Hey, Anthony! Prince Spaghetti marks 100 years
As Bostonians of a certain age know very well, Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day.
In fact, Mayor Thomas M. Menino is expected to officially declare this particular Wednesday as Prince Spaghetti Day at a North End event celebrating the 100th anniversary of the brand that got its start on Prince Street.
New World Pasta Co., the owner of the Prince brand, is marking the anniversary with a series of local events this month. It even re-created the classic Prince television ad from 1969, with a few new twists. The updated commercial began to appear on Monday.
In the new version of the ad, a mother still calls out, "Anthony! Anthony!" from a window while a young boy races through the streets of the North End to get home for dinner. Anthony, appearing in black and white, is featured in colorful scenes as he runs through today's North End.
The new spot features Anthony running past a gelato cart next to the statue of Paul Revere, along Hanover Street, and rounding the corner on Thatcher Street in front of Regina Pizzeria.
The boy who burst through his family's front door 44 years ago is replaced by a grown-up version of himself, played by a different actor. He sits down for a meal surrounded by his own family.
"The Prince brand united these great feelings people have about living in Boston and the North End," said David Heimbecker, senior director of marketing at New World Pasta, which bought Prince in 2001. "We're trying to pay homage to that and modernize it for today's consumers."
The celebration this week marks a milestone that was actually reached last year. Prince was founded in 1912 at 92 Prince St. by three immigrants from the same village in Sicily. Five years later, the company erected a seven-story building on Commercial Street, where flour was delivered directly on trains. In 1939, the company moved to a full-scale plant in Lowell.
The founders sold their controlling interest in 1941, and the business continued under Guiseppe Pellegrino, another Sicilian immigrant rumored to have slept in the plant as he saved money to buy the company.
A decade later he penned the slogan, "In the North End of Boston, Wednesday is Prince Spaghetti Day." Pellegrino sold the business in 1987, and the factory closed 10 years later, despite a bid by the workers to buy it. New World Pasta, headquartered in Harrisburg, Pa., has three pasta-making factories, in California, Missouri, and Virginia.
The company may have moved, but the loyalty didn't. Sold regionally in the Northeast, Prince has survived in part because of its local heritage. Last year, half of Prince's $22 million in sales were recorded in Boston, the second biggest market for pasta in the United States.
Heimbecker said Prince's 100th-year celebration was put off a year for logistical reasons, as six of New World Pasta's brands celebrate 100th anniversaries in five years.
In addition to the North End celebration, a Prince food truck is hitting the streets of Boston every Wednesday in September serving up free pasta at select locations.
"Boston is the biggest market for Prince," Heimbecker said. "One hundred years don't come very often, and we're trying to give back to the community that supported the brand for so long."