Four former professional footballers take on the world of Italian cuisine
Eleven twelve is an e-commerce company specializing in Italian food and wine founded by four American football players of Italian descent. Through their passion for American football and Italian cuisine, co-founders Giorgio Tavecchio, Vincenzo D’Amato, Davide Merlo and Paolo Tempo are on a mission to share their culture and community with the United States.
âOur goal is to be the premier Italian lifestyle experience in the United States. There are many Italian importers, but we offer unique and authentic experiences instead of just delivering products, âsays Giorgio Tavecchio, CEO of ElevenTwelve.
âOur mission is not to sell Italian products but to teach consumers to understand and love the Italian way of life. To do this, we continually add to our bouquet of products, selecting not only on the basis of quality, but also uniqueness and uniqueness. We are an American dream sharing the Italian dream!
Tavecchio grew up between Italy and the United States. Although he believed his path was to play colligate football, he was offered a last-minute spot on the Cal Berkeley football team. âAs the godfather said, ‘it was an offer I couldn’t refuse.’ I showed up on campus three days before the first game and ended up starting for four years – a really rare event, âhe recalls. Tavecchio ended up continuing his football career in the NFL, playing for six teams in nine years.
Tavecchio came across each of his colleagues by chance through the game of football. It is their love of Italian food and wine that has solidified their bond, beyond friendship, and in the business world.
âWe developed a deep bond of friendship that seemed to be centered around the table; this unique time and space in which we shared life together. Reflecting on this deep sense of connection, two completely different worlds – American football and Italian food and wine – seemed to come together beautifully. “
We chatted with Tavecchio about how ElevenTwelve came together, his passion for Italian food, the ElevenTwelve team, and more. Here is what he had to say.
How did you go from pro football to co-founder of ElevenTwelve? When did you decide to enter this new industry?
Perhaps the most significant experience of my years of university training was my friendship with Vincenzo D’Amato. His story is quite similar to mine: born in Palermo, Sicily and moved to the United States around the age of nine, he also grew up playing football but found his way to college by taking the shape of an American football.
In a rare stroke of coincidence, were the only two university footballers born in Italy in the whole country: in the same college, at the same time, playing the same position (kicker).
Although we competed for the starting spot on the pitch, we have become best friends on the pitch due to our shared values ââand cultures, often hosting great team dinners ourselves. After four years of training at Cal Berkeley, I was fortunate enough to continue my footballing journey in the NFL. Due to our unique football background as Italians, Vincenzo and I would return to Italy to help coach football clinics.
It was at one of these clinics in 2018 (while I was on the Oakland Raiders) that we met Paolo and Davide. And just like the happy coincidence of my meeting Vincenzo at university, we immediately felt a close bond with Paolo and Davide, spending long hours around a table sharing stories and reliving (… and exaggerating) our football glory days.
We have discovered that life is better when we live together, just like we play better when we play as a team. Like in a soccer group, we looked at each other and said to each other: “Let’s play this game so that we can share this feeling with other people”. In this way, two worlds united in one cause: to help others celebrate life, one meal at a time.
The seed planted in Italy then paid off in the United States when we launched ElevenTwelve in 2019. Whether it’s scoring field goals in the NFL or tackling dirt pitches in Italy. , we have chosen our jersey numbers to represent our brand: “Eleven” after Davide’s jersey number and “Twelve” after Paolo’s jersey number. We personified our union of American football and Italian cuisine by creating the first football shaped pasta!
Talk about your passion for Italian cuisine and culture. Did you grow up in the kitchen or in the restaurant business?
Yes, both of my parents are great chefs, so I have vivid childhood memories of sitting around long tables full of food and family, eating and chatting for hours on end. I came to cherish these experiences because they were truly invigorating!
One thing I fondly remember when I returned to Italy as a child was the everyday simplicity of Italian cuisine. The fact that every moment at the table – whether it’s a special occasion at a restaurant or an ordinary Tuesday lunch – could be special. The secret is simplicity: a few quality ingredients with minimal preparation, like tagliatelle with extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan (… the original Parmigiano though), can be incredibly satisfying and made in under 5 minutes. minutes !
Plus, my mom comes from a family of restaurateurs, so I’ve grown up in and around kitchens all my life. In fact, when I was 15, my mother said to me: “you have two weeks to find a job or I am trying to find one for you”, so I naturally turned to the role. waiter at the local Italian restaurant.
Finally, in addition to inheriting my mother’s curly hair, I also inherited her ‘hanger’. As such, most of my day is centered around meals and the decisions that are often made with my stomach.
Has professional football somehow prepared you for what you’re doing now? Did your passion for the sport translate into your team’s passion for ElevenTwelve? Talk about what each of your co-founders brings to the table.
Football taught me to be resilient and to stay committed to a dream and a team, just like in Al Pacino’s halftime speech in “Any Given Sunday”. Our team is committed to helping others celebrate life, one meal at a time! Like any other team, we each bring unique skills to the table.
Davide has spent over 30 years in the wholesale food and wine sector in Italy and has intimate knowledge and relationships with artisan producers in Piemonte. Paolo’s financial background helps structure our business and his deeply charismatic personality is the soul of ElevenTwelve.
Vincenzo brings a South Italian touch to our group, taking care of a lot of the responsibilities in person while I manage a lot of the marketing and business development component. Our passion to live fully is what brought us together and it is the joy that we want to share with others, especially around a table!
Have you had to pivot in any way because of COVID?
Yes, our initial strategy involved a more B2B and foodservice approach (restaurants, caterers) for strategic and economic reasons. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated our launch into e-commerce, where we are able to further convey our personal mission and purpose to consumers through our creative content.