Cooking is a family tradition for Domenica Fedele, one handed down with love and care from generation to generation.
It is also her passion.
At Pasta Di Porto, Fedele is able to keep the tradition alive while sharing her love of food with her many customers. The award-winning business is, in fact, one of Anna Bay’s best-kept secrets.
The story begins in a small regional town in Reggio Calabria, southern Italy.
“My cooking is based on the recipes of my childhood,” Fedele tells Weekender.
“They stem from my heritage and ‘cucina povera’, which translates to ‘poor kitchen’. This is the belief, knowledge and technique of creating delicious food with whatever simple fresh ingredients were available in the poorer regions of southern Italy.
To date we are the most awarded pasta company in Australia in this competition.Domenica Fedele
“Farm to plate is not a new concept as many think it is today. For many families it was their only means of survival. They used seasonal produce to create amazing, simple-tasting food using sauces, olive oil, meats and eggs sourced from their land.
“It is important to me to carry on these traditions so they continue through the generations and people can experience how fresh ingredients create delicious family meals. They live on through my cooking at Pasta Di Porto.”
The foundations for the family-run pasta business were laid in western Sydney in 2009 by Fedele and Peter Toth. Seeking a sea change, their families relocated to Port Stephens later that year.
“I would always come alive whenever I cooked for family functions so we decided to do something about it rather than just dream about it. And so Pasta Di Porto slowly evolved,” Fedele says.
“The words Pasta Di Porto actually translate to ‘pasta by the port’. Pasta Di Porto was launched at Tastes Of The Bay in November 2009 and was extremely well received. Locals were craving new food ideas in the area.
“This pushed us to pursue our dream.”
For the first two years Fedele and Toth worked from a fully-equipped, council-approved commercial kitchen in a trailer on Fedele’s Anna Bay property.
They offered a weekly home-delivery service and slowly but surely attracted the attention of restaurants in the Port Stephens and Hunter regions.
“We also had a weekly stall at the Newcastle Farmers Market and built up a loyal following. Eventually we outgrew the space and knew the time had come to open a retail store,” Fedele says.
Pasta Di Porto Retail Store & Cafe opened its doors on Australia Day, 2012. Word of mouth has treated them well. Fedele says Pasta Di Porto customers travel “just for the day from Sydney, the Hunter region, further north or down south” to purchase products.
The store stocks up to 20 gourmet filled ravioli varieties at any one time, plus traditional sauces, freshly cut pastas, meatballs, lasagnes, cannelloni and other traditional southern Italian products.
“We have meat, poultry, vegetarian and seafood options. We source only the freshest ingredients and produce available to us and proudly reject anything less,” Fedele says.
“All our free-range meats are purchased from our local Anna Bay butcher and come from the Hunter Valley region. Our butcher prepares our meat on the same day we require it. I do all of the cooking and Peter makes the pasta.”
Pasta Di Porto entered the Sydney Royal Fine Food Show for the first time in February 2010, offering seven varieties from their gourmet filled ravioli range. They came home with seven bronze medals.
“We have entered every year since, with the exception of 2015 as the competition was withheld that year,” Fedele explains with pride.
“We have been awarded several gold, silver and bronze medals plus five overall championships in 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017. We got overall best in show in 2016 for our veal osso bucco ragù ravioli which is dedicated to my late Papa and our traditional Sunday lunch family ritual. It was such an overwhelming honour for me.
“At the most recent 2017 Sydney Royal Fine Food Show we were awarded a medal for each entry – two gold, seven silver, two bronze and an overall championship medal in the Fancy Pasta category for our quattro formaggi and spring onion ravioli.
“To date we are the most awarded pasta company in Australia in this competition. It is so humbling to see the passion, hard work and long hours recognised in such a way.”
In addition to supplying restaurants locally, Pasta Di Porto also has stockists in Newcastle, the Gold Coast and Brisbane. But this boutique family business is happy to remain “small batch”.
“We went down the path of doing eight-course degustation dinners on Friday and Saturday nights but we ended up working 20 hour days and it slowed down our product production,” Fedele says.
“While these dinners became very popular and in high demand, it was not the direction we wanted to take the business.
“We market our product range as restaurant-quality meals which are easy to prepare and can be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. They require minimal preparation and cooking time and are ideal for home dinner parties.
“Vanessa, who is also a family member, bakes traditional artisan sweet treats in small batches. They are available daily in store and can be enjoyed with a coffee in our cafe or to take away. We pride ourselves on our coffee, too.
“Our aim is to continue to grow at a steady pace by targeting more stockists and restaurants but staying consistent small-batch producers. We have no desire to become mass producers as this would see the quality of our products diminish.
“For us, nothing gives us greater pleasure than knowing that people all over the country are sitting down to a meal they have prepared using products that they have purchased from our retail store.”