By Barbara Ann Zippi-Och
If you arrive at the modernized row home on Rosewood Street in South Philly on a Wednesday night, you’ll notice a bright citrusy perfume in the air before you get to the front door.
Inside, the family is gathered around the kitchen table, using hand-held peelers to shave the yellow zest from a crate of lemons. The natural zest is the crucial ingredient that they’ll deliver to a commercial production kitchen nearby that makes the Pezone line of Italian limoncellos.
The Pezone brand was conceived by business partners Danny Pezzetti and Sal Sansone, who took a traditional Italian liqueur and added a homey South Philly vibe to create their Row Home Grown Cello, which is now sold in a variety of styles and flavors.
In a classic move from the small-business playbook, the brand name Pezone was created from parts of the founders’ own surnames — Pezzetti and Sansone.
The business was built on love, tradition and family. The founders’ wives Joanne Pezzetti and Adrienne Sansone take care of social media marketing on Facebook and Instagram. Sal’s son Salvator designed the logo and website, and Sal’s parents Joe and Linda Sansone open their kitchen for lemon peeling and are often joined by Uncle Mike and Aunt Tina Franceschetti.
Danny (a car salesman) and Sal (a school-district employee) met 10 years ago, and became fast friends while experimenting with making a variety of flavored wines for family and friends.
Then one day, destiny intervened.
Sal was helping Danny clear out his aunt’s home when they came across an old handwritten limoncello recipe describing the lemon rinds being “cut by razor” and a not-so-common ingredient, cream. Intrigued, they had to produce a batch, and the Pezone brand was born.
The 36-proof lemony concoction went down smooth, delivering a mild boozy kick, and the drink became popular by word of mouth.
Pop Joe Sansone, who has ancestors from Abruzzi, Naples and Sicily, dubbed Danny and Sal the Cello Kings of South Philly.
As demand grew for Row Home Grown Cello, the partners secured an industrial production kitchen in South Philly, and a Pennsylvania Liquor License on Sept. 18, 2018. Today Row Home Grown Cello is available at 15 spots, including Pennsylvania State Stores, the Lansdowne Farmers Market and Reading Terminal Market at 11th and Arch streets.
Row Home Grown Cello sells for about $25 a bottle, and comes in an array of flavors.
According to Danny, family involvement is key to the business.
“Our wives work right along with us, bottling, labeling, corking. Our parents are master lemon peelers and our children, nieces, nephews and their friends are recruited to work the Reading Terminal,” he says.
All flavors are personally created by Danny and Sal with family tastings for approval. Their passion shows in their collection of reinvented cellos. They’ve produced chocolate mint, vanilla mint, chocolate strawberry for Valentine’s Day, a pumpkin spice flavor and even green cellos to pump up Eagles fever. IAH
To learn more, visit pezonecello.com