“I’m never going back to dried grocery pasta again!” This is a line frequently heard from customers of Noodle Lab. One try of their artisanal fresh pasta is all it takes.
“The experience of eating fresh pasta is on a different level from dry grocery-bought pasta. The bite is different, the pasta itself has flavor and taste, and can be eaten on its own,” explains Ally Gonzales. She helms the pastificio together with husband, Nico.
Spaghetti, linguine, tagliatelle, reginette, pappardelle, lasagna, casarecce, campanelle, fusilli, tortiglioni, ravioli, tortelloni, cappelletti, mezzelune, scarpinocc, caramelle, egg yolk raviolo. These are just some of their offerings. “We use authentic premium Italian ingredients and locally sourced, top-quality produce. We have thoroughly researched and painstakingly R&D-ed and obsessed over all of our dough formulations to bring our customers the most authentic and delightful experience possible,” she guarantees.
Their regular menu is pretty extensive and they continue to expand it. Every now and then, they surprise their clientele with specials. “We like to keep our customers excited with new flavors and options to add to their dinner tables,” she rationalizes. Product development takes weeks. “Sometimes, we will be watching a travel show or cooking with a certain ingredient and inspiration just strikes! We usually talk about our dream ravioli fillings late into the night. Our brainstorming and ideas go wild, but they do usually end up on the menu after a lot of refining.”
Food has always been an important fixture in the couple’s relationship. Even before getting married, they would go on cooking dates. During a trip to Tokyo right before the pandemic started, they attended a soba-making class. Nico is particularly enthusiastic in the kitchen. “Anytime I want to eat something, he researches and keeps practicing the dish to make the best version for me at home.” And topping the list of Ally’s constant cravings is pasta. “My mom raised me on pasta! She says that throughout her pregnancy with me, she kept craving pasta. And throughout my childhood, she sure did feed me tons of pasta!” Ally relates.
It was for Ally’s birthday in 2018 that Nico made pasta for Ally for the first time. “He had asked his mom for a small pasta machine so he could practice making my favorite food for me from scratch,” she recalls. The gesture was a success and Nico’s Egg Yolk Raviolo was very much appreciated. “It’s a giant ravioli filled with spinach and ricotta with a runny egg yolk at the center. The sauce he used was a brown butter sage sauce,” describes Ally.
These days, they rely on the Smeg stand mixer for pasta-making. “It’s so versatile! We use it for mixing our different ravioli fillings, we use the pasta roller attachments for ravioli pasta sheets, we use the cutter attachments for long pasta, tagliolini, and tagliatelle, too. The pasta roller and cutters literally save our arms daily from manual rolling and cutting with its powerful and smooth engine. We also use the stand mixer for mixing and kneading small batches of pasta dough when we R&D,’ rattles off Ally. “I love that it has a powerful 800W motor which allows us to sheet and cut pasta continuously the whole day without stopping and straining our arms, and without the machine heating up. It’s a very sturdy machine as tested by our eight-hour production days. It’s also very silent for its power, it’s not a scandalous machine which you can’t hear anything over. The pasta roller attachment has ten thickness settings so we are able to roll our sfoglia as thin as we need it to be for our delicate ravioli,” she adds. “And of course, it looks gorgeous in our kitchen! Its aesthetic and 50’s retro vibe instantly elevate the countertop it sits on and looks amazing photographed with our fresh pasta. It’s iconic! Lastly, we love that it’s an Italian brand. And since we are selling Italian products, we couldn’t be more pleased to be using Italian equipment to stay truly authentic.”
To help them get through their hectic schedule, they have the Smeg espresso machine. “My husband and I are coffee addicts! It’s what powers us when we start our work day. Before making pasta, while making pasta, and as a reward after finishing pasta production for the day, you can be sure our Smeg espresso machine is running! Agan, we love that it is a beautiful machine that matches our whole kitchen aesthetic. But more than that, I love that I can make so many espresso-based drinks with just one machine: cappuccino, flat white, caramel macchiato, americano, etc. I really love that the warm up time is so quick and I can have my espresso ready in under 3 minutes,” she enthuses.
Prior to launching Noodle Lab, both Ally and Nico held full-time corporate jobs but when the demand for their products shot up, Ally opted to focus on being an entrepreneur. “I’ve worked in multinationals and startups, and despite many wins in my career, nothing feels better than being my own boss, being in charge of my own destiny and having full control of our bottom line. There are many advantages like: more freedom to experiment, you’re more driven than ever to succeed, you have control of your schedule, you’re only answerable to yourself, and how hard we work determines how much we make at the end of the day. The biggest advantage for me though, is being able to do what I truly love every day,” she says. But the journey hasn’t been without challenges, especially since this is their first venture. Aside from having to face legalities and paperwork, supplies are not readily available. “In the spirit of keeping our authenticity, there are very specific ingredients and machines we need, and oftentimes these are not available in the Philippines. Luckily, we have suppliers and partners who have helped us bring these things into the country. Also, during peak seasons like Valentine’s, Mother’s Day, and Christmas, we are extremely busy and rarely ever get to celebrate these occasions with our families. Or if we do, we are already so exhausted by then. But in the end, it’s all worth it!” she exclaims.
But they’re not yet done. Ally and Nico have more things lined up for Noodle Lab. Right now, their commissary is in the works. “We will have more capacity to fulfill orders and expand to business-to-business customers. We are always innovating, questioning what we can do better, and which of our crazy ideas we can execute. So definitely expect a lot of exciting new products to launch too,” Ally promises.
In the meantime, you may choose from Noodle Lab’s current offerings. Their best-sellers include the tagliatelle, Black Truffle & Porcini Ravioli, and Carbonara Egg Yolk Raviolo, everything is for pre-order. “We cannot stock fresh pasta for long. We don’t like to sell it frozen as we believe the sooner the pasta is eaten, the better the quality. We want everyone to experience fresh pasta the way it should be. The best experience is if you cook it right after picking it up from us.,” she advises. You may reach Noodle Lab @noodlelab.ph on Instagram and Facebook.
Make your own pasta with the Smeg stand mixer and pasta roller and cutter.
Visit the Smeg Experience Center at Park Terraces in Makati, MOA Square in Pasay, or Design Center in Mandaue. Or shop online at www.smegphilippines.com, Zalora, Trunc, Lazada, BeautyMNL, or Abenson. For inquiries, message the Smeg concierge at email@example.com or @smegphilippines on Instagram and @smegph on Facebook.