A classic lasagna paired with a modest pinot noir at a tasteful Italian restaurant — the perfect date night for many before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted dinner plans everywhere. But a Gainesville resident plans to bring the restaurant to residents.
Elena Pollio, a 27-year-old former events manager, was hit by the ill effects of the pandemic, when she was suddenly fired from her five-year job planning entertainment, business and political events in New York in March 2020.
Like a fresh start, Pollio moved to Gainesville when her fiancé was offered a job opportunity. Combining his event management skills with his passion for Italian cuisine, Pollio sought to create a local business that would thrive in Gainesville’s food scene.
In August 2020, she launched Pasta by Pollio – a company dedicated to visiting homes to teach pasta making. The breadth of his classes range from making homemade pasta to pairing good wine with a meal. Some of her signature recipes include her Herb Goat Cheese Ravioli and Pumpkin Ravioli.
The second-generation Italian-American grew up in the kitchen cooking pasta with her mother for holidays and family gatherings. Thanks to Pasta by Pollio, she has the chance to pass on her family knowledge of Italian cuisine to earn a living.
“It really enlightens me to be able to bring people together and teach cooking classes,” she said.
The company allows Pollio to share something she loves, while being able to do everything herself, from her schedules to her recipes. Much to his delight, setting up his business was easier than expected.
“It’s not really something that I have to actively try to sell. I’m just a little me. said Pollio. “It really embodies who I am as a person, and I love it.”
She developed a steady following on social media platforms like Instagram, amassing over 1,000 followers in just over a year.
Although Pollio turned her dream into reality, she had no shortage of challenges to overcome.
Aside from the arduous cleaning process that follows her home cooking classes, she sometimes dreads starting conversations and being the social butterfly that accompanies home visits. In her business, Pollio isn’t just the chef behind the meal – she’s the host of the party for her customers.
“I get nervous,” she said. “I really have to bring energy. I have to bring the game.
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During a pandemic that limited social interaction, Pollio also struggled to balance a business focused on personal interaction with the safety protocols needed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
His personal chef style business is for a small group of family members or friends who know each other’s status.
Kristen Oliff, a 27-year-old intermediate UF biologist, became one of Pollio’s first clients after her social organization, Curvy Confidence, which plans events promoting body positivity, scheduled a group lesson with Pollio. . She’s since taken three more courses, including one in which Pollio partnered with Yelp to host an online gnocchi event.
“Making pasta used to be really intimidating for me, and now I do it once a week,” she said.
Oliff was smitten by Pollio’s story after meeting at a bow tie and fettuccine class.
“She made me want to quit my job and find something I love to do and then run with it because that’s what she did,” she said.
After just one class, Oliff headed to Amazon to buy the same pasta roller, baking mat, and ravioli stamps that Pollio brings to her events.
“It teaches you something that you don’t do once. You can do it once a week, once a day, or as often as you want,” Oliff said.
Jessica Ostolaza discovered Pasta by Pollio after deciding to do something fun with the family after the holidays. For three and a half hours, Ostolaza, together with her mother, sisters and 21-year-old daughter, prepared ravioli and gnocchi.
“She teaches you with a coffee cup and a fork. You don’t have to have all the fancy tools,” the 43-year-old mammography technologist said. “She teaches you how to do it basic with what you have at home.”
Ostolaza took Pollio’s “Make and Take” class, where she learned how to properly store pasta to prepare later for the family.
“She brings in all the new Tupperware and she wraps it up for you so you can put it in the freezer and it’s ready to go,” she said.
In light of its success, Pollio has plans for expansion – in more ways than one.
In addition to expanding his family with a recent engagement in February 2022 and a first child in November 2021, Pollio also hopes to diversify his business by launching a catering service for small parties at home. First, Pollio will deliver heart-shaped ravioli just in time for Valentine’s Day.
Contact Jared at [email protected]. Follow him @jaredteitel on Twitter.
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