Companies big and small have made Montclair their hometown. With its small-town feel and proximity to Manhattan, there are plenty of reasons to locate a business in Montclair. One such company is Rao’s Homemade®, a popular pasta sauce brand found on shelves in food markets across the nation.
In the world of sauces, Rao’s has made it big time — so much so that Campbell’s Soup Co. (yes, that Campbell’s Soup) is venturing to buy Raos’ parent company, Sovos Brands Inc., for $2.7 billion, per Patch. Sovos has agreed to the deal for $23 per share in cash.
In light of this news, we’re revisiting the time in 2022 we took a trip to Rao’s HQ, located right here at 441 Bloomfield Avenue, Montclair, in the 1924 Montclair Savings Bank building. While the company has a backstory based in Manhattan, the iteration of the brand at that time was all Montclair. Read on for our 2022 visit to Rao’s Homemade® headquarters in downtown Montclair.
Rao’s started out as an Italian restaurant in East Harlem, NY. Located at 455 East 114th Street, the restaurant was founded by Joshua Anthony Rao and opened in 1896. The restaurant became known for its family recipes and ‘like home’ style of cooking. Rao’s tomato sauces officially launched in 1992 using the same simple style of preparation, with a focus on fresh ingredients and no additives. In December 2006, Rao’s opened a second restaurant inside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. In September 2013, Rao’s opened its third location in Los Angeles. Sadly, the Las Vegas location announced its closure in November 2021. However, the NY and CA locations remain open.
In 2017, Sovos Brands, a California-based food and beverage company, acquired Rao’s Specialty Foods, excluding all three restaurants. Two years later, in June 2019, it was announced that Rao’s Homemade® set up its new headquarters in downtown Montclair.
View this post on Instagram
‘Sovos Brands’ logo is seen on the outside of the Savings Bank building. The official grand opening took place on June 5, 2019 in a ribbon-cutting ceremony with the president and CEO of Sovos Brands, Todd Lachman. The building was purchased and renovated in 2018, and the architect of the project worked closely with the Montclair Historic Preservation Commission to maintain the exterior facade and other architectural elements of the building. The bank space was converted into an open-floor plan office space.
Santino Certo, Senior Marketing Director of Rao’s Homemade®, told The Montclair Girl that Montclair was the ideal location for Rao’s headquarters for a multitude of reasons — one of which being the community-focused feel of the town.
“Sovos Brands intentionally chooses offices where we’re intertwined with the community,” Santino said. ” One of the key reasons we chose Montclair is because it is a diverse and thriving community that allows us to attract and retain talented employees. In Montclair, employees can walk right outside and they’re on beautiful Bloomfield Avenue with plenty of dining and entertaining options.”
He also mentioned the proximity to both New York City and Newark Airport made Montclair a convenient option for employees.
Choosing to put down roots in a town with a thriving community was also important to Rao’s Homemade® because of the value it places on giving back.
“A core value of the Rao’s Homemade® brand is giving back to the local community,” Santino commented. “Since arriving in town, we regularly partner with Montclair organizations and non-profits like Montclair Film, Montclair YMCA, Toni’s Kitchen, Essex Youth Theater, and Montclair Literary Festival, to name a few – with more partnerships currently in the works.”
View this post on Instagram
According to Santino, since moving to Montclair, Rao’s Homemade® has risen to the #2 sauce brand on the market.
Read More: A Guide to New Jersey-Made Sauce Brands
Rao’s Pop Up in NYC
Rao’s recently launched its first-ever pop-up marketplace in New York City. The pop-up took place April 22nd – 24th in SoHo at 579 Broadway.
The website description read: “You have the chance to attend our first-ever pop-up experience, The Saucery by Rao’s Homemade®. Join us for an immersive pop-up marketplace where you can customize your own jar, taste our sauces with their perfect wine pairings, shop the marketplace for all your favorite Rao’s Homemade® products and exclusive merchandise, and get your hands on limited-availability items.”
What’s more, the pop-up also donated 100% of its proceeds to Livingston non-profit Jersey Cares.
The brand enlisted the help of actress Busy Philipps to promote the popup. She posted on her Instagram, “You already know that Rao’s Homemade® is my go-to pasta sauce brand and I love all their Italian offerings. When I heard they were doing a popup, I knew I had to pull strings to get in — they sold out of appointments in MINUTES!”
She even supplied her own stuffed shells recipe for fans (see photo above), which includes spinach artichokes, ricotta cheese, and Rao’s Homemade® arrabbiata sauce. The recipe can be found here.
When asked about whether Rao’s was considering another popup after the success of its first, Santino said, “We’re always looking to give our customers more opportunities to interact with the Rao’s Homemade® brand, but for right now we’re still riding high from the success of our first pop-up!”
Rao’s product line is ever-expanding. The brand has expanded from solely tomato sauces to selling a plethora of kitchen products. There’s a variety of pasta sauces (marinara, tomato basil, bolognese, alfredo, etc.), pizza sauce, soups, dry pasta, dressings, marinades, olive oils, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, and even frozen entrees.
View this post on Instagram
“We’ve launched new products such as Rao’s Made for Home frozen entrées and soups,” Santino mentioned. “Our frozen entrée offerings include authentic Italian meals, like Meat Lasagna, Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Alfredo, and more. Our soups, which can be found in a glass jar in the soup aisle, include classics like Chicken Noodle and Italian Wedding, to new favorites like Tortellini & Vegetable and Sausage & Potato.”