MANCHESTER, NH – You may know Chef Joe Grella from the cake pops and over-the-top cake designs at Custom Eats & Sweets, but this local chef is on a mission to bring the magic of the traditional Italian family dinner to your family’s table.
Grella says the idea came from being embarrassed by how often he bought frozen meals or fast food for his own family’s dinners. At work, he can easily make hundreds of meals during lunch or dinner service, but like so many other families, he and his wife work long hours and don’t always have time cook for their kids when they get home.
He says his favorite memories growing up were the Sunday pasta dinners with risotto, his grandmother’s famous chicken legs and thighs with lemon and rosemary, fresh bread from his grandfather’s bakery, salads, and pasta with homemade sauces. The weekly family dinner was a time to relax and enjoy the comforts of home and family, but as delicious as it was, it took all day to cook.
So he came up with Presto Pasta.
Instead of the regular sit-down family-style restaurant, Presto Pasta, located at 168 Amory St. on Manchester’s West Side, is a small neighborhood restaurant whose focus is on take-out. While they do have limited counter seating for anyone looking for a quick meal, the idea is to take the stress out of family meals by making it easy for a working mom or dad to stop in and grab an affordable, quick, healthy meal to go.
Grella, a classically-trained chef with extensive experience in top-rated restaurants in Florida, Colorado, and New England, is excited to be making the move to family-style cuisine.
He says, “There was a time I would have been embarrassed to serve a meal for less than $20 a plate,” but now that he’s married and has his own family his focus has changed. He knows that time and money are precious resources for busy working families and his new restaurant is designed to help you save both.
Grella, who grew up in Lawrence, Mass., says his family always went to the neighborhood bread guy for bread, the butcher for meat, and he wants to bring a little of that back by offering a selection of ready-to-cook meals that people can prepare at home.
Billed as a combination craft kitchen and carry-out restaurant, Presto Pasta gives you the option of ordering your food hot and ready-to-eat or buying components like homemade sauces, fresh cheese, and other fixings that are easy to put together on your own.
He says they’re never going to be like Market Basket which offers a huge selection of ready-to-eat options, but they would like to become a neighborhood fixture where people can stop in and get good food on their way home. And yes, they will be carrying all your favorite desserts, from their other business, Custom Eats & Sweets.
Good food at an affordable price is important to Grella and locating his business in this working-class neighborhood was a conscious choice.
He says growing up in a big family the budget didn’t stretch to include meals out, but his grandparents were masters at making the weekly family dinner a veritable feast. And that’s what he wants to offer to his neighbors. He wants to bring some of his family’s working-class roots, the hearty rustic Italian dishes his family enjoyed on lazy Sundays growing up, to your table. And he wants to do it at a price most families can afford.
Whether you’re looking for a quick stick (that’s a sandwich to you and me), appetizer, or a full pasta dinner, Pasta Presto’s menu is budget-conscious.
Full-size 22″ sticks, that’s almost a two-foot-long sandwich, run about $23, but single-serving sizes of chicken, eggplant, or meatball parmesan sandwiches are a modest $7. Family portions, which feed 4 – 6 people, are also available for all of their pasta dishes which means you can get a restaurant meal like spaghetti and meatballs made from Grella’s grandma’s family recipe and a side salad for the whole family for $28, almost the same cost as making it yourself.
And if you’re having a really big family event, Presto Pasta also has party sizes.
A full tray serves 15 – 20 and a large tray serves 30 – 40. Both options require 48-hour notice and come with flatware, plates, bread, and napkins.
He also wants people to know that even though the set menu does not include options for gluten sensitivity or other food allergies, he is happy to cater to all common dietary restrictions. “I’d rather come off the line and meet with a guest to find out what they can eat and come up with something special than take a shortcut and substitute a menu item with boxed gluten-free pasta.”
The grand opening is still a month away, but Grella says they will be opening their doors to the neighborhood starting July 11.
They’ve made a lot of changes to the space since moving in a few months ago and Chef Grella would love the opportunity to meet his new neighbors before the grand opening in August. If you’re looking for a quick meal or just want to grab something you can make at home, stop by and get a sneak peek at the menu. Based on the popularity of his cakes, there’s a good chance Presto Pasta will soon become a favorite from the North End all the way to Bedford.