Carmella Alvaro, owner and pasta maker at Melina’s Fresh Pasta, grew up in a traditional Italian-American family. After years of watching her mother make homemade Italian food from what her father grew in his garden, she wanted to share the Italian tradition of food made from scratch and served with love.
Upon arrival in Raleigh, Alvaro noted a lack of authentic Italian food in the area, so in 2010, she traveled to Bologna, Italy to supplement the Southern Italian cooking lessons of her mother and learn the Northern Italian tradition of fresh pasta making. After arriving back from Italy, she introduced artisan pasta production to the Raleigh-Durham area and began making and selling fresh pasta and ravioli at local farmer’s markets.When Melina’s Pasta was founded in the fall of 2010, Carmella didn’t think it would grow out of the side hobby phase, but the demand for fresh pasta spread quickly. She refurbished her 400 square food garage in Durham, turning it into a small but mighty production space. Now, seven years later, her dreams of opening in a larger space with a store are finally coming true. “We definitely need more room and always hoped any space we moved into would allow for a little storefront so we could have a direct outlet for our pastas,” Alvaro shares. “We currently have to rent storage units and use a cramped attic. We have to wheel machines in and out of the shop back and forth into a storage shed. It was not sustainable as we grew and very stressful. In the new shop, everything will have its own permanent spot and production will flow much easier.”The new shop will primarily be a production space with a small storefront carrying Melina’s full product line: fresh pastas, gnocchi, baked meals, sauces and pizza dough. It will be more of an outlet model versus a specialty food store with lots of items. An open floor plan allows customers to see pasta production in action.
Alvaro has witnessed smaller pasta companies grow large then resort to using more fillers and less real ingredients. With the move to the new pasta shop, they will stay at a manageable size to serve the local area, accommodate special custom pasta orders, and continue to use high quality and real ingredients: Most ravioli fillings have only 3-4 ingredients; fresh vegetables are peeled and lemons are zested by hand; lasagnas are assembled layer by layer using freshly made sauce, and cheeses are grated from blocks by hand to eliminate the fillers and additives used to prevent clumping.Since the shop is located in the residential Lakewood area and close to people’s commutes, Melina’s plans to offer solutions for busy professionals and families who want a great meal that is easy to make. They will significantly expand their take-and-bake product line from just two lasagna varieties to a number of baked pastas like mac & cheese and more sauce varieties (some kinds exclusively sold at the pasta shop). They also plan to offer fresh-cut pasta to order.
As the only wholesale fresh pasta maker in the area, they will continue to sell pasta in all of their current outlets (farmer’s markets and retail locations). The storefront will be an additional place to purchase and gives them the ability to offer more varieties of cut pasta and sell the entire product line in one place (other stores carry limited varieties depending on their customer’s tastes).The shop also plans to host hands-on pasta making classes on a regular basis beginning in 2018, during which groups will learn to make and cut pasta dough by hand and, of course, enjoy the finished product.
Melina’s Fresh Pasta, located at 2717 Chapel Hill Road in Durham, will hold its grand opening Saturday, December 2, 2017 and will features new Grand Opening pasta varieties that will be announced closer to the date. During the event, there will be pasta samples, cooking and pasta making demos, and tours of the facility as the pasta machines are running. Pasta will be available for sale at special prices, so be sure to check it out then and whenever you are craving delicious homemade pasta made the way it should be.Photos courtesy of Melina’s Fresh Pasta