EATONTOWN – The dream comes to fruition on Sunday.
Twenty years ago, Pastosa Ravioli’s founder, Anthony Ajello Sr., age 75 at the time, scouted out Eatontown as an “ideal location” for a new Italian food market.
On Sunday, Pastosa Ravioli is having a “soft” opening at the Plaza 35 Village, on the northbound side of Route 35, near Monmouth Mall. A grand opening ceremony will be held on May 6 with live music and a ribbon cutting.
“Twenty years ago, we weren’t ready. Here we are 20 years later, we found this location,” said Anthony Ajello, the founder’s grandson. “My grandfather was a visionary for locations. The fact that he said ‘Eatontown’ 20 years ago, the fact that we are now opening in Eatontown, it is big for our company. It is big for our family.”
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The store is owned by longtime friends Michael Piazza and Michael Albanese, and licensed through the Ajello family, the owner of Pastosa. It is a sister location of Pastosa stores in Cranford and Florham Park.
It will be Pastosa Ravioli’s fifth New Jersey location. Other stores in Monmouth County are in Wall and Manalapan.
Piazza, a friend of Ajello since childhood and a Colts Neck resident, and Albanese, a retired New York City police officer and Italian food restaurateur who lives in Jackson, have known the Pastosa brand all their lives.
“We’re both from Staten Island,” Albanese said. “It’s the best brand out there. That’s all we ever ate as a kid, Pastosa Ravioli, Pastosa products.”
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They have been talking about opening a Pastosa store for several years. “We decided to make a big investment in our children, in ourselves and go with a business that speaks for itself. Pastosa speaks for itself,” Piazza said.
The 6,000-square-foot store will feature Pastosa’s fresh ravioli and pasta made daily at its Brooklyn factory as well as an in-house butcher, homemade sausage, a cheese department featuring Italian cheese as well as fresh bread, pastries, deli, prepared foods and other Pastosa products. It will offer catering and delivery too.
Anthony Ajello said the new store blends the old with the new.
The original awning and sign from Pastosa Ravioli in Brooklyn is displayed inside the new store, said Ajello, the son of Michael Ajello who opened that store in 1973 in the heart of Bensonhurst.
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That location now serves as the company’s factory, which supplies all of its stores with fresh pasta, and is run by Joseph Ajello.
“We tried to pay some tribute to the old tradition of the stores,” Anthony Ajello said. It blends in with the store’s new logos and fixtures. “It’s a mix of the best of both worlds,” he added.
The Eatontown area is “screaming for our type of business,” Ajello said.
“We feel there is a lot of transplanted people, a lot of ex-New Yorkers where our name is pretty well known,” he said. “I feel our store is going to be very well received.”
The new store joins other businesses that are coming to the area, including Tesla, which is opening a sales and service center nearby, and Amazon Fresh, located at the corner of Route 35 and Wyckoff Road in Eatontown.
“You have big companies that are making considerable investments,” Ajello said. “We have made a considerable investment as well. … We really built a beautiful store that is gong to stay true to our roots.”
David P. Willis, an award-winning business writer, has covered business and consumer news at the Asbury Park Press for more than 20 years. He writes APP.com’s What’s Going There column and can be reached at [email protected] Join his What’s Going There page on Facebook for updates.