This story appeared in the RBJ’s commemorative 30th Anniversary section. See more content related to the RBJ’s anniversary here.
Giovanni LiDestri, CEO of Fairport-based LiDestri Food & Drink, began his career two years after coming to America from Italy. Starting at age 16, he worked through high school and college as a manufacturing and operations employee for Ragu Foods Inc.
He remained at Ragu until 1976, when he was hired to be general manager at Cantisano Foods Inc. In 1991, LiDestri became its president, and six years later he was named CEO.
LiDestri purchased all outstanding shares from the Cantisano family in September 2002 and changed the name of the company to LiDestri Foods Inc.
The company manufactures sauces and dips, spirits and wine-based beverages, juices and flavored-water beverages. It has manufacturing facilities in Fairport, Rochester, California, Pennsylvania and New Jersey and employs roughly 1,300 people, including 900 locally. The firm ranked second on the most recent RBJ list of Food and Beverage Manufacturers.
LiDestri, known as John, hails from Tusa, Sicily. He started working as a bottle washer in a Ragu Foods pasta sauce facility, quickly rising through the ranks.
“I just feel that I’m like the cheerleader of things and it’s really the people around us that deserve all the credit,” he said in a 2017 interview with the RBJ. “All of the hard work is really done by the people behind the leaders as far as I’m concerned. I’m humbled and honored, but I certainly wish there would be a better way to recognize the thousands of hours and the tens of thousands of hours or millions of hours over the years that go into making a successful company.”
Since taking the role of CEO in 1997, LiDestri has kept himself accountable for remaining relevant and being an innovator, he said.
“You’re not satisfied with the status quo—I’m wired that way, it’s in the genes—which is a curse and a benefit because you’re never quite satisfied with what’s going on and you always try to look forward,” LiDestri said. “You need to be always looking over your shoulder to make sure that you’re not falling behind.”
LiDestri has transferred some company responsibilities to his adult children. As a result, John LiDestri and Stefani LiDestri serve as co-presidents.