Tastemaker: Leigh Foster of Nella Pasta

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I love what is happening with the local food movement. There are so many incredible companies bringing delicious, wholesome foods to the Greater Boston area. As I frequent farmers markets, I’ve had my eye on Nella Pasta, where they are often sampling some of their delicious ravioli. Their exquisite branding and use of fresh ingredients always catch my eye. We caught up with co-founder, Leigh Foster, to learn how Nella Pasta came to be and where they hope to go next.

Natalie Kurtzman: The best part of running The Boston Day Book is the fact that I get to do it with my sister! How did Rachel and yourself decide to open Nella Pasta? What is the best part about working together?
Leigh Foster: First of all, I love that! So fun that you are sisters working together. Rachel and I met at a desk job in Boston and immediately bonded over our shared love of food. The idea for Nella came from day dreaming about what we would do next. We knew we did not want to be chefs, but also knew we just had to get in the kitchen somehow. Pasta seemed like a perfect fit as we both made our own from scratch and experimented by adding different ingredients like flaxseeds, roasted red pepper puree, etc. We also were interested in the local foods movement and wanted to get involved with farmers markets. At the time there were no other companies making fresh pasta and we had a feeling it make a great addition to the local markets. I think my favorite part of working together is two-fold –  first, it’s nice to have a partner in crime! During tough times its nice to have a friend, someone to talk to, lean on, bounce ideas off of etc. During great times it’s nice to celebrate with a friend! Secondly, I think our differences make us a great team. We often differ in opinions but sometimes that’s what you need to find the best solution. We joke that we take turns being the one who is at whits end and then one who talks the other off the ledge – but, it’s true. It’s fun now, as the business is evolving, to take on different roles than we once had and see how much we can really do (and how much we still have to learn)!

NK: Your branding is so good! Did it take awhile to decide which look to go for? How did you come up with the name, Nella Pasta?
LF: It did! If you follow us through the years you’ll see we’ve had a few rounds of re-branding. It all started with a wheat stalk that Rachel drew herself when we were in the infancy stage of even thinking of this business. I immediately fell in love and knew it would be our logo. It’s evolved throughout the various rounds of branding but that wheat stalk remains and will always be part of our logo. The packaging started with the clamshell plastic packaging that you see everywhere because its what was available to us. From there we switched to a compostable corn material. Then we realized that the clear, plastic look just wasn’t for us – we wanted to stand out and be different. We thought the recycled kraft paper box not only stood out, but it went along with the natural, wholesome vibe of our product. Once we started using the kraft box we’ve gone through one additional round of improvements to make the box smaller, eliminating extra space (same quantity of pasta), and making the box more freezer-shelf ready for grocery stores. Once we made it to Whole Foods and other larger retailers, we knew the box had to look professional, grab the attention of shoppers and really show what the product is about. We added more color (the signature Nella beet pink and kale green) and added product features like the “complete meal for two in under five minutes.” In farmers markets you can sample the product and have us tell you all about it. In stores, the box is it! We are currently working on our website that should launch at the end of the month- stay tuned. The name came from an english-italian translator on our phone. Nella in Italian means “in the” because what goes inside the pasta is the trademark of our products.

NK: Have you found the local community to be supportive? Has anything surprised you?
LF: Extremely! We wouldn’t have had the same experience in the very beginning without the support of CropCircle Kitchen helping us through the process of licensing, testing, insurance, etc. There are countless people and organizations that have helped us through the years. Has anything surprised us? Has anything not?! Every day is a new day with new challenges and that’s all part of the fun.

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NK: What’s next for Nella Pasta?
LF: The sofi Awards on June 30! We were lucky to receive our second nomination for the highly regarded sofi awards and we’re excited to go for gold at the end of the month. We’re also looking forward to expanding through New England and hopefully New York in the next year.

NK: What does your “free time” look like? Any favorite restaurants, things to do etc.?
LF: Rachel just had a beautiful baby boy, so free time is a bit relative! But, we both love heading out to the park with the pups, cooking, reading food magazines, and eating out. Some of my favorites? Sportello, Alden & Harlow, The Gallows, and Franklin Cafe (and I am downright addicted to the italian sandwich at American Provisions).

You can catch Nella Pasta at dozens of markets throughout Massachusetts, in addition to Whole Foods, Formaggio, and others. To see all locations, please visit Nella Pasta’s website.

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