing champion from 1937 to 1949. Besides photographs, Atlas posed for many statues throughout his life, including the statue of George Washington in New York’s Washington Square Park, Dawn of Glory in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park and Alexander Hamilton at the U.S. Treasury building in Washington, D.C. Atlas was also an inspiration and a model for later bodybuilders and fitness gurus, including Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Angelo Siciliano

Recipes That Celebrate The Inventors Above

From Emilia Romagna

Erbazzone (Savory Greens Pie)


For the filling

  • 2 lbs spinach, cooked
  • 5 oz butter
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 7 oz grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

For the dough

  • 5 oz all-purpose flour
  • 3 oz butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup water

1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water

Slices of prosciutto


Chop the spinach and squeeze well in a kitchen towel.

Sauté the butter and onion until the onion is soft.

Add the spinach and the garlic. Cook for five minutes. Cool.

When the mixture has cooled, add the grated Parmesan, olive oil, pepper and salt.

Mix the dough ingredients together in a processor. Divide the dough in half.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and grease a 9”x13” baking dish.

On a floured board roll one piece of dough out to fit the bottom of the baking dish (13×9). Place dough in the prepared dish. Spread the spinach mixture over the dough.

Roll out the remaining dough to fit the top layer (13×9) and place over the spinach. Brush dough with the egg wash.

Bake at 350°F until the pastry is golden about 20-30 minutes.

Serve with slices of prosciutto.

From Friuli Venezia Giulia

Barley Minestrone


  • 1/2 cup pearl barley ( soaked for 4 hours and drained)
  • 1 1/2 cups green cabbage, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups canned, diced Italian tomatoes
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen fava beans ( or substitute green peas or baby limas)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 4 cups vegetable stock ( or chicken)
  • Fresh ground black pepper


Place the barley in a pan, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Cook for 25-30 minutes until tender; then drain.

In a large pot, combine all vegetables with the stock and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the vegetables are just tender.

Add the cooked barley and simmer until barley is hot. Season with black pepper and serve.

From Calabria

Rigatoni alla Calabrese


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 1 (28 ounce) can tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 pound rigatoni
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated pecorino Romano
  • Basil leaves for garnish


Heat olive oil in a large wide saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté until soft, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the sausage, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook until the sausage begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and cook until evaporated, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, broth, salt to taste and oregano. Bring the sauce to a boil, reduce to low, and simmer for 45 minutes.

Cook the rigatoni in boiling salted water until al dente. Transfer the pasta to a colander to drain. Add the pasta to the sauce. Stir in the ricotta and Parmesan cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Toss to mix well. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with basil leaves.

From Sicily

Pork Braciole in Wine Sauce


  • 6 boneless pork chops (1/2 inch thick)
  • 1/3 cup red wine
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • Rosemay for garnish


Lightly flatten the chops and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a skillet and brown the pork on both sides. Add the wine and fennel seeds, cover, and simmer for a few minutes, turning the slices often. Just before serving, sprinkle with lemon juice and garnish with rosemary.