The Rotella tradition began in 1850 in Calabria, Italy, where Alessandro’s family raised their own wheat and milled it into flour. They used that flour to bake the hearty loaves of bread that they sold to the villagers. Over time, Alessandro’s mastery of the art of baking became second to none. Alessandro immigrated to the United States and with his wife, Maria, started Rotella’s Italian Bakery, Inc in 1921. Over time, he passed his knowledge on to his son, Louis Rotella Sr., who continued practicing his father’s art and became a master baker himself.
Always seeking to bring customers new experiences, Louis Sr. was dedicated to staying on top of trends and innovation in the baking industry. In 1960, Rotella’s introduced sliced bread and plastic packaging, an innovation for an Italian bakery at the time. And one of the bakery’s iconic stories – demonstrative of the future-focused way Louis Sr. operated – involves the Kaiser bun. After travelling to the East Coast and experiencing that bit of baking for himself, Louis Sr. was determined to introduce the Kaiser bun to the Midwest.
Louis Sr.’s son, Louis Rotella Jr., started dabbling in the family business shortly after learning to walk. At the age of three, he was riding on his father’s bakery delivery truck. By eighth grade, he had learned all aspects of running production. Having inherited a work ethic like his father’s, Louis Jr. worked at the bakery throughout high school and college. After graduating from University of Nebraska-Omaha in 1972, Louis Jr. became partners with his father after Louis Sr. agreed to buy out his brother and the start of a new era of leadership began.
Bold advances, driven by Louis Jr., included launching a national campaign to sell fresh, frozen bread; steadily increasing route distribution; and selling bread to both distributors and voluminous regional and national chain accounts.
As the customer base grew so did the need for additional space. Rotella’s found it in La Vista, Neb., the location of today’s 40-acre Rotella’s campus, a complex that encompasses five separate production facilities totaling 500,000 sq. ft.