A Colosimo has been making sausage in this country for over eighty years. How many years before that in Italy no one knows for sure and that fact is probably lost to history. We do know Ralph Colosimo came alone to America in 1921 with the common hope of many immigrants that this country would be his land of opportunity. Ralph carried little in his pocket, but what was in his head was the recipe on how to prepare, season and create Italian sausage. One thing was sure, it wasn't written down anywhere. Grandpa Ralph, like many great chiefs, would season food by how he felt, or how it tasted, or his memories of how the sausage was prepared when he was a little boy during those warm summer days in Calabria, Italy. Each year the men in the town would make great plans to butcher the hogs, prepare the meat and make the sausage for their families and for the people of Calabria. At night they would cook their creations and people would come from miles around to smell, to taste, to savor! (Grandpa Ralph's original Italian sausage can be found at Colosimo's today!)
No matter how Grandpa Ralph prepared the sausage, it always seemed to please those with whom he would share his delicacies with in the little mining towns of Utah where Ralph found himself in the early years. Friends encouraged him to make and sell his sausage. So when Ralph moved to Magna, Utah, in the summer of 1923 he opened a store on the corner of 9200 west and 2900 south, and Colosimo's was born. Or Rome Market, as it was known at the time.
Now grandpa did not come to America to be a sausage maker. He came to find family and live the American dream. He met his wife Rose Barbiero, married her and had four children. Ralph would work in the Rome Market and make his sausage when times were good. When times were bad he would close shop and go back to work at the Kennecott Copper Mine. Meanwhile, life was churning along and Ralph and Rose raised their four children (Gabriel, Ernie, Jean and Rose) through the Great Depression and World War II. The demand for sausage was not much greater than it was when Ralph first made it for the miners in Sunnyside. However, it was always there at important Italian functions. And what is an important Italian function (or any Italian function) if there wasn't food on the table. Spaghetti and meatballs, and oh yes, "Ralph, could you make some of that sweet Italian sausage for the _______." Fill in the blank (wedding, funeral, baptism etc.)
Ralph and Rose's family grew up and when Gale and Ernie came back from the army in the late forties they began to seek their own America, looking for jobs and beginning families. Ernie was the businessman and with fond memories of the family market, decided to open a grocery store of his own and convinced his older brother to be his partner, with promises of riches to come. So the Standard Market was born (not yet Colosimo's). Ernie also convinced Ralph to come to the store and make the sausage at night after working all day at his job at Kennecott.
Gale and Ernie would watch their Dad make the Italian sausage and one day finally had the fortitude to ask Grandpa Ralph if they could learn to make the sausage themselves. Grandpa was elated to teach his sons and for the first time in America, the knowledge of making Colosimo sausage would pass from one generation to the next. There was only one problem, Gale and Ernie did not have a single clue of how many cups of salt, or teaspoons of paprika or tablespoons of red pepper to put into the sausage. Neither did Grandpa. Nothing written down, all still in grandpa's head.
So Gale would watch, and when he could, he would measure and he would write it down, and then he would cook it, and taste it, and if need be, change the recipe a bit. Finally a standardized, formal recipe on how to season Italian sausage was born. What also was born was a tinkerer, an inventor, and a creator. Gale, loved the idea of making the sausage and making it the same way each time. He also saw the possibility of making other kinds of sausage as well.
But there was no time to tinker as the Standard Market's business grew and the families grew and more and more Italian sausage would be sold out the front door. Gale and Ernie had their hands full with the store and with their families. Soon, the sons and daughters of Gale and Ernie began to work at the store and learn the business.
Then came the advent of the "super" market. The supermarket could provide you with everything you wanted and could provide it right now. No longer were people willing to shop at the local Mom and Pops store (i.e. Standard Market) when the big, "super' sized market had everything from artichokes to frozen zebra to satisfy your every need and want.
Gale and Ernie saw business decline, except for the sausage business. No one else had what Gale and Ernie had, a product so unique and so flavorful that people drove past those supermarkets and made the drive to Magna to buy some of that that Colosimo's sausage, as it began to be known.
"Oh, Gale (or Ernie) we have a (insert occasion here) and it would not be the same without Colosimo's sausage"
So even as the grocery part of the Standard Market began to decline the sausage business was booming. Out of necessity the creator and tinker and inventor that was born when he first made the first Italian sausage years ago was reborn in Gale. Ernie and Gale began to make sausage their life, their reason to be and they looked to expand their sausage fortunes. New products, new seasonings, different sausages were born, and sampled and discarded and tried again. The families of Gale and Ernie became the Guinea pigs' as the two brothers were bent on capturing the sausage market in their corner of the world. "You don't like the Italian, try the Chorizo the Bratwurst, the Wine Sausage. We have a sausage here just right for you!"
And then only the best. Sausage for the Colosimo boys was never about recovering old, discarded meat, it was about making a quality product from the best meat and mixing the best combination of seasonings to provide a flavorful product that Grandpa Ralph and the ancestors from Calabria's would be proud of.
So as the many variations of sausage grew the Colosimo brothers began to be known for their sausage, and Colosimo's was born. Albeit, it was Colosimo's Standard Market, but anyone who knew sausage knew what you meant when you said, "I'm going to Colosimo's. Would you like me to get you some sausage?"
And out of a need to feed their families, the grocery store became a sausage factory right there on main street, Magna, Utah U.S.A. Even today if you take the drive out to their corner of Magna it says it right there in front "Colosimo's Sausage Factory." Not much of a factory, not much of a building, but if you wanted to try something unique, step right inside.
So as life continued to intervene in the lives of Gale and Ernie Colosimo, the sons and daughters grew up, married and moved away. The secrets of Grandpa Ralph, Ernie and Gale Colosimo appeared to be on the way to extinction. None of the sons and daughters wanted to continue the family business. The sons and daughters were too busy living their own lives. Until one day the sons of Gale Colosimo met and wondered how could the work of Gale and Ernie be kept alive, "Why not open our own place, buy the seasoning from Dad and Uncle Ernie and sell it right here in Salt Lake." And golly gee will put on a show and raise a barn..
Well it wasn't quite like a scene from an old Mickey Rooney musical, but close. The thought of the sausage business ceasing to exist sadden the children of Gale and Ernie. The boys had learned the sausage business from the hands of Gale who learned from Ralph who learned from his Father who probably learned it from (how many generations back?) and would it all end here in America? The land of opportunity, the land where anything is possible, where Ralph had ventured out as a young man, with little in his pocket, to find his fame and fortune OK I digress to the old musical again.
But yeah, maybe that is how it started, maybe not. But one thing is certain, the Colosimo sausage that people have come to know and know as a quality product is right here in Sandy, Utah at the corner of 700 East and 8745 South. The name of the store: Colosimo's!
Stop by. Meet the sons. Sometimes Ernie is there as well and the Spirit of Gale is always there. And there are pictures of Grandpa Ralph and Grandma and the kids and the aunts and the uncles. And I bet, if you are Italian, you will meet a relative or two at Colosimo's that you didn't even know existed.
And don't forget to try the sausage. You will taste something like you have never tasted before and if you close your eyes I swear you will be able to smell, savor, and in your heart be transported back to those warm summer days of Calabria.