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Jess Maiorano, a former pasta chef at the now-closed Woodlot, quickly found herself out of work at the beginning of the pandemic.
Like many Toronto residents in her position, Maiorano turned to starting a small project that could keep her on her feet while in lockdown. Using the skills she had developed throughout her time working in restaurants to her advantage, Pasta Forever came to be.
“I didn’t think it would go anywhere,” she says. “I was just trying to find something to do with my time.”
Maiorano started by offering simple fresh pastas for delivery. With a focus on mostly 'southern-Italian' pasta shapes, her goal was to share dishes that are unique to home-cooking and something that you would typically get from a restaurant. It quickly grew in popularity and she has since expanded into offering a wider range of items, a larger delivery radius and even virtual pasta-making classes.
The classes started in September 2020, when the weather began to cool down and heightened fear of COVID cases rising again was on the horizon. Maiorano had previously hosted in-person pasta-making classes, and simply transferred the entire concept onto a virtual platform through Zoom.
“It’s really fun. Everyone has some wine, we make some pasta, make some sauce and we chat and gossip,” she says.
Maiorano began cooking professionally close to eight years ago. Since then, she says she’s bounced around different jobs where she continued learning more about pasta making and pasta cooking. But, her business is built on making incredible pastas at home––and her upbringing in an Italian family has likely provided her with all the inspiration needed for her business.
“I grew up with my nonna making us fresh pasta every day. It was just the norm in my house,” she says. “When I started cooking professionally, I just really wanted to learn how to make it.”
With the way things have been going with Pasta Forever, Maiorano isn’t looking to go back to working in restaurants––unless it’s for herself. Woodlot, where Maiorano had been working before the pandemic, closed permanently last spring with no indication on why.
Even if it were to reopen, Maiorano says she’s not going back to working in any full-service restaurant.
“I’m not interested in doing takeout food for minimum wage. If the business keeps growing, I won’t ever go back to a restaurant,” she says.
While the future of Pasta Forever is ‘up in the air’ as Maiorano says, she has already conceptualized what she hopes her business will become down the line. She pictures a physical shop and wine bar where she can produce her pasta at a slightly larger scale, sell Italian pantry staples, and host her cooking classes when restrictions allow it.
“I’d like to have one large sharing table and host a service from, like, Thursday to Saturday. Just a big communal table, everyone sits together, small menu,” she says about her dream space.
Ideally, the space can be used for a variety of activities apart from dinner services and pasta classes. Like many Italian households, food is often about bringing people together, and seems to be something Maiorano will value in her forthcoming space.
“Keep it small, chill, family vibes.”