Sofo Foods – bringing a taste of Italy to the area for over 80 years

By Jennifer Alexander Ruple

A unique shopping experience is what the Sofo family wants for its customers. “Sofo’s Italian Market is more than just a bakery and deli,” said Store Manager Tony Feudi. Located at 5400 Monroe St., shoppers will find a business committed to quality products and high-level customer service. “We specialize in imported goods, meats, and cheeses mainly from the Mediterranean – Italy, Greece and Spain. At our store, the customers come first, and we go the extra mile for them,” said Feudi.

From left are: Joe Sofo, his father Antonio Sofo, mother Carmela Sofo, and sister Connie Sofo Peer.

Sofo’s meat department features hand-cut beef, veal, lamb and poultry. “Everything is cut in house,” said Feudi. A gourmet coffee and gelato bar offers signature brews, shakes, gelatos and sorbets. To-go entrees are made in house daily such as Chicken Florentine, Pork and Beef with Pasta, and Penne Alfredo with Vegetables. A la carte items can be found in the deli including Chicken Parmesan, sliced pizza, lasagna, vegetable side dishes, and two new sandwiches – Rosemary Truffle and the Italian Deluxe. Each are piled high with Italian meats and cheeses and served on freshly baked focaccia bread. Signature sandwiches such as The Meatball Sub and The Calabrian are also available at the deli as are custom made sandwiches. An extensive wine department carries imported and domestic varieties.

Sofo Foods began its retail and wholesale business in the early 1940s when Antonio Sofo began to service Toledo’s growing Italian population by traveling to Detroit to purchase Italian foods that were not available in Toledo. “Soldiers were coming back from the war and wanted pizza because they had it in Italy,” said Chris Sofo, marketing manager for Sofo Foods and the great-grandson of Antonio Sofo. “There were several families that wanted to open pizzerias but didn’t know where to get ingredients like mozzarella and salami. Antonio would drive to Detroit to pick them up and deliver them to the families,” he added.

In 1947 the first Sofo’s retail store was opened, and a warehouse was purchased to house the company’s growing wholesale business. “After my grandfather, Joe, fought in Korea and returned home with a Purple Heart medal, he began working with the company again. He and my great-grandmother, Carmela, worked in the store near the Toledo Museum of Art. From there the business flourished,” explained Sofo. The store was relocated to its current site in 1985.

Customers enjoy shopping and wine tasting at Sofo’s Italian Market. The store underwent extensive renovations in 2019.

From its inception, family values and tradition were instilled within the company. “We were building a family and a business at the same time,” Sofo noted. “Giving back to the community is a high priority for us. We work with area farmers for the freshest produce, partner with local employment agencies, and provide donations and auction items for agencies and schools,” he explained.

Today, Sofo Foods is the largest ethnic food distributor in the Midwest. “We’re in our fourth generation of family ownership and management,” Sofo said. The company’s roots are in Italian food; however, it supplies a variety of food to all types of restaurants. There are three distribution centers, the corporate headquarters in Toledo; Suwanee, Georgia near Atlanta; and Houston, Texas. Sofo Foods has a fleet of trucks delivering to restaurants and pizzerias in 27 states and employs over 600 team members. “We grew up working in the business,” said Sofo. “My father, Mike Sofo, taught us that if we work hard and commit to the dream, we’d make it. He’d say, ‘If you do what you love, it’s not work.’”

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