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Noodles By Leonardo

12/28/2015:

Durum wheat from North Dakota makes some of the world’s greatest pasta and noodles, but for decades, those oodles of noodles were made outside the state. In fact, on this date in 1911, the Grand Forks Herald touted the quality of the “Minnesota” brand of macaroni and spaghetti that was so good that even little children would “want it three times a day.”

It took a long time, but, in 1980, the first exclusively-pasta plant in North Dakota, located in Cando, became a reality. The name of the facility was “Noodles By Leonardo,” an “integrated durum mill and pasta plant,” located right in the heart of durum-wheat country.

The man behind the noodle-factory was Leonard Gasparre, who hailed from St. Paul, Minnesota. Gasparre had set his eyes on Towner County where durum was said to grow best, located in the middle of the “Durum Triangle,” named for the region around Cando that produced about 80 percent of the nation’s durum wheat. The Noodles by Leonardo plant broke ground in 1979, and began production of macaroni, egg noodles and spaghetti in 1980, bringing 150 new jobs to Cando while increasing the city’s tax base.

The 1980s became a time of prosperity and economic stability for Cando, and the pasta plant employed 300 workers by 1993. The facility soon exceeded its capacity, so management opened a second pasta plant in Devils Lake in 1992.

Noodles by Leonardo endured until Leonard Gasparre died in 2011 at the age of 83. His family, after selling the Devils Lake factory, consolidated operations to Cando facility. Soon there was talk about selling the Cando plant as well. It seemed as though the end of the pasta-making era in Cando had arrived.

Fortunately for Cando, and the “Can-Do” attitude that resonates in the town, a couple of local businessmen, Jim and Bruce Gibbens, with some other investors, saw the opportunity that lay at hand and purchased the facility.

Today the plant goes by the name of Cando Pasta LLC and though it doesn’t employ as many people as it had in the 1990s, its revival was a victory for the town of Cando. Rather than send durum wheat out of state, Dakota pasta-makers in Cando make boxes and boxes of elbow-noodles, rotini, deluxe shells, medium shells and penne rigate, or, we might say, a whole “lotsa of pasta.”

Dakota Datebook written by Michelle Holien, edited by Dr. Steve Hoffbeck, History Department, MSU Moorhead.

Sources: “Children Want It Three Times A Day,” Grand Forks Herald, December 28, 1911, p. 5.

Kevin Bonham, “New Life, New Products,” Grand Forks Herald, 29 November 29, 2012, p. A1.

David S. Dahl, “Noodles add value to wheat and community,” Fedgazette. Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, January 1, 1993, "https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/fedgazette/noodles-add-value-to-wheat-and-community" https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/fedgazette/noodles-add-value-to-wheat-and-community , accessed September 21, 2015.

Kevin Bonham, “Cando Pasta to use grant to promote brand, develop new products,” Grand Forks Herald, July 23, 2015.

Kevin Bonham, “Noodles by Leonardo Devils Lake plant to consolidate with Cando plant,” McClatchy-Tribune Business News, March 20, 2012.

Mikkel Pates, “End of an Era,” McClatchy-Tribune Business News, July 16, 2012.