Lilly’s Story: The North End’s Favorite Pasta

Lilly’s story, a true rags-to-riches tale, is a testament to hard work, culinary passion, and a mountain of faith in oneself.

The story begins in the 1970s in Genoa, Italy, where Lilly D’Alelio and her husband Giovanni ran a graphic design studio. The studio subscribed to many American magazines, and Lilly was quick to notice a rise in articles featuring pasta.

Previously portrayed as a quick and budget-friendly meal, pasta was now being positioned as an elegant and attractive dish. Lilly also noticed that health professionals were beginning to support its nutritional value.

This sparked Lilly to turn her passion for cooking and her skills at traditional pasta-making into a career abroad. Her husband Giovanni was skeptical at first, but her persistence eventually swayed him.

Logistics were complicated, and prospects were uncertain – in a leap of faith, Lilly, Giovanni, and their three young children arrived in the U.S. in 1986 with little more than the clothes on their backs and a dream, they gambled, that would outweigh their debts. Giovanni found factory work and Lilly sewed skirts while they searched for a workspace; she describes exhausting months of sewing in her basement all through the night, just to get by.

Lilly D'Alelio and her son, Antonio, circa 2019
Lilly and Antonio, circa 1986

Finally, in April of 1986, Lilly’s Fresh Pasta opened its doors. Once local chefs tasted Lilly’s signature pasta and creative ravioli, the response was overwhelmingly positive – the orders began flowing in.

The beginning was still full of hardships, the family’s struggles compounded when Giovanni sadly passed away in 1991. Suddenly a single mother and sole proprietor, Lilly kept her nose to the grindstone at yet another time when most would have given up; she continued to amass customers with her truly excellent pasta, creative recipes, and a willingness to collaborate with chefs for specialty dishes (a unique business model we still honor).

Soon, Lilly’s Fresh Pasta grew into Boston’s most beloved pasta manufacturer. For three decades now, Lilly’s has been the go-to supplier for restaurants in the North End (Boston’s mecca of Italian cuisine and culture) and, since foraying into broadline distribution in 2010, has expanded to serving quality-minded foodservice establishments throughout New England.

Lilly’s customers are some of the most devoted you’ll ever see in wholesale: they know the degree of flavor, texture, and culinary excellence they can expect from Lilly’s pasta, and won’t even entertain the idea of serving another brand. It’s not that Lilly’s pasta simply wins over competitors – there are no true competitors. It’s pasta the way Mama made it, and it’s nearly impossible to imitate.

Although the company has expanded beyond the family’s wildest dreams (with both Lilly and her son, Antonio, at the helm), our values and our pasta remain unchanged. Lilly still oversees all production and ensures that the pasta is made the way it should be. To this day, she refuses to cheapen her products with inferior ingredients or manufacturing shortcuts, and holds every small batch to the same quality standards that have characterized her cooking for decades.

Italians have a saying, “Tra il dire e il fare c’e di mezzo il mare”: meaning that there is an ocean difference between saying something and actually doing it.

Needless to say, the D’Alelio’s have crossed that ocean in more ways than one.

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