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Rockwell Pasta is a small business on Toronto's west end that features a rotating menu, focusing on creating fresh homemade pasta with seasonal ingredients.
Like many other home-grown passion projects, Rockwell Pasta was fuelled by a desire to turn a dire situation around. The ongoing pandemic and COVID-19 lockdowns have continued to inspire and compel those in Toronto's culinary industry to adapt and resort to providing what they know best to help themselves and their families stay afloat -- food.
Holger Schoorl has nearly thirty years of experience working in restaurants. He spent ten years as the pasta chef and baker at Enoteca Sociale and most recently did the same at Bar Vendetta, prior to the start of COVID-19.
Schoorl and his wife Katie Swift, creators of Rockwell Pasta, were inspired to start their home business when they realized last year that Schoorl still wouldn't have his kitchen job back at Bar Vendetta. Pivoting to adjust to what this meant in regards to supporting their family, the duo decided that Schoorl's passion for pasta could aid not only them, but others in their neighbourhood along Rockwell Avenue.
Swift says that many families in their neighbourhood love amazing food, but with young kids at home, it's challenging to cook meals every night with no childcare, virtual school all day, money being tight and takeout three to four times a week not being viable.
"We thought, we have this special skill of being able to make amazing fresh pasta, let's share it with our friends and neighbours! It's almost as easy as takeout." Swift continues saying that they "also felt good about getting fresh handmade food to our neighbours literally from our front step on pick-up day. It has been a very connecting and community-building endeavour, as well as a tasty one."
Despite order pick-ups being located at their home, Schoorl makes all the pasta by hand per order inside Bar Vendetta's commercial kitchen.
Swift and Schoorl express their gratitude towards the owners of Bar Vendetta, particularly chef and owner James Santon, for helping Rockwell Pasta come to life.
"Even though they had to let my husband Holger go because of the pandemic last March, they have been unwavering in their support for us starting and continuing Rockwell Pasta. We have been working out of their professional kitchen for months now and as we're still struggling to make ends meet, I don't know what we would do if we didn't have access to that space," explains Swift.
Holger Schoorl expresses his creativity through his homemade pasta; his love for the art of pasta-making comes through in every dough he shapes and fills. The golden dough is rich and flavourful, perfected as a result of spending over twenty years making fresh pasta in local restaurants. Schoorl experiments with new flavours and ingredient combinations every week, with customer favourites returning for another round.
Various options for vegetarian-friendly pasta fillings are normally limited, but not at Rockwell Pasta. Growing up vegetarian, Schoorl gets creative with his vegetable-based fillings, offering various captivating options even for those who eat meat.
The menu presented via their website and Instagram varies weekly, depending on what's in season. Swift says that their two most popular pastas, a mushroom cappelletti and a braised beef cappelletti, have been heavily requested since their debut in Rockwell's "Holiday Pasta Packs." The fillings for these pastas (often compared to tortellinis) are both incredibly rich and flavourful due to being slow-cooked over a long period of time. Other beloved options include their parsnip agnolotti and the classic fresh tagliatelle pasta.
"I think his love of making the pasta definitely comes through in the food. It's not just a task or a job for him; he cares so much about the food being excellent that he will never skip over a step in the process or serve anything that he feels lukewarm about."
Holger Schoorl, owner of Rockwell Pasta, pictured in the kitchen.
The duo is currently expanding upon Rockwell Pasta to include a variety of sauces and spreads that are so versatile that their use won't be limited to just complementing pasta. This includes the most recent temporary menu addition of mushroom conserva, a blend of oyster, shiitake and beech mushrooms cooked in olive oil with herbs and topped with salt and vinegar.
Beyond that, Schoorl and Swift want to expand to pursue Schoorl's passion for baking as well, eventually hoping to open a storefront in their neighbourhood that will feature dine-in and take-home pasta, sauces and bread.
Pasta orders open on Sundays at 7 p.m. and close on Tuesday mornings or until they sell out. Pick up your pasta on Rockwell Avenue on Wednesdays or select local delivery to arrive on Thursdays for only $5.
To order Rockwell Pasta, you can visit their website and also sign up for their mailing list to be sent weekly menus. Be sure to follow their Instagram to stay up to date on all the pasta drops, as well as have your say in what pasta and spreads you'd like to see appear on their menu.
"It has been a joy and a bright light in these dark times to provide delicious food to families and foodies across the city. Our pasta is truly made with love...from Rockwell Avenue."