It all started in 2010 with a few all-natural, handmade pastas and sauces, some sales at the local farmers’ markets and a small retail outlet. Now, Pasta Tavola is expanding its reach beyond its base in Belleville and eastern Ontario to the western part of province, with aspirations to go right across the country.
Written by Jim Barber
Originally published by Quintevation.com
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A passion for food and a desire to operate their own business led to sisters Victoria and Paula Watts to forming a unique entrepreneurial endeavour that combines the best of their tradition-inspired recipes with a multifaceted sales platform which sees their creations being enjoyed far and wide, as well as by discriminating palates within the Bay of Quinte Region.
The success of the business has been impressive and has encouraged an ambitious expansion program that will see Pasta Tavola able to spread its delicious wares far and wide, as well as becoming an even more popular ‘go to’ locale for impeccable food choices for individuals and families with discriminating palates.
“We now have a much larger processing facility. We have added nearly 1,000 square feet of space so that we can increase our capacity and productivity. We had been working at capacity for a while and really needed to make the jump to push the business to the next level. A priority was to find the right machinery for our needs. Now that we have done that, it will allow for more output and more efficiency, so that we can push more product out. We also upgraded our refrigeration; we now have a nice sized walk-in fridge and freezers which, again, increases our efficiency and improves our processes,” Victora Watts explained.
“Being in our new facility, with upgraded machinery and refrigeration has allowed us to fine tune our food manufacturing processes. When we set up the production facility, we wanted to lay that foundation for future growth, which would also allow us to pursue certain food certifications that would be necessary to help us reach new markets. Ultimately, the goal of all of this planning and work is to lower the costs for our retailers and the final end user, thus allowing us to reach more people.
“We are excited about our potential as this next stage does give us more capacity to absorb more sales growth. The biggest lesson we have learned through all this is that while everybody wants to grow, that growth needs to be well thought out and done in stages, strategically.”
Pasta Tavola opened its doors more than six years ago at 109 Front St. in Belleville, and has developed a burgeoning clientele of both walk-in, restaurant, catering and retail clients – the latter of which continues to grow throughout many regions of the province.
“We learned how to make good food with simple ingredients, often from our gardens, like our mother and Nonna, so that was our inspiration. We have both lived in big cities and had a sense of what we wanted to bring to a community and fresh food was really important to us. So we opened a little outlet and basically started making fresh pasta and trays for restaurants and catering or to take home. Around year two or three we started developing customers in Kingston and then Ottawa and into some of the grocery stores,” said Watts.
The recipes for the pasta dishes and uncooked pasta varieties continue to be inspired by the family dinner table (hence the business name, with the word tavola meaning table), with a fundamental belief in the importance of fresh, local, natural ingredients and flavourful concoctions.
“Our products are really high quality, hand crafted and just delicious. We are well above the industry standard in terms of things like filling to pasta ratio. And these aren’t our Nonna’s recipes per se, but they are inspired by her and by our mother and that wonderful food you would get at Italian family gatherings. At times we would talk to our mother and aunts and ask how certain things were made, or what special ingredients went into a certain dish but, for the most part, the recipes are of our own creation,” she said.
The expansion also included a complete revamp of Pasta Tavola’s website – a crucial step to go along with the increased productivity.
“I have a newfound respect for people who build websites because that was about three months of intense work just developing content. It was important for us to really get the right messaging out and to really tell the story of who we are and what we do. A lot of people don’t know everything that we do. We have our shop and that’s what is visible to our community but there was the entire wholesale component, where we’re partnering with Metro and Sobeys and Whole Foods and all these specialty grocery stores outside of Belleville. We needed potential retail customers and our area consumers to have all the information about what we do so that both areas of the business can grow,” Watt explained, adding that Pasta Tavola has brought in a sales professional to help source out new clients and build the wholesale aspect of the business even more.
“It allows us as the owners to not always necessarily be in the business. It allows us the chance to do other things that will develop the business. We are really focussed on growing the wholesale side of the business, so we hired someone to help us do that because we want to keep moving our markets east, towards Ottawa, but we also want a co-ordinated approach to broadening our market west.
Victoria said she always had an appreciation for the hard work, dedication and risk-taking nature of entrepreneurs. It’s a respect that has only deepened since starting Pasta Tavola.
“Sometimes you feel alone doing a small business and I just appreciate the positivity and optimism of so many of the entrepreneurs in this area, as well as from the QuinteVation people. It’s recognition of the fact that being an entrepreneur is a hard road to follow. Small businesses are really the backbone of community economies. And for us, we see this business as more than just a way for my sister and I to be successful. We also want it to be successful for our employees who have lives and families and hopes and dreams too. We support them. They rely on us to be successful and we don’t take that responsibility lightly,” she said, adding that she and Paula are always looking for new and exciting ways to grow the business, and are not content to rest on their laurels.
“We are always looking at innovative ways to get better. I think we have some exciting new things on the horizon. We’re always looking at research and development and there’s always something happening, so we’re very excited about what the future holds for us.”
Originally Published on inquinte.ca
“Pasta Tavola wins Agribusiness of the Year at the Quinte Business Achievement Awards on Friday October 20, 2017. Pictured from left to right: Northumberland-Quinte West MPP Lou Rinaldi, Victoria Watts, Co-owner Pasta Tavola, Paula Watts, Co-owner Pasta Tavola, Prince Edward Hastings MPP Todd Smith and Scott Lafleur of Quinte First Credit Union. NICOLE KLEINSTEUBER/INQUINTE”
At Pasta Tavola, our love of good food and our desire to share it with our customers is rooted in our Italian heritage and the experience we had cooking with family in the kitchen. Pasta Tavola brings more to the table with “Recipes from the Pasta Table”. These recipes are about being creative with the simple ingredients you have in your own kitchen, backyard garden or found at your local farmer’s market or in our Pasta Tavola store. Its about turning simple, fresh ingredients into a delicious, memorable meal to be shared with friends and loved ones. We believe great food brings people together and creates great memories. That’s what these recipes are intended to do!
Polenta Crusted Tuscan Bean Ravioli topped with Dill & Cornichon Trempette
This recipe is the perfect appetizer for entertaining and it is so easy to prepare. Move over jalapeno poppers & deep fried pickles…our polenta crusted ravioli is taking over! While you can use any of our artisanal ravioli, our Tuscan Bean is “tops” on our list.
You will need:
• 1 package (500g) Pasta Tavola Tuscan Bean Ravioli. KEEP FROZEN.
• 1 C milk
• 1C polenta & 1 C breadcrumbs seasoned with ground parmesan cheese, garlic powder, salt, black pepper, to taste.
• Oil for frying (your choice of olive, canola or vegetable)
1. Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to cover the ravioli completely when frying (approx. 2 inches deep). Heat the oil over medium heat until hot.
2. While the oil is heating, put the milk and seasoned polenta & crumb mix in separate shallow bowls. Working in batches, dip the FROZEN ravioli in the milk to coat completely. Allow the excess liquid to drip back into the bowl. Coat the ravioli in the seasoned breadcrumbs and set aside.
3. When the oil is hot, fry the ravioli in batches, turning occasionally, until golden brown (approx.3 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried ravioli to paper towels to drain.
Added touches: To add some flavour punch to this recipe, try incorporating different spice blends into the polenta and crumb mixture such as curry powder, cayenne pepper or cajun seasoning. Substituting milk for whipping cream also coats the ravioli nicely and helps the crust to stick to the ravioli when frying.
For the trempette (dip) you will need:
• 4 cornichons, finely chopped.
• 1 container (200g) natural Greek yogurt
• One bunch of fresh dill, picked and chopped finely (discard stalks)
• Juice from ½ lemon
• ¼ clove of garlic, crushed
• Salt and pepper, to taste.
Combine all ingredients (except salt) together in a bowl. Taste and add salt a little at a time until seasoned to your liking.
Pasta Tavola “Go-to” Fresh Vegetable Pasta Sauce (serves 4-6)
This is our “go-to” sauce for turning a basic pasta dish into a delicious gourmet meal and it was recently featured in the Food Section of the Ottawa Citizen. The recipe is simple, yes… but the taste is packed with flavour and sure to impress. PLUS the recipe has the added benefit of using up those “not-so-fresh” veggies hangin’ out in your fridge crisper! Use this sauce on any of our fresh pastas or ravioli OR enjoy it baked with chicken or fish. Either way, this one is a winner and a must-have in your recipe box!
2 cups fresh seasonal vegetables, diced*
2 cups ripe, firm tomatoes, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped very fine
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 handful of fresh herbs, chopped (or 1 teaspoon of each herb, dried)
salt and black pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. dried chilies, optional
1 pkg. (500g) Pasta Tavola Artisanal Ravioli
*summer (zucchini, eggplant, peas) fall (roasted squash, pumpkin, kale) winter (roasted sweet potato, beets) spring (asparagus, fiddleheads, artichoke hearts)
1. Combine vegetables (excluding tomatoes), garlic, oil, herbs and let marinate in fridge for 15-20 minutes. Sauté mixture on medium heat until soften. Feel free to roast your veggies first, especially if you’re using hard-root vegetables (375 degrees until soft)
2. Add tomatoes and let cook until sauce thickens and bubbles in the centre of the pan.
Add salt, pepper, and chilies to taste.
To serve: Line serving bowl with a layer of sauce. Arrange ravioli over the sauce. Add the remaining sauce, top with parmesan cheese, and enjoy!
Tuscan Bean Ravioli Tossed in a Butter Sage sauce with “bloomed” Capers- July 2014
Pasta Tavola’s Tuscan Bean ravioli is made with whipped cannellini beans, fresh local leeks and aged local cheddar. This is our version of an Italian perogie but instead of dipping it in sour cream (oh, we’ve done that too!) try tossing it in a simple butter sage sauce with a tasty twist!
1 package (500g) Pasta Tavola Tuscan Bean Ravioli
150g (1/2C) salted (or unsalted) butter
1 handful of fresh sage
1 handful of capers (drained & patted dry)
On medium heat, add butter to your sauce pan until melted.
Add sage & capers & fry until the sage crisps & the capers “bloom”.
Remove the sage & capers & set aside.
Cook the ravioli according to the package instructions.
Toss the ravioli in with the butter sauce, sage & capers.
For added flavour add sultana raisins or toasted nuts!
JUNE 2014- CHEESE! CHEESE! & MORE CHEESE PLEASE!
Creamy Fifth Town Chevre Rosé Sauce
Goat cheese adds a nice richness and tang to a classic tomato sauce. Whether plain or herbed, this Fifth Town and Pasta Tavola combination will turn any “classico” into “magnifico”!
1 package (500 ml) of Pasta Tavola Classico Tomato or Spicy Arrabbiata Sauce
3 heaping tablespoons of Fifth Town Bagel Chevre
1 Package (500g) of Pasta Tavola Artisanal Ravioli or 4 servings (600g) of Pasta Tavola fresh pasta
In a sauce pan, heat Pasta Tavola sauce until warm. Add Chevre, stirring continuously until incorporated and smooth. HEAT ON LOW.
In a large pot of salted boiling water, add Pasta Tavola ravioli or fresh pasta and cook according to package instructions.
Add to sauce and enjoy!!!
For added flavour, try incorporating fresh herbs or vegetables such as green peas or peppers into the sauce. Simply add to a warming sauce.
Did you know? Chevre is a healthy alternative to whole cream with only 20% milk fat content. It is also a great thickener for sauces and soups!!!
Pasta Tavola is Growing!
Pasta Tavola manufactures and retails high quality fresh food products which are wholesaled throughout Eastern Ontario to the specialty food, grocery and natural food markets as well as to the food service industry. Pasta Tavola also retails fresh pasta and food products out of its outlet located in Belleville, Ontario.
Pasta Tavola is growing and we are seeking highly motivated and dedicated food processing employees who have a passion for great tasting food and thrive in a fast-paced, team-oriented environment.
As part of the team, Pasta Tavola offers:
- Flexible schedules
- Competitive wages
- Employee Perks and Incentives
- Comprehensive Hands-On Skills and Safety Training
- Advancement opportunities
- A positive work environment
About the Position:
The Food Processor is responsible for the hands-on production of the food products created at Pasta Tavola. The majority of time will be spent executing recipes according to Pasta Tavola’s quality and safety standards. Other time will be devoted to delivering exceptional customer service to customers in the shop and over the phone.
General Duties & Responsibilities:
- Responsible for the safe operation of kitchen equipment in the production of pastas, sauces, oven-ready trays and other foods according to Pasta Tavola recipes and quality assurance standards.
- Responsible for experimenting and collaborating on new food items to be sold in-store & wholesale
- Clean and sanitize personal work areas and kitchen equipment to maintain a neat food production area.
- Greeting customers in-store, providing guidance in meal choices and executing transactions on a computerized Point of Sales (POS) system.
- Provides support as needed to other areas of Pasta Tavola.
- Ability to work in a team environment to efficiently meet both immediate and long-term production goals.
- Ability to follow safety and operating guidelines for specialized food equipment.
- Ability to follow and execute recipes according to Pasta Tavola guidelines.
- Strong organizational and decision-making skills.
- Strong time-management skills and the ability to prioritize tasks.
- Strong interpersonal skills.
- Ability to work most weekends and at special events outside of standard work hours are a MUST.
- Candidate MUST have transportation to work-site.
- Culinary experience is not required but basic food preparation knowledge is necessary.
- Food safety/handling certificate an asset.
- A passion for food and an interest in the food production industry.
- A desire to learn.
- Food Processing & retail setting
Work Conditions & Physical Capabilities:
- Manual dexterity
- Hand-eye coordination.
- Standing for extended periods.
- Ability to multitask in a fast-paced environment.
- Ability to work in a team-based environment with minimal supervision.
- Attention to detail.
- Ability to read, write and carryout basic math skills.
- Strong verbal communication skills
- Weight Handling: Up to 23 kg (50 lbs)
Hours of Work:
This is a contract position with a possible extension or permanent placement. Hours of work fluctuate according to customer and employer requirements.
Additional Conditions of Employment:
Employees will be expected to complete a company interview, WHMIS training and/or safe food handling course, along with an extensive 3 month training period. Employees will also be expected to attend mandatory monthly staff meetings and meet the expectations outlined in Pasta Tavola’s employee handbook, its policies and procedures.
If the above position interests you and you have the qualifications we are looking for, please drop-off your resume during retail hours at our a retail location at 109 N. Front Street in Belleville. (On the corner of North Front Street and Evans, across from Metro and Remax). E-mails will not be accepted.
Here’s an article about us on OntarioEast.ca Pasta Tavola Benefits from Bay of Quinte Region Location and Support
Here’s an article about us in the Belleville Intelligencer – Now thats a spicy meatball
Here’s an article about us published in Ottawa Magazine – Ottawa Magazine Article
Here’s an article about us in the Ottawa Citizen – Ottawa Citizen Article
- What is your business? — Pasta Tavola in Belleville. We manufacture and retail fresh pastas, ravioli, sauces, and oven-ready meals using 100 percent Ontario milled wheat and local-first sourced ingredients. Pasta Tavola began selling small batch pastas with much success at the Belleville Farmers’ market in 2009 and opened its storefront location in 2010.
- How long have you been in the region? — Victoria moved to the region in 2006 with her family. Paula moved here in 2010 when the business began.
- What brought you here? — Originally the reason was career-related and to be closer to family, but when the idea of starting a food manufacturing business began to unfold, it just made sense for us to build our business here.
- If you had to give the Bay of Quinte Region a slogan, what would it be? — Ever Growing Great.
- What is your best advice for surviving the winter? — Our fall and early winter season is quite busy, but during our down time we would say plan, plan, plan. We use our down time to plan for our next season. We focus on what is key to keeping our operation moving, we stay on-point with upcoming trends and explore potential new product lines to be launched in the upcoming year. Keeping in touch with our customers and generating new sales is also very important during our down time as we can solidify relationships and build new ones for the upcoming year.
- What makes the Bay of Quinte region a good fit for your business? — The region is rich with fresh agricultural ingredients and the cost of setting up a facility was affordable. We always had the intention of growing our business through wholesaling our products throughout the province, and the Bay of Quinte is perfectly situated en route to cottage country and major city centres such as Ottawa, Kingston, and Toronto, which allows for a broader distribution of our products.
- What is something unexpected you’ve discovered about running a business in a small town? — There are so many passionate entrepreneurs! And “word of mouth” goes a longer way than we would have ever imagined!