The two men were born five years and maybe one hundred miles apart in Italy. Forty years and thousands of miles later they became pardners in pasta in Cowtown.
But the two men had more in common than age and nationality. Louis Bicocchi (born in 1853 in Parma) and John B. Laneri (born in 1858 in Genoa) both had a food background before they founded what today is O.B. Macaroni.
In 1871 Bicocchi arrived in the United States at New Orleans and lived there until 1882, when he moved to Fort Worth. To a man with memories of his Mediterranean motherland, a wild West town of gunslingers, sodbusters, and saloons may have been unsettling. But Bicocchi was not the first Italian to immigrate to Fort Worth. He soon got a job clerking at Italian-born Dominic Mazza’s grocery store on Grove Street at East 2nd. Clip is from the 1885 city directory.
In 1893 Bicocchi opened his own grocery store and saloon in a tapered building at West 7th and Burnett streets. His store is said to have been the first in town with electric lights and a cash register. Each morning before dawn Bicocchi drove his wagon out Cold Springs Road to wait for farmers as they brought their produce into town. For his customers he bought the pick of the crops. (Photos from Down Historic Trails of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, 1949.)
The next year Bicocchi predicted big things for spaghetti. Clip is from the September 28, 1894 Fort Worth Gazette.
Bicocchi also stocked a selection of cheeses complete enough to sustain a Monty Python skit. Clip is from the October 9, 1894 Gazette.
In 1897 Bicocchi moved four blocks east on West 7th Street to the corner at Houston Street. There he stocked exotic foods such as cockscombs from France, cheeses from Italy and Holland, jasmine tea from the Orient, olives and mushrooms from Spain. Clip is from the April 10 Register.
In 1873 John B. Laneri, like Bicocchi, arrived in the United States at New Orleans. He lived there four years before moving to Galveston and then Marshall, where he entered the food-service business. After moving to Fort Worth he managed the dining and drinking facilities of Ginocchio’s Hotel beside the 1882 Texas & Pacific Union Depot located near today’s Tower 55. Clip is from the 1885 city directory.
And later at the 1899 train depot on Main Street at Lancaster Avenue. Clip is from the 1899 city directory.
It was about that time that Louis Bicocchi bought pasta-making machinery and opened Fort Worth Macaroni and Paste Factory in a wooden building at the corner of Jennings and Daggett streets, across from Fort Worth High School. Clip is from the August 14, 1901 Register.
The Bicocchi Building now occupies the site where the factory stood.
In this clip from the May 17, 1903 Telegram Bicocchi is listed as the sole proprietor, although by some accounts John B. Laneri had joined the company in 1899.
In 1904 Bicocchi moved the business to a larger building on East Daggett at Louisiana Street. That building still stands. Clip is from the May 3 Telegram; old photo from Greater Fort Worth, 1907.
Certainly by 1905, when the company incorporated as “Fort Worth Macaroni,” Laneri was a partner. Note that N. T. Mazza, probably the son of Bicocchi’s employer of 1885, was also an incorporator. Clip is from the March 19 Dallas Morning News.
In 1905 the company marketed “Our Best” as a brand. About 1928 the product name was shortened to “O.B.” And in 1959 the company changed its name to “O.B. Macaroni.” Clip is from the November 18, 1905 Telegram.
In 1921 John B. Laneri built a private school for boys on Hemphill Street as a memorial to his wife. Laneri College is now Cassata High School.
Laneri’s house on Jennings Avenue still stands. Louis Bicocchi’s house on West Daggett Avenue became a parking lot in the 1970s.
John B. Laneri died in 1935. Louis Bicocchi died in 1945, still living in his house on Daggett Avenue behind the site of his original Fort Worth Macaroni and Paste factory. The pardners in pasta are buried in Greenwood Cemetery. Clip is from the February 15 Dallas Morning News.
The Laneri family operated the O.B. Macaroni company until 2009.
(For a while Bicocchi and Laneri had local competition: Dueling Pastas: Standard Was Good, But Our Best Was Better.)