With a delightful Italian surname like Nicolleto, my brain immediately conjured up images of Nonna Nicoletto, clad in a flour-caked apron holding the hands of little Danny and Ryan as they first embarked on an afternoon of pasta-making—an afternoon that lit the spark for what is today their small business in handcrafting pasta.
But conjuring up an image like that one would be in vain. “We actually have no family recipe or family story or anything charming like that,” said Danny when I visited he and his brother’s small-batch pasta-rie on the East side of town. “Ryan and I have both worked in Italian restaurants and we’ve always wanted to do something Italian. Initially we wanted to start a restaurant, but when we began to realize how expensive that could be we turned on pasta.”
Nicoletto’s Pasta Co officially launched their business about a year ago, but prior to doing so Danny and Ryan had to put plenty of blood, sweat and tears into their business—and then cleaned all of that up before starting pasta production. After finding a space off Kirkland in their East Nashville neighborhood, the next and arguably most important step was finding real, Italian pasta machines to make their real, Italian pasta.
Although the Nicoletto bros had always planned on making small-batch pastas, a mere Kitchen Aid attachment most certainly wouldn’t do for a business. So they found second-hand Italian machinery that they rehabbed into the beautiful and fully functioning pasta-crankers that they work with today. Italian-in-origin as the machines were, they required specific knowledge in addition to metric tools—both of which Ryan had, thanks to his affinity for repairing Vespas—so once the space was prepared and their special pasta-drying room was constructed, all that was left to do was make pasta.
Danny and Ryan make their pastas from just two ingredients: water and flour or grain. Their pasta lacks any egg, salt, or other additives, but the flavor is incredibly rich due to the high quality, nutritious, and flavorful grains that they use to create their noodles.
The Nicoletto bros have three main lines of pasta—organic, heritage grain, and traditional—and they have a variety of sources for their different flours and grains. Just as Porter Road Butcher knows each exact farm that raise our cows, hogs, chickens and lambs, Danny and Ryan have created relationships with both the farms and mills where they receive each various line of starch for their flour. “With the heritage grain that we receive from Arizona for example, we’ve formed a great relationship; they like to tell us the story behind each grain before they ship it over. We get really excited to make pasta when we get something like that in.”
Unlike the pasta that you would find at a supermarket, which is made with white durum flour, the flours that the Nicoletto bro’s use are minimally-processed and rich in flavor and nutrients. Best of all, their pastas are made within 3 days of those grains being milled. Meaning it’s fresh. Real fresh. “We treat our product like a coffee aficionado would treat coffee. We’ve come to notice the nuances in the different grains and we can appreciate the rich aromas and smells that are so distinct in different batches,” said Danny.
And that’s why their pasta is so incredible. Like our meat, which our farmers take great care to raise naturally and humanely, and which our butchers take great care to break down into beautiful pieces of meat, the Nicoletto’s take the same care with their pasta. They researched trusted, reputable, and responsible mills to source their products out of the central U.S. (sorry- Tennessee doesn’t exactly boast the proper arid climate it requires to grow wheat!) and then use it almost the instant it arrives at their shop to keep their product equally as flavorful.
The brass die on their Italian pasta machines gives the pasta a delightful texture that allows any sauce to cling to the noodle with ease, and the hands that actually cut the pasta ensure a product that is anything but generic. Their manpower ensures both that each noodle is different—maybe slightly longer or shorter than the one before—and that extreme care is taken with every small batch.
And that’s why we like them so much. And it’s also why we’re planning to sell their pastas in our shops…starting NOW!
Nicoletto’s Pasta Co. does sell both fresh and dried pasta but due to space constraints, we will only be able to sell their dried kind. We’re planning to start out with a few bags of a variety of shapes and sizes and see how things go…but if all goes well, we might just ask them to keep bringing more!
In addition to retail sales at both Porter Road Butcher locations, Nicoletto’s is at the Nashville Farmer’s Market every Saturday from about 10 am to 2 pm, plus starting this summer they’ll be at 6 different farmers markets every WEEK! Leaving you with absolutely no excuse to give them a try.
We personally think they’re a perfect pair for our PRB heat-n-eat meals, and our no-funny-business-in-our-food ideals.