When Dan Bulone’s grandmother emigrated from Sicily to Cleveland, Ohio, she took a treasured family recipe for eggplant-rich caponata with her. With the help of his brother, Vince, Dan and his wife, Sharon Mogle-Bulone, started Bulone Enterprises in Lampe, Missouri, to sell the famous caponata alongside an entire line of Italian-inspired sauces, relishes and private-label pasta. The Bulones take pleasure in sharing the flavors of their heritage, and today they sell their products at farmers’ markets and stores across Missouri, Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma as well as online.
What inspired you to launch Bulone Enterprises? We were at a family gathering up in Port Sanilac, Michigan, and my brother-in-law Vince made a big pot of caponata. All the family was there, so that whole pot was gone in about three days. The first time I tasted it, I was like, “Oh my gosh, this stuff is great.” The next time I had some, I was like, “This stuff is so good, it needs to be put on store shelves.”
Do you use the exact recipe from Dan’s grandmother? [Our] caponata is based on Dan’s grandmother’s recipe; it’s Vince’s version of what he remembers his grandmother’s caponata tasting like. She used to make it in jars, and she would send two jars to each of her kids every year. Dan’s father would get the jars, and [Dan and his siblings] might get to taste it, but they didn’t get to eat very much because [their father] liked it so much himself.
Why have you named so many products after Vince? Vince has been an integral part [of recipe development]. Without him ever making that caponata, I don’t think we would be in business. When we looked at what brand we wanted to put on [our line of gourmet products], we said, “Vince made the caponata – why don’t we name it Vince’s?” And it sounds a lot more Italian than Dan.
What does R&D look like at Bulone Enterprises? It’s customer-driven. We had the caponata, and we had the roasted red pepper pesto, and then they said, “You guys should make something spicy.” So we made giardiniera. Then they started asking, “Why aren’t you making a pasta sauce?” We kept adding [products] based on what our customers [wanted].
What is it like working with your spouse? Dan and I got married in 2010, so we were kind of newlyweds when we started the business in 2013. Dan is a planner, and I’m more fly by the seat of my pants. Between the two of us, it kind of balances things out.
Bulone Enterprises, buloneentllc.com