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Pleasoning Gourmet Seasoning: ‘A symphony for your tongue’

The La Crosse seasoning business has been family-owned and operated since 1952

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January 22, 2024

LA CROSSE – Chemistry and music education – two career paths one wouldn’t necessarily put together.

For Maestro Francisco “Frank” Italiano, founder of Pleasoning® Gourmet Seasoning in La Crosse, however, it proved to be a successful collaboration – as he conducted his own unlikely story.

Leading up to the opening of Pleasoning Gourmet Seasoning, Italiano’s daughter Kathy Boarman – who co-owns the store with her son Dominic Boarman and daughter Jaime Greenfield – said her father’s life had many twists and turns.

Italiano, who was born in Redgranite and grew up in Waukesha, graduated from Carroll College in 1932 with a degree in chemistry and speech in education.

Boarman said her father was offered a job right out of school as a teacher at Cashton High School – the stipulation in reaching the job, however, also meant he would also oversee the high school’s music program.

Determined to make it work, Boarman said her father – who played the clarinet in high school and college – became certified to teach band over that summer.

Proving to be a good career move, Boarman said her father distinguished himself as a conductor by producing high school bands that won awards for their performances.

However, when World War II started, Boarman said her father’s life took a different turn as he chose to serve his country as a member of the U.S. Navy.

After the war ended, Italiano ended up in Shanghai, China, where he received a special assignment as an official cultural representative to the government.

During this period, Boarman said her father put his band instructor skills to use, conducting the Shanghai Symphony during its 1945-46 season.

His time in Shanghai, Boarman said, was also spent expanding his palette through the various new spices available to him.

Once Italiano returned home to resume his teaching career, this time in La Crosse and as a music director, Boarman said his two loves – eating and good music – continued to blossom.

In terms of music, Boarman said her father spent more than 60 years as an orchestra director and music educator – winning awards over the years and conducting hundreds of works.

He, along with his wife Lenore, also founded the Symphony School of America and The La Crosse Youth Symphony.

Italiano’s son-in-law Paul served as conductor for 14 years, with his granddaughter, Jaime now serving as conductor.

In terms of food, Boarman said her father spent his weekends experimenting with herb and spice blends – many he was introduced to during his time in China and others passed down from his Italian mother.

“After having his mother’s Italian food and all the different tastes in China, he started mixing spices to get those flavors for himself,” Boarman said.

Eventually, she said her father was encouraged by many of his fellow teachers – who had tasted his seasonings – to put them on the market for others to enjoy.

“He would give his fellow teachers samples of the seasoning and eventually had to put it on the market because they kept coming back for more,” she said.

In 1952, Italiano officially launched his seasoning business – now, Boarman said, he had to name it.

“He said he was sleeping one night, woke up, wrote something on a piece of paper and went back to sleep,” she said. “The next morning, he looked at it, and it said Pleasoning. He knew at that moment his seasoning business had a name.”

Business evolution

The first Pleasoning plant, Boarman said, was located next to the A&W Restaurant on South Avenue in La Crosse.

“Frank would do the mixing,” she said. “And his wife, Lenore, would do the filling and labeling with other area women.”

As the business grew, Boarman said her father knew it needed more space – which led to Pleasoning’s move to a second location at the corner of West Avenue and South Avenue.

Pleasoning would remain at this location for 26 years – until another need for more space prompted the move to its current location – 2109 Ward Ave. – in 2014.

Boarman said she worked at the business, along with some of her friends, when she was in high school – but would eventually leave the area for about 20 years after marrying her husband Paul, who was in the Marine Corp.

The couple – who shared Italanio’s love of music – moved back to La Crosse after Paul retired from the military.

“His last position was as the Enlisted Band Leader in Okinawa, Japan,” Boarman said. “We moved back to La Crosse after he retired from the Marine Corp and eventually took over Pleasoning in 2005.”

Following in their parents’ footsteps, Boarman said their children – Dominic and Jaime – also worked at the family business when they were in high school.

Dominic graduated from Luther High School in Onalaska in 1997 – the same school where his grandfather ended his teaching career in 1975 – eventually coming on board full-time.

“Dominic continued to do the mixing when he had other jobs and eventually came to work full-time at Pleasoning in 2007,” Boarman said.

After graduating from Central High School in La Crosse in 2004, Jamie attended the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she received a bachelor’s degree in music education in 2009.

After working other jobs as well, Boarman said she joined the company as a full-time employee in 2022.

The three of them are the shareholders and only employees of Pleasoning.

“Dominic does all the mixing of the blends and shares the filling and labeling duties with Jaime,” Boarman said. “Jaime also helps me with the office work, doing up the orders and all the bookkeeping that needs to be done.”  

Boarman said her father worked at the business until he passed away in 2006 at the age of 83.


Boarman said the goal of Pleasoning Gourmet Seasoning has always been to produce a low-sodium seasoning product.

She said the company offers more than 40 different seasoning blends, with the All-Purpose – which she said has 82% less sodium than the same size serving of table salt – variety being the most popular.

The Original, which was the company’s first blend in 1952, Boarman said comes in at a close second.

She said the company continues to add blends – which most recently have included Beef-N-More, Breakfast Sausage, Onion Salt and three new rubs. 

Boarman said though she complains about having to fit more blends into the catalog, just like her mother did every time her dad added a new blend – she is happy the company keeps growing.

Pleasoning’s outlet store hours – where Boarman said they offer free tastings – are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

In addition to the outlet store, the company seasonings are available at a variety of restaurants and grocery stores throughout the Midwest – including Woodman’s and Festival Foods. 

Boarman said Pleasoning products are also available online.

For more information on Pleasoning Gourmet Seasoning, including nutritional information on products, visit

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