Two brothers are embracing the organic food craze and found the inspiration to start a new food product line from their great-grandfather Joe, who immigrated to the U.S. from Italy and grew his own vegetables naturally.
The company, Organic Joe’s, named after their great grandfather, sells organic pizza dough, sauce and pasta and kits so people can make one of the most popular foods: pizza
But this is not just any pizza. It’s organic.
The brothers, Mike DeFazio, Siena College class of 2007, and Matt DeFazio, Siena class of 2009, are also donating 10 percent of the profits from the company to the Franciscan Center for Service & Advocacy at Siena College, which is run by friars.
They have already donated $500 and said they hope to donate more because of the great work the center does for the local community and entire Northeast.
And their pizza comes with a message.
On every Organic Joe’s pizza box, there’s an old Italian saying: “To get what you want, you must share what you have.”
The DeFazios say the Franciscans share this philosophy which is something they learned at Siena College.
“It’s important to give back to the community and to help those less fortunate,” said Matt DeFazio, who took a break from studying for a final exam on Wednesday to talk about the new business.
He said the idea for Organic Joe’s began a few years ago when their sister Alaina (also a Siena graduate) took an endocrinology course with Dr. Patricia Brown and learned how foods affect the body.
She shared what she learned with her father, Rocco, who runs DeFazio’s Pizza in Troy, and he started his own research on organic foods.
Soon, it trickled down to Matt and his brother Mike, and they started getting more interested in organic food and its health benefits. “With the resources from our father’s and grandfather’s businesses, we saw a real opportunity to enter into the organic food business,” said 23-year-old Mike.
“We thought it would be a growing market and a good strategy for a food line,” said Matt, 21.
Because of his store, their father knew wholesalers who dealt in organic flour. They purchased other products from the Albany food co-op and began making organic sauces, pizza dough and pastas.
While they were both at Siena College in 2005-06, they officially formed Organic Joe’s, naming it after their great-grandfather, who helped their grandfather, Anthony, start DeFazio Imports in 1951.
The brothers made a homemade organic sauce and whole wheat organic dough and developed the Organic Joe Pizza Kit.
The kit includes two organic pizza doughs, two organic containers of sauce and cheese and costs about $17.95. The price may increase because the cost of whole wheat flour prices is rising.
The kits not only offer healthy foods, but create a reason for families to spend more time together, said Matt.
Rocco DeFazio, Siena College class of 1975, said that he and his children received a great education at Siena. In their day-to-day lives and in business they try to abide by the Franciscan lesson of giving back to one’s community.
“That resonated with us all; my daughter is a nurse [and] my boys are doing this and giving back to Siena,” he said.
Organic Joe’s also sells its products to Emma Willard, a private girls’ school in Troy. The pizza kits and other organic products are sold out of the family import store in Troy.
They want to begin selling the products in other stores, co-ops, schools and colleges.
“If you think about it, our idea came from the import store,” said Matt. “We grew up in the store. Every day after school my father watched us there and we grew up with that family tradition.
“We know if it wasn’t for our great-grandfather none of this would have happened. We had a strong background. He had a garden behind the store, he never used pesticides or anything. Everything was grown naturally,” said Matt.
It’s come full circle, he said.
A photograph of their great-grandfather Joe, standing in his garden, is on every Organic Joe’s pizza box.