Baking is in the blood of the Rotella family, a legacy that goes back more than 160 years. Louis Rotella Sr. and Louis Rotella Jr. elevated Rotella’s Italian Bakery, La Vista, Neb., from an Omaha staple into a supplier of specialty bread and rolls throughout the United States.

Their passion for the craft and business acumen have earned the father and son a spot in the American Society of Baking’s Baking Hall of Fame.

The Rotellas’ baking tradition dates back to the 1850s in Calabria, Italy, where Louis Sr.’s grandfather ran a bakery in which he grew and milled his own wheat. The US bakery began just over a century ago when Louis Rotella Sr.’s parents, Alessandro and Maria Rotella, began operating an Omaha bakery in 1921, using a wood-fired oven and delivering bread in a horse-drawn wagon. The bakery today is helmed by Louis Jr., chief executive officer and president, who started learning the business at a young age and worked for many years alongside his father, who died in 2009.

“I remember helping my dad when I was in grade school,” Mr. Rotella said. “Working side-by-side next to someone who sincerely appreciated the value of hard work, I really learned all of the facets of the business. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I was able to run production in the plant.”

Several members of the Rotella family are involved with the bakery today, including Louis Rotella III, chief operating officer, who said he considers his grandfather, Louis Sr., to be one of his best teachers. He served as an example of smart and ethical leadership.

“The philosophy my grandfather taught me on the corporate side incorporates a constant look to the future, but also a tremendous honor of the past,” he said. “When speaking of my grandfather, I must also mention integrity. He has taught us that a leader with integrity behaves in a manner that is consistent with professional responsibility and professional ethics.”

The bakery serves the foodservice industry and sells its products through retail channels, producing hundreds of baked foods, including bread, rolls and breadsticks, buns, hoagie rolls, ciabatta, gluten-free and specialty breads. 

Both of the Rotellas have earned numerous awards for their service to the industry and surrounding community. Louis Rotella Sr. was named Outstanding American Italian in 1973 and 1986 and purveyor of the year for the Omaha Restaurant and National Restaurant Associations. Louis Rotella Jr. has been honored with the Omaha Golden Spike Award and the Distinguished Alumni Award from the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Under his leadership, the company has been recognized as supplier of the year, outstanding sales and dedication, and with awards of excellence, quality and service and innovation.