Austin Chill

Meals prepared in small batches from Mom’s recipes, made with only the highest-quality ingredients, locally sourced when possible, with no preservatives. You might expect all of this in a restaurant, but a frozen food company? Yet, that’s the way family-run Michael Angelo’s has been doing business for the last 30 years. Though buying fresh ingredients as needed to fill orders and getting products out as quickly as possible might sound like a pitch crafted for foodies, company founder Michael Angelo Renna lightheartedly admits the business model was actually born of necessity.

“When we were first starting out,” he confesses, “I had to hurry up and get paid before I could pay my supplier.”

Now well beyond humble beginnings, Michael Angelo’s products can be found on shelves in every major supermarket chain in the country, yet the company still follows the same process as in the beginning—not out of necessity this time, but because it makes for a superior product. “That flavor and texture…you can’t duplicate by just worrying about the most efficient process,” says Renna. “You really have to cultivate it and protect those ingredients.”

Founded in California, the company is now very much an Austin establishment, with facilities and employees located in the Austin area on a property straddling the line between North Austin and Round Rock, since 1993. Though the company may have moved to Texas for logistical reasons (their business model called for quick shipping all over North America and a central location just made sense) they’ve found a true home here. “Austin is an oasis—it really was very surprising when we moved here,” says Renna. “It’s shocking that it’s been twenty years…I can’t believe we just turned thirty as a business! We’ve all grown up here…my kids, the business.”

Though his company might be nationally renowned, Renna continues to immerse himself in our community. He’s been involved in the local chapters of Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Italy-America Chamber of Commerce, which, he says with a laugh, is “bringing a little Italian culture to Austin, Texas.” And he’s started working with local start-up food companies to help give them a boost. “That, to me, is so rewarding,” he says. “An entrepreneur starting something from scratch…they’re so wide-eyed and everything is blue sky. I like to give them a little of what my experiences have been and save them a bit of the trouble.”

Currently, Renna is working with several new companies, including Boomerang’s Pies, which leases production space from his company. “We’re helping them scale up,” says Renna. “I think they’re going to grow so quickly they’re going to need their own kitchens within a year.” And he’s teaching these start-ups something he learned a long time ago: offer the highest-quality products available but also keep an eye out for what customers want and be ready and willing to adapt—a philosophy evident in his company’s new line of products that features antibiotic-free meats, non-GMO organic pasta, organic vegetables and wheat-free meals. Very Austin, sure, but also very timely. —Lauren Walz

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