A FAMILY LEGACY
The Toninos continue the sausage-making tradition in Carson City.
WRITTEN BY ANN LINDEMANN
CURRENT PHOTO BY ASA GILMORE AND HISTORICAL PHOTOS COURTESY OF JOE TONINO
From the Italian Alps to the Sierra Nevada, the Tonino family sausage-making saga is filled with spicy twists and turns.
During the Great Depression, Giuseppe Tonino worked as a ranch butcher, processing animals to exact specifications on site. Later, he opened a butcher shop featuring Italian delicacies of all kinds in Chiaverano, Italy. After World War II, his eldest son, Luciano, made a brief, unsuccessful foray into car racing when he brought his Ferrari to Indianapolis.
“Even though he had learned everything from my grandfather (Giuseppe), my uncle Luciano didn’t want to go into the business,” explains Joe Tonino, owner of The Sausage Factory in Carson City. “Here he was, this Italian immigrant in America, working three or four jobs trying to make a living.”
In 1954, armed with years of traditional sausage-making experience at his father’s knee, Uncle Luciano opened the Ideal Sausage Co. in Hackensack, N.J. Later, Luciano enticed his younger brother, Alcide (Joe’s father), to work in the bustling American plant, where he eventually became a partner.
Then in the late 1960s, Alcide traveled to Reno, where he visited an old friend from his homeland. While there, he purchased a sausage plant owned by a German immigrant in Carson City, and The Sausage Factory was born in 1968. Both family businesses flourished until the early 1980s when the brothers sold the Ideal Sausage Co.
“I arrived in Carson City in 1990, and was given the opportunity to continue the family business alongside my father,” says Tonino, a 47-year-old, third-generation butcher.
Today, The Sausage Factory continues to thrive, manufacturing gourmet sausages, deli meats, hot dogs, and hamburgers. The company’s biggest customers include large casino resorts in Reno and Las Vegas.
Additionally, for the last two years, The Sausage Factory has been the sole provider of sausages at Reno Aces games. Commercial customers find its products through Sierra Meat & Seafood, which is the company’s exclusive distributor in Northern Nevada. Home cooks can find The Sausage Factory products in Scolari’s and at the facility in Carson City.
Tonino understands the misgivings people may have about the content of typical sausages that feature inferior trimmings, scraps, fillers, and MSG.
“Probably 85 percent of the industry uses a least-cost formula,” he says. “They pump up the marketing, but not the quality of the product. They hide the quality of the meat with seasonings and water. I do the complete opposite.”
Tonino says his company only uses premium-quality whole cuts of meat that one might use to roast or barbecue. According to Tonino, a good sausage doesn’t need to be slathered with condiments to taste good.
“The way you tell a good sausage is the bite — it can’t feel like mush in your mouth,” he says.
Undoubtedly, the company’s Italian sausage is the top seller. However, Tonino says he’s hard pressed to call out his favorite from the extensive list that includes standards such as bratwurst and Polish, as well as interesting riffs on popular flavors such as corned beef sausage and barbecue tri-tip sausage.
“It just depends on what you are cooking,” Tonino says. “I look at it a little like wine pairing.”
A Taste for Tradition
This self-proclaimed “good Italian boy” and father of five hopes the Tonino family sausage legacy continues for generations to come.
“My father died a couple years ago, but the tradition is still there,” he says. “It’s reflected on all our labels and on our website. If it weren’t for my uncle and father, I would not be here in this business.”
Lake Tahoe-based freelance writer Ann Lindemann enjoys a good sausage, especially one that comes from such a distinguished sausage-making family as the Toninos.
Pick up The Sausage Factory sausages from the source, at 259 Sage St. in Carson City. Or you’ll find them at Aces Ballpark, as The Sausage Factory is the official provider for the Reno Aces Baseball Club, offering standard dogs, beef jumbo dogs, and Italian and beef brisket sausages. You’ll also find its handiwork at Eldorado Hotel Casino in Reno as well as The Backyard Bar & BBQ at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe. The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe’s chef worked with the folks at The Sausage Factory to create a special sausage just for the property. Scolari’s also carries The Sausage Factory products. If you are looking for sausages for your restaurant or store, Sierra Meat & Seafood is your source, as the company is the sole distributor for its products. For details, visit www.Thesausagefactory.com