“Jobs of the Future” is a series focusing on career paths, local job opportunities, programs, and tales of success that highlight North Bay's diverse job market.
Throughout this series we’ve been able to highlight some examples where someone’s passion or hobby became their main source of income.
Linda Nardilli fits into that category with her passion project-turned business called The Pasta Hostess
“It started as me being a guest chef at a friends cooking studio and I did that for about three years,” says Nardilli.
“That friend was then moving back to Toronto and I just thought to myself that I’ve got people interested in a class and maybe that could be something that I offered in North Bay.”
Born in Toronto, Nardilli moved to North Bay as she says, for love.
“My future husband Stephen was working in the bar business and wanted to get out of that line of work. I was working for Children’s Aid in the foster care and protective services area. Stephen said he had always liked North Bay after having hitchhiked across Canada a few years earlier, he said it was just the right size,” says Nardilli.
“We moved up here, didn’t know anybody, didn’t have jobs and almost didn’t have a place to live. It was a big risk, but I’ve never regretted any of that. I ended up working two jobs; one as a social worker at St. Joseph’s Hospital and I was one of the first shelter workers at the Nipissing Transition House.”
And because of that connection with the Nipissing Transition House, Nardilli had a house to offer her cooking classes.
“I live in Nipissing Village, I needed somewhere in town that I could host a class and so I asked my friend Marsha Greenfield if she would offer her home and she did, and talk about six degrees of separation, she was the one that started the Nipissing Transition House.”
Nardilli has been retired from her social services work for 10 years and started this business a year after she retired.
“I was just looking for something different to do and I was tired of hearing people say that it was so difficult to make pasta and it just really grew from there.”
Nardilli says she learned a little bit herself from watching her Nonna make pasta by hand.
“I use a pasta rolling machine like my mother did, but my Nonna could just take a knife cut it properly and shake it out. It really was something to watch as a child,” says Nardilli.
“I probably learned more about pasta though when I started my classes. I think people thought it was hard because you can see stuff on Google and YouTube and someone is telling you how to do it, but you can also watch a video where someone is telling you how to drive a car but would you actually feel comfortable getting behind a wheel? Of course not, and so I think that’s the same thing here where there is lots of information out there, but people needed someone with them to show them if something went wrong. When you don’t have that mentorship with someone and that encouragement, you’re not getting all the little tricks and tools you would need to take it home and have it work. That’s what I wanted for people who come to my class.”
Nardilli says when she originally brought forward the idea about starting The Pasta Hostess, her family was completely behind her. She says, “It’s been nothing but support. I’ve been married 37 years this year and there’s been nothing but love and support from my husband and my son and my daughter. Some of my family in Toronto have been very curious about it but they could also see the joy and passion that I was putting into it.”
Her business model has evolved since she started.
“It really started with about seven people that were kind of interested in taking these classes with me and they didn’t know each other and so my original business model was to bring different groups of people together at one venue,” says Nardilli who admits that didn’t last very long.
“What I found was that sometimes doing it that way was kind of like herding cats, you can do it but it isn’t going to be pretty. So, I changed my business model so that it’s hosted in someone’s home and I would come to you and do a class with your group of friends. Pasta Hostess was all about classes in the beginning and I would host them in the North Bay area from West Nipissing to Mattawa and as far south as the Huntsville and Bracebridge areas.”
Nardilli offers two different classes as well.
“I have the introduction to pasta class which is the basics. The second class is called “Filled and Flavourful.” I’ve had people who have taken the first class and come back for the second one. I’ve had other people who say they know how to make pasta but are interested in just doing the second class.”
She has also moved into the catering side of the business and she says that allows for her to have repeat customers.
“Sometimes they are one-offs, but I have quite a few repeat customers on that side,” says Nardilli.
“I was asked if I would be interested in catering a lunch for the Business Centre Nipissing Parry Sound, as well as a group called PARO, which is the largest lending and support organization for women and business in Ontario. At first, I said no to doing those jobs, but I went home and thought to myself, ‘why did you say no?’”
Sine then Nardilli says she has done some larger events, but adds, “I am a one-woman band and I don’t have staff, so I can only do events that are so big. For three years in a row I did the “Feast on the Farm” and that was 500 servings that I had to make and serve by myself. I knew after doing that, my target market was the smaller venues. The small intimate catering gigs are for me.”
But when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Nardilli had to stop offering both classes and catering services, however, she took it as an opportunity to focus on different aspects of her business.
“I had people saying I should pivot and do a delivery business. My thoughts were that there are a lot of restaurants in North Bay that are brick and motors and have staff. I said, ‘go help them out and order from them because they could close, I’m doing my thing because it’s a passion project.’ I just said, when all this is over, remember that I’m still here and book me for your next small event, but for now, go order from the restaurants that need your support,” she says.
“I did a lot of online research and courses during the pandemic. One of the podcasts I watched talked about how important it is to spend this downtime by reinvesting in your own marketing because if you don’t, you will fall off the plate so to speak. So, I really focused on marketing strategies, I rebuilt my website, I did some research related to menu development. I have also always worked on ways I could give back to the community and I’ve always donated to fundraisers and so I had time to think of how I could incorporate that into Pasta Hostess and so possibly starting in the fall, for every special event that I do, I will offer a percentage to a charity.”
As well, she has partnered with 101 Experiences.
“I’m working on an experience that will be uploaded to Air BnB and I’m going to do this twice, once in July and once in August where I will take guests to the North Bay Farmers Market and then take them to a venue where we can prepare and eat the things we’ve bought from the market, and I’m looking at providing a salad and appetizers menu.”
Nardelli says these kinds of projects are what give her confidence that younger people can find work in the food industry.
“I think people now are really adamant about knowing where their food comes from,” she says.
“For people that want to work in this industry there is certainly an expansion happening, people are going vegan or become flexitarians or looking for all kinds of different ways to eat healthily and for our youth, there is work for them to think about where you fit in that food industry chain because it can also be very creative. I do caterings for weddings and baby showers and more. I do team building for businesses as well and I always say to people if you have an idea, run it by me, I can pretty much make it whatever I want as it is my business.”
If you have a story idea for “Jobs of the Future” send Matt an email at [email protected]