Women In Pizza: Tillie Lewis

**In celebration of Women’s History Month, I’ll be posting about women in the pizza community every few days this month. The pizza biz is pretty male-dominated, so let’s take this opportunity to throw the spotlight onto some of the women who are doing amazing work in the pizza world. This one’s a real doozy because I didn’t even know about Tillie Lewis until a few weeks ago and now my mind is completely blown. Read on…

California tomato maven Rob DiNapoli wrote this piece about the unsung hero of the US canned tomato industry, Tillie Lewis. Find out more in Kyle Elizabeth Wood’s new book Tillie Lewis: The Tomato Queen. Tillie is largely responsible for the popularity of the San Marzano tomato in America.


Born Tillie Ehrlich in 1896 to Jewish immigrants in the New York tenements, Tillie Lewis rose to fame and prominence as a business woman who brought the cultivation of the famed San Marzano to America and was coined ‘The Tomato Queen’ before passing on April 30th, 1977.

Tillie Lewis formed Flotil Foods in 1935, (the name a hybrid of her Italian lover and financier Florindo Del Gaizo ‘Flo’ and Tillie ‘Til’) after a 50% tariff was levied on imported Italian tomatoes. Fueled by $10,000 in cash, Italian processing equipment and bags of San Marzano tomato seeds, Tillie settled on Stockton California as her new home because the climate and soil were similar to Naples Italy.


Unfortunately I never met Tillie Lewis as I joined our family’s Sun Garden Packing Co. four years after Tillie’s passing but I enjoyed my grandfather’s stories about how she would travel unescorted to New York during the war years and return with suitcases of cash collected from her distributors!

In 1984 the renamed Tillie …read more

Source:: Scott Pizza Tours