When Giovanni Massarella left Settefrate in central Italy 150 years ago, little did he realise that his arrival in South Yorkshire and the tiny ice cream production operation he set up would be the roots of a nationwide business.
Today, Massarella Catering Group, based at Thurcroft Hall, Brookhouse, near Dinnington, is being run by the fifth generation of Giovanni’s family and employs 2,000 people throughout the UK.
Back in Italy Giovanni was a mere ‘contadino’ - a farm labourer who worked for a wealthy land owner and lived in nothing more than a stable, when he decided to seek a better life for himself and his family.
Like many Italians of the time his intention was to head for America but some reason he broke his journey with a stop off in England.
Perhaps he was visiting people he knew from his native region who had settled in Nottingham - as this is where he headed.
Giovanni clearly liked England and eventually settled with his family in Doncaster.
Not being a skilled man he resorted to using his hands and built himself a barrel organ which he played for little money on the streets of Doncaster.
After realising that playing the organ would not keep a roof over his head he decided to make ice cream.
He became one of the biggest producers of ice cream in Europe by the mid 1950s, and the family name became famous for churning out this sweet creamy dessert.
The business today is very different but it is still run by the family with the same work ethic that Giovanni bestowed upon his own children.
He told them to work hard, be fair and respect all those around you - a mantra that is practised today by his grandson the current chairman Ronnie, his sons and their children who now manage the business.
There is little doubt that if Giovanni could see the business today he would be rightly proud of what his family has achieved from such a humble beginning.
Speaking of this year’s momentous 150 year anniversary celebrations, Ronnie Massarella said: “As a family along with our loyal and committed workforce we will be celebrating this achievement throughout the course of 2014 including a large family reunion party planned for the summer.”
Massarella Catering Group Ltd provides catering within department stores like House of Fraser, TJ Hughes and TK Maxx, shopping centres like Meadowhall, garden centres, and other retail and leisure outlets.
The company now operates more coffee shops and restaurants across 150 UK sites, with brands such as Café Nova, Café Zest, Massarella’s, Joseph’s, Café Maxx, as part of its portfolio.
Fifty of the eateries are within House of Fraser department stores, including the one at Meadowhall.
And the company still maintains a personal touch whereby every executive director regularly visits each of the outlets.
Massarella’s huge expansion over the last 150 years shows that Giovanni’s decision to emigrate for the betterment of his family was truly the right choice.