Ciao, #ThrowbackThursday Rinaldi!

There is one thing you never want to do to offend Italian moms and grandmothers…never say anything about their cooking.

I’m mostly Italian (with some Irish and a bit of Austrian thrown in), and there is one thing to be said about Italian grandmothers (and mothers) – you don’t say anything about their cooking.  Ever.

My dad made that mistake, telling his mother that he liked my mom’s meatloaf better than hers.  I think he said the same about her iced tea.  I prefer my mom and husband’s homemade sauces over my paternal grandmother’s recipe, as I find hers too thin. Not that I don’t like it, but I prefer a little thickness to my sauce.  It is all about preference.

This week’s theme is of the whole “don’t ever talk about an Italian woman’s cooking” rule, and we start off with spaghetti sauce.

As the most famous Italian TV Mother, Sophia Petrillo, said…”Picture it, WPIX Commercials, 1989!”

In today’s episode of…Francesco Rinaldi Theater (not a real thing!), Kaye Ballard playing Caterina Ballotta (her real last name, and the Italian version of her first name) in “Mother-in-Law”!


Her daughter-in-law is Martha, and she’s not going to mince words – her and her son are not ok with the spaghetti sauce Martha has prepared (her son says it is “ok”).


Martha says she doesn’t have time to make sauce like her husband’s grandmother used to make (“Ma! Your sauce was the best!”)…


…so Mother-In-Law has a solution for the time crunch.


Click play, and find out what she uses!

The “Dead Italian Grandmother” Revenge for saying Francesco Rinaldi Spaghetti Sauce is better than Grandmother’s sauce is hilariously cheesy.

She drops a tomato on his head, and it doesn’t break.

I’m as baffled as you are.


So yes, this commercial features Kaye Ballard, star of stage and screen, as the meddling mother-in-law.  She was the spokesperson for the sauce at the time, and passed away in January 2019 at the age of 93.

The sauce really is named for Francesco Rinaldi, who founded his company in 1940.  Rinaldi’s company was purchased from Rinald’s sons by Ralph Cantisano in 1981, who began selling the sauce through his company, Cantisano Foods, in 1982.  Prior to founding Cantisano Foods, Ralph Cantisano’s family created Ragu in 1937, selling the Ragu Company in 1970 to Unilever.

When Rinaldi’s sauce was first sold by Cantisano, the popularized slogan “as I got older, I got better” was spoken in television commercials, and offered on t-shirts.

Upload via Francesco Rinaldi

The spoken tagline “Ciao, Francesco Rinaldi!” was featured at the end of the sauce’s commercials.

These days, Francesco Rinald sauce is still made as a private-label product of LiDestri Foods (the current name of Cantisano Foods, as of 2002), with the slogan “Made by Italians, Enjoyed By Everyone.”  Cantisano, who retired in 1998, passed away in 2007.

I remember the Francesco Rinald commercials pretty well – they aired on all the local stations pretty prominently back in the day (and not just WPIX), with that famous “Ciao, Francesco Rinaldi!”  The commercials always had a “television show”-type quality to them.

I’m not sure how long Kaye Ballard was their spokesperson, as I don’t really remember her in any other commercials for the product (I remember this commercial, and most of the other advertising), but her role as the meddling mother-in-law is funny, and kind of has an older Rhoda Morgenstern quality (no, there is no connection – Valerie Harper played that role).  If Rhoda were a mother-in-law, she would be like this, and I’m pretty sure a tomato would drop on someone’s head.

Because why shouldn’t Italian’s curse the day their sauce has direct competition from a jarred sauce?

Tomorrow on Flashback Friday, more foods that draw comparison to Italian cooking, without Unhappy Italian Grandma Ghosts and tomatoes dropping from the sky.

Kaye Ballard will not return.

Ciao, have a great Throwback Thursday!


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