Written by Craig Ferraro. Photography courtesy of Amanda Finizio.
Hands and arms were covered in flour, glasses were full of wine, and mouths were filled with ravioli. The sounds of laughter and stampeding feet rang out as younger cousins ran in and out of the house on a beautiful summer day. Aunts, uncles, parents, and grandparents put on aprons and lent a hand. Others spent the afternoon reminiscing and catching up at this family reunion.
“We don’t see each other very often. Some cousins I had never met before,” recalled Michael Finizio. “This was about two years ago, and it’s still something we all talk about.”
Michael helped cement these memories by teaching his family to cook ravioli from scratch. He was in the process of creating a product that not only makes killer ravioli, but also helps bring people together, enjoy each other’s company, and conceive this type of enduring event. Now he’s on the verge of doing it full time.
Michael used a combination of experience, skills, inspiration, and innovation to create Fonde, the ravioli rolling pin. The ingenious functionality and classy look made Fonde a sensation this summer on Kickstarter. It’s now being used to launch Repast Supply Co.
The story of how Michael got to this point illuminates a lot about the man, and a lot about his intentions in the culinary world. What’s abundantly clear from talking with him is his passionate approach to the business, borne of personal and intimate bonds formed in the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of love.
When Michael met his fiancee, Sophie, a few years ago, they were living in different cities. “We wanted to spend as much time interacting as possible,” he remembers. “Instead of going to restaurants we found ourselves cooking. It’s kind of the foundation of our relationship.” These nights spent together allowed Michael one other important insight, “Sophie is a much better cook than I am.” I won’t worry about these two eating well in their life together, and I would suggest the humility shown here will come in handy throughout their marriage.
Whether at family reunion or cooking in a small urban apartment, food and cooking helps bring Michael together with people he loves. “That type of moment is something I try to recreate as much as possible,” he stresses. With the launch of Repast, he not only seeks these moments in his own life, but also strives to help others find bliss in the kitchen.
Michael envisions a family using Fonde to cook together. He sees parents and children doubling their time together by creating pasta from eggs and flour. From experience, he points out that the meal they create will be truly meaningful. Perhaps more so than the store-bought rigatoni and marinara sauce most of us resort to on a regular basis. This time spent cooking together also helps instill a love and appreciation for food and its preparation in the younger participants.
Repast’s mission is to “inspire people everywhere to slow down, roll up their sleeves, and cook a meal with someone you love.” I asked Michael about this notion within the context of the fast-paced world we all inhabit in the twenty-first century. I think he views these times spent together as an antidote to our typically hurried lives. Family, friends, and food are universal. People have found joy combining these three for centuries. Plus, as Michael points out, “If you’re hands are covered in dough, you’re not getting distracted and picking up a cell phone.”
With a background in engineering and summers spent as a carpenter, Michael views the world through a creator’s lens. While first experimenting with pasta making, he encountered a problem. Ravioli was difficult to make. By hand it’s somewhat labor intensive. The existing ravioli rollers on the market didn’t meet his standards. They were cheaply made and didn’t provide enough room for fillings.
An engineer sees a problem and discerns a solution. Michael set out to create a product that makes great ravioli efficiently, made of high quality materials. His experience with carpentry and woodworking gave him the knowledge necessary to choose his medium. Maple, cherry, and walnut have ideal properties for this type of production. The artisan began crafting prototypes and trial rollers. He turned sketches on paper into wooden devices.
Michael began enjoying ravioli in his kitchen and loved the results. The pockets were deep, with plenty of room for ricotta, scallions, lemon zest, or whatever else his pallet desired. There was plenty of room between the pockets for easy cutting. The ravioli were delicious and their delectable beauty was made possible by the precision of Michael’s design.
Quickly he turned his attention to sharing this gift with others. Recalling how the market lacked any comparable products, Michael saw Fonde as a launch point for a line of culinary products. He needed help in order to do this. He sought out an expert to produce more rollers.
He initially worked with a manufacturer in North Carolina. While he helped create excellent products, Michael thought it could be done more efficiently. “That’s where the engineering problem-solving really came into play, ” he remembers. “How can I slim it down, make it faster to produce?” He observed the process, used his reasoning skills, and a touch of business acumen to alter the process.
Michael now works with a manufacturer from St. Paul, Minnesota. Brent Greer of BBG Woodworks was interested in partnering full-time. They worked together to incorporate new machinery and cut down production time by 75%. Currently Greer is able to produce 8-10 rolling pins per day.
After a summer launch on Kickstarter, Michael faces soaring demand for Fonde and increased interest in a wider range of Repast Supply Co. products. He is ramping up production in St. Paul while in negotiations with a major retailer. Michael recently appeared on tapings for the upcoming Food Network show, “Food Fortunes.” He demonstrated his cooking process and pitched Fonde to a team of chefs and investors.
Amidst all of this success it might be easy for a young entrepreneur like Michael to have lofty visions of fame and dollar signs. But I can assure you that he has his feet planted firmly in the ground. He states that food, engineering, and woodworking are his life’s biggest passions. It’s clear that Michael is also passionate about creating a sustainable and ethical business. He’s partnered with the Arbor Day foundation to plant 100 trees for every tree he uses in production.
Friends asked him, “How can you afford to do that?” to which he countered, “How can I afford not to do that?” This year the planting is taking place in Minnesota, helping Michael contribute to the local community. He’s committed to keeping things local by manufacturing solely in the United States.
Michael’s altruistic ideals don’t temper his ambition. “I set out to create a brand of fine products. I want to create a brand where people want all of my products,” he declares. Beyond Fonde, he has end-grain cutting board available currently, while also cooking up ideas for knives and aprons.
This story tells of an engineer. It details the tale of a budding businessman. But I think Michael Finizio created Repast Supply Co. because he’s a future husband. He made these products because he’s a son, a nephew, and a cousin. Yes he’s creating rolling pins, but he’s also allowing families to forge cherished memories. What could be more beautiful than that?
About the Author: Craig Ferraro is a Carlisle, MA native who is passionate about teaching, BBQ and spending time at his lake house in New Hampshire. In his free time Craig is a contributing author to The Sports Hero and Slow.Cook.Love.