August 01, 2022 by Arden Montgomery
How I Argaux: Summer Like an Italian with Francesca Pittaluga, Founder and CTO (Chief Tomato Officer) Ciao Pappy
Francesca is Los Angeles based founder of Ciao Pappy and lover of all things Italian. Inspired by her California influence and Italian roots, Ciao Pappy is a collection of signature marinara sauces made for the modern family. Her passion is creating joy, connection, and memories around good food, wine, and conversation.
Ciao Pappy is sold online, at 65+ retail stores nationwide, and carried locally in some of Los Angeles’ best specialty boutiques such as Farmshop, Gjusta Grocer, Monsieur Marcel, Jayde’s Market, The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills, Wine & Eggs, and more.
Tell us about yourself, Francesca! Please introduce yourself to the Argaux community.
Ciao! I am Francesca, founder of Ciao Pappy marinara sauces! I am based in Los Angeles, my home for the past 14 years. I spent my whole career in fashion and recently found my way to the world of food. The thing I enjoy most in life is connection. I am a true ‘people person’ and feel happiest sharing (or making) a meal with others. Food has always provided the “connection” that brings me most joy and the best memories of my life. I am also a lover of art, music, and nature which all influence me in the kitchen. I live with my newlywed husband and our pets Jackson and Loca.
Who is Pappy? Can you tell us about your family?
Pappy is my father. I am a first generation Italian on my father’s side and my mother is American – from Texas! My brother and I were both born there.
How has family played a role in your decision to start a company?
Family has always been an important anchor in my life. Growing up, my parents made a point for us to gather around the table and share meals together. These were the moments when we could talk about our day, how we were feeling, and what was on our mind. We cooked in the kitchen together, ate together, and prioritized fresh meals. When life got busier, these were often the only moments we could truly connect. It became really important. As an adult, these values have grown with me and are a part of my daily life. I think one of the most loving things you can do for someone is prepare a home cooked meal.
During the pandemic, after many days at home, my husband and I decided to make sauces as gifts to friends and family for the holiday. We heard so many heartfelt stories about how much they enjoyed the sauce, whether with their kids or as gifts to neighbors. People genuinely loved the sauces and they wanted more! It inspired us to create the sauce for people beyond our community and see where it would take us. We loved knowing that a piece of our home was a part of someone else’s.
Where in Italy is your family from? Do you visit often?
My family is from the region of Liguria. We also have family in Milan and a home in a small mountain town called Santa Maria Maggiore in Northern Italy. I make it a point to visit at least 1-2 times per year.
How has food shaped your life? Do you cook everyday?
Food has been not only a passion in my life but a pleasure! I love trying new recipes, new flavors, and sharing meals with others. I cook every day…it is my favorite way to unwind, step away from a long day at the desk, and do something creative with my hands. I don’t mind getting messy. I enjoy the ceremony of pouring a glass of wine, preparing the kitchen, and watching a meal take shape. It also makes my husband really happy.
I am sure you have some family recipes (including Ciao Pappy) – Can you share perhaps a favorite dish you remember from growing up? Something you now cook in your own kitchen?
A favorite dish of mine has always been bolognese. There is something about a rich ragu that feels like home. I started making it myself over the last few years, using a few of my dad’s secrets. With a lot of practice, I think it is almost as good as his.
What is the key to good cooking in your opinion?
Practice and creativity.
Tell us about Ciao Pappy – How many different sauces are there and is your intention to continue creating more, or focus on the staples?
Our goal was to create a marinara sauce made for the modern foodie who values convenience. We worked hard to create a jarred marinara that actually tasted homemade and with premium ingredients. And, looks stylish on your pantry shelf. We have an Italian-American story, so our product is small batch and is 100% California made. Our kitchen and farms are based in Northern California.
Ciao Pappy offers two types of marinara sauce. The Marinara alla Pappy, which is my father’s recipe. It is a soft blend of Italian herbs, touch of crushed red pepper, and a little sour cream. It is full of flavor and a little kick, which we like to call the “Italian tickle.” The Marinara Classico is a simple tomato, basil, and garlic blend, perfect to use as a base or for those who prefer a clean tomato flavor.
We are focusing on our signature sauces for this year, but our plan is to introduce a new sauce next year and potentially other products within Italian pantry staples. We have so many ideas!
I know you recently got married in Italy! Congratulations. Everyone has their non-negotiables when planning a wedding. I imagine similar to myself and Margaux that food & wine played a key role for you too?
Grazie! We chose to host our wedding in Italy for a number of reasons, but ultimately wanted to see everyone truly enjoying life. Italy has a gift of welcoming people to lean into living life, eating happily, laughing, and being present.
We knew the food and wine would be a given, so our non-negotiable was JOY! We wanted to create a few days of bliss, love, relaxation, enjoyment, and to experience the pure beauty that Italy has to offer. We also highly encouraged everyone to enjoy several Spritzaluga’s (Aperol Spritz).
So, what does ‘Summer like an Italian’ mean to you?
‘Summer like an Italian’ means the permission to indulge! Italians are religious about taking time off in the summer and rewarding themselves with whatever they need to feed their soul. Whether traveling, relaxing, eating, celebrating, or seeking inspiration, summer is the perfect time to slow down, unplug, lean in, and let go.
What wines from Italy are you drinking these days?
I have a soft spot for Tuscan wines, they pair so beautifully with Italian food. My “go to” choices are usually in the vein of SanGiovese or Montepulciano. currently loving the 2019 Le Ragnaie Toscana Rosso “Troncone” and the 2018 Ottomani Chianti Classico DOCG. I will also never say no to a glass of bubbly.
I think one of my favorite things while traveling in Italy is the emphasis on Aperitivo hour and aperitivo beverages. How do you enjoy your aperitivo hour?
It is hard to find something that Italians don’t do right and their aperitivo is no exception! I am so inspired by how simple yet satisfying they make an aperitivo. The cocktails are refreshing, enjoyable, and not too strong. The nibbles are bit sized, fresh, and leave room for dinner. Argaux has an amazing Spritz Kit that hits all of my favorite things in a balanced cocktail and have been very into making the Summer Spritzer cocktail for dinner guests or on a warm summer day.
For anyone planning a trip to Italy, do you have any lesser known towns/cities you recommend for foodies?
I am biased to Liguria, but I highly recommend Sestri Levante. In my opinion, it is Italy’s best kept secret. It has absolutely beautiful scenery, it is authentic and genuine, the perfect size, conveniently located in the region, with endless things to do in town or the surrounding area.
I believe you’re based in LA – Favorite restaurant in Los Angeles right now for a date night?
We are regulars at Oste on Beverly Blvd, my husband and I go there almost every Friday night. It is a Roman Italian restaurant and their pinsa’s are to die for. It reminds us a little of our New York City days and such a great vibe.
- Positano or Portofino? Portofino
- Pasta or Pizza? Pasta
- Butter or Olive Oil? Olive Oil
- Rigatoni or Linguine? Linguine
Francesca’s Argaux Favorites:
Product Photos: Danielle Adams
Portraits: Jen Sosa