In a dog-eat-dog city like New York, it's not all too often that you come across a thriving, family-owned, third-generation shop. Pastosa Ravioli is one of those rarities. First opened in Mill Basin, Brooklyn in 1967 by Anthony Ajello, Pastosa soon expanded to one, then two more stores, eventually opening a full 10 locations in four boroughs plus New Jersey—the three original, family-owned and operated shops, plus seven locations licensed to carry Pastosa products and display the Pastosa name. The Bensonhurst store, which occupies a full three brownstones, was settled on in 1972 as the company's flagship, and it's there that Pastosa's pasta and wholesale items are prepared and packaged.
Today, Joseph Ajello, Anthony's grandson, plus his brother Anthony and his sister Jacqueline, proudly carry on the tradition of quality that their grandfather established nearly 50 years ago. That tradition is defined by quality Italian and Italian-American ingredients like imported cheeses, smoked and cured meats, and an extensive line of prepared foods like lasagna, stuffed peppers, and lesser-known items like artichoke bread, a rich ring of dough rolled with artichoke hearts and Parmesan cheese, then baked until golden brown.
And let's not forget the pasta, which is what Pastosa made its name on. From the time the store opened, its signature product was its ravioli: a large, round, ricotta-filled pasta. "It's what sets us apart," Ajello noted. Through the many food fads and fashions of the years, the large cheese ravioli have remained the company's top seller, outpacing trendier renditions such as sun-dried tomato and fig-filled pastas. "It's important for us to embrace the trends so that we can move forward and remain vital," Ajello said. "But it's equally important for us to maintain the traditions we were founded on."
Pastosa produces a staggering variety of both fresh and dried pastas at its flagship, which is outfitted with a full corporate kitchen equipped with quality machinery sourced in Italy. "At peak production, we make 15,000 to 20,000 ravioli a day here," said Ajello, not to mention the agnolletti, gnocchi, tortellini, and many shaped pastas also made fresh every day. And to best complement their homemade pasta, Pastosa offers a full line of ingredients like canned tomatoes, olive oil, and fresh cheeses.
What's the most satisfying thing about being part of a generations-long tradition? The customers, Ajello says. "The pride that you feel when your customers come up to you and say, 'You guys make the best stuff,' that's very valuable. It took a long time to develop, and it makes us feel an immense amount of pride."
Click through the slideshow for a tour of Pastosa's pasta-making process and a closer look at its specialty ingredients.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.