At the outset of World War I, a German blockade in the Atlantic stifled European exports and left the Aiellos and millions of other Italian Americans without canned tomatoes from their homeland. The Aiellos, who had extended family in the tomato canning business in Italy, sensed an opportunity. At the time, there weren't any tomato canneries in the U.S. Drawing on their family connection to the industry as well as their personal experience as restaurateurs in New York City, brothers Carlo and Francesco and brother-in-law Anthony Gangi founded Aiello Brothers & Company. In 1915, the upstart company built a tomato cannery in Highland, New York, becoming the first U.S. producer of canned tomato paste.