Each week The Daily Iowan will provide an in-depth look at an Iowa City business.
After selling homemade pasta at the Iowa City Farmers’ Market for five years, Julia Parisi decided to try something new: opening her own grocery store.
Zaza’s Pastas, 518 Bowery St., has been selling a variety of Italian groceries since May.
The family-owned store not only sells its own homemade pasta, it also features local products and imported products from Italy, such as infused olive oil and Italian seasoning packets. Items available for sale range from appetizers to desserts, as well as a few prepared Italian foods.
“[The store] just kind of happened because we had so much great feedback and interest from customers that we had over the course of the five years [at the Farmers’ Market],” Parisi said.
Farmers’ Market coordinator Tammy Neumann said Parisi’s booth was very popular at the market.
“As a customer, I would go to her booth, and she would already be out of certain pastas,” Neumann said. “That just shows how quickly she would sell out.”
Neumann said she believes that another contribution to Parisi’s success was that she was one of the few pasta vendors at the market.
“Her pasta is also very good, so all of those things have led to her success,” Neumann said.
Parisi’s grandmother immigrated to America from Italy in 1960 and always made her own pasta from scratch.
“That’s just how I learned, and I started making it that way,” Parisi said.
Because the process of making pasta from scratch is ongoing and takes several hours a day, increasing popularity of her pasta has forced Parisi to update her pasta-making methods to using machinery.
However, she said she still does a lot of it by hand.
“It’s a lot of fun,” Parisi said. “I’d rather be doing this than anything else.”
Though Zaza’s Pastas has only been open for six months, Parisi said a lot of people have been learning about the store through word of mouth.
Her goals are to not only continue the current success of the store but to also expand into some wholesale market areas in order to give people more of an opportunity to try out the homemade pasta.
Currently, Zaza’s is selling its pasta to the Hy-Vee on Waterfront and First Avenue.
Brandon Hofeldt, the manager at Hy-Vee, said the store started to promote local items last year and decided to bring Zaza’s Pastas in around that time.
“We’ve had them for a while now,” Hofeldt said. “They’ve been a good item. They had so many different varieties and flavors of pasta that it [is going] really well.”
Hofeldt said he believes supporting local businesses is important because it helps the local economy as well as the environment.
“It provides jobs, more money, and more income for people in the area,” Hofeldt said. “[It’s also] environmentally friendly. We appreciate that it doesn’t have to travel from miles and miles across the country to get to our shelves. It builds a relationship with people in our community.”