About Elisa Gambino
For Elisa Gambino, her love of authentic Italian pasta comes naturally. During the 15 years she lived in Italy, she savored the best but it was not until she returned to Italy in 2002, after a five year absence, that she learned to make the best authentic Italian pasta from a famed Italian family.
Earlier, as an Emmy Award-winning field producer for CNN, not even working in combat zones or covering revolutions in faraway locales could deter her passion for Italian pasta.
In 1999, together with her husband and their two daughters, Elisa began a search for the kind of authentic pasta she loved while growing up in Italy. The effort included several trips back to Rome, where her parents and sister still lived, to study pasta-making, shop for pasta-making equipment and line up suppliers of authentic Italian ingredients.
Her dream of real Italian pasta in stores throughout the United States was far from the wars, demonstrations and riots that she covered as a field producer based in Rome and Moscow for CNN.
But creating Via Elisa Authentic Italian Pasta was not as simple as Elisa first imagined. Elisa shares the ups and downs and trials and tribulations of creating her own authentic Italian pasta company in the United States - sometimes quite far from the idyllic vision of sharing amazing Italian fresh pasta with Americans.
About Elisa Gambino's documentary production company, One Production Place
After Elisa closed her fresh pasta company she joined up with her husband Neal Broffman to create their socially-minded documentary film production company, One Production Place. Neal has spent his career filming, editing and producing stories around the world and has a keen desire to tell stories that have, at their core, a foundation built upon human interaction - how we live in community.
Here's how Elisa and Neal describe their company: "Founded in 2002 by two longtime international journalists One Production Place creates films that make a difference. We tell stories. We bring people together. One Production Place produces films around the world and around the corner." They've received multiple awards for their documentaries.
Wasteland was directed by Elisa Gambino (Neal is the Cinematographer) and it launched on Paramount+ February 24th, 2022. This latest work is a 4-part docu-series that exposes America’s dirtiest secret; failing sanitation infrastructure in the US. From leaking septic tanks & decrepit sewer lines to untreated manure in Iowa pork production facilities (Iowa accounts for 25% of all U.S. pork production in the United States) that poison Iowa waterways.
Waste is also an important issue in pasta production companies and Elisa shared how she addressed these issues at her Via Elisa Authentic Italian Pasta company. Waste issues that face large Italian pasta production companies are packaging, how to recycle pasta production waste and how to minimize food waste.
Find One Production Place on their website, Facebook and Twitter.
The Via Elisa Authentic Italian Pasta company story
Elisa's goal was to share authentic Italian pasta with Americans so they could experience delightful and delicious Italian pasta as she knew it during the time she lived in Italy.
Her focus was never on extruded pasta but instead on fresh egg-based pasta like stuffed pastas – ravioli, tortelloni, mezzalune, and fresh rolled pasta like fettuccine, pappardelle, spaghetti alla chitarra.
Elisa sourced all her key ingredients from Italy; fresh sheep's milk ricotta, aged Parmesan cheese etc. She sourced other ingredients locally but only the highest quality like free range farm fresh eggs.
Elisa sold pasta mostly to restaurants but also directly to customers who would come to the shop to purchase pasta or purchase it when Elisa made her regularly scheduled visits to neighborhoods with her truck. In a certain sense she was a food truck before food trucks became a thing. Atlanta-based Whole Foods found out about Elisa's fabulous pasta and approached her to buy pasta. This was a great opportunity for Elisa's company but at the same time it opened the door for a whole set of other issues she wasn't planning to face like prolonged refrigeration, packaging and delivery.
On a cash flow basis selling to Whole Foods and restaurants wasn't as lucrative because companies pay slower. In addition, putting all your eggs in one basket like Whole Foods can be a risk for any company.
When the 2008 financial crisis came along one of the first areas that was impacted were grocery expenditures and especially luxury foods like her authentic Italian pasta. Orders declined and it soon became clear that unless Elisa was able to decrease costs or increase sales Via Elisa wouldn't be able to sustain itself.
Whole Foods convinced Elisa to also create a line of jarred pasta sauces because clients were buying her pasta but then using lower quality sauces. Although Elisa's sauces were delicious they weren't enough to carry Elisa through the financial crisis.
Elisa tried for almost a year to find a way to work her way through the 2008 financial crisis and keep her company afloat without compromising her vision of Italian pasta made with delicious and genuine Italian ingredients. In the end it wasn't possible.
Waste management at Via Elisa Authentic Italian Pasta
Elisa always had efficient and sustainable waste management in mind at Via Elisa Authentic Italian Pasta. The pasta she delivered to restaurants and customers had minimal packaging, and mostly sustainable. Only when Whole Foods came into play was plastic an issue and quite soon after she began selling to them she found an alternative to plastic packaging.
Food waste was never an issue because it's possible to freeze pasta and still maintain high quality and flavor. The risk with fresh ricotta is it can become grainy and cast off liquid if frozen uncooked. A solution is to flash cook the filled pasta, shock it in cold water and then dry off and freeze. Elisa's goal was always to make just the amount of pasta she needed to fill orders but occasionally she found herself with excess on hand that she then froze.
A few homemade pasta recipes you should try!
Ravioli Caprese are perhaps my favorite homemade ravioli, especially because they are so unique and different from any other filled pasta, from the dough to the filling. Here's the recipe.
If you'd like to add some color to your pasta dough there are lots of food ingredients you can use. Tomato paste is great to add red and I love using stinging nettle or spinach to make a green dough. Spring is around the corner so try this scrumptious Ravioli with spring peas, asparagus and fava beans.
Looking for more ravioli and authentic Italian pasta recipes? I've got you covered!
Essential homemade pasta-making tools
You can roll out pasta by hand with a rolling pin like this one. Or you can use a pasta machine to roll out your pasta.
You'll find a great selection of ravioli cutters like these if you don't want to hand-cut your filled pasta.
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