Through an apprenticeship to a candy maker, Italian Domenico Ghirardelli (pronounced “Gear-ar-delly”) learned the tricks of the chocolate trade at a young age. In 1837, he decided to take his skills to South America, opening a sweet shop in Lima, Peru, a year later. Ghirardelli’s taste for the finer things in life extended beyond candy and chocolate, though, and lured by news of the gold strike at Sutter’s Mill in 1849, he set sail for California. Unluckily for him–but fortunately for us–the gold didn’t pan out, so Ghirardelli went back to doing what he knew best. In 1852, he created a new confectionery company in San Francisco. Today the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company is the longest continuously-operating chocolate producer in the U.S.
Ghirardelli’s hallmarks are quality and taste. It’s one of the few American chocolate manufacturers to control every step of the chocolate-making process, from cocoa bean selection and roasting to refining and conching.
In 1893, the company relocated to what’s now known as Ghirardelli Square in San Francisco, which achieved National Historic Register status in 1982. For the past 17 years, the Square has hosted Ghirardelli’s annual weekend-long chocolate festival.