An elegant plate of fresh pasta twirled with tangy lemon, tender garlic slivers, and a little red-chile zip: This looks like a high-end restaurant meal.
But you just prepared it yourself, in your own kitchen, in less than five minutes.
Pasta Packs’ homemade pasta to-go deliveries aren’t quite takeout, aren’t quite a grocery order, and aren’t quite a restaurant experience. The year-old Tampa company from brothers Chef Nicolaas and Greg Bryon is a reinvention of what it means to “dine in.”
The brothers launched Pasta Packs in March 2020 when Nic’s job as a sous chef at Oak & Ola at Armature Works came to an abrupt end with the lockdown, but his passion for cooking did not. While he served homemade pasta to his family and friends, he and his brother started thinking about ways to share his talent with the many other Tampa restaurant enthusiasts trying to figure out dinner during quarantine.
“Approaching it from a business perspective, we looked at ‘How do you get food, how to you heat it, what’s the experience when you get your food?’ This made a lot of sense,” said Greg.
Pasta Packs delivers fresh pasta paired with a variety of sauces, such as lasagna, pesto, and ragu. Each “pack” comes with enough pasta for two people. It cooks in boiling water for 3–4 minutes. The accompanying sauce ingredients arrive in plastic pouches and containers. Directions for heating the sauce properly—only one to two steps—and mixing it with the pasta are on the Pasta Packs website. This barely qualifies as cooking, but the result has the freshness and clean flavors of just-made food.
“Part of the experience is the integrity of the food you can get in a restaurant,” Nic said.
Nic’s pasta is hand-rolled and cut, using techniques he’s learned and perfected through his training, on-the-job experience, and his own continued efforts to improve his recipes. The result is light, without the denseness fresh pasta can sometimes exhibit.
“The first time I ever tasted Nic’s fresh pasta, I felt like I’d been lied to [about pasta],” Greg said.
The sauce recipes are Nic’s own creation, inspired by familiar Italian menus but with his own spin, what Greg calls “putting his fingerprint on food.” He gets ideas and ingredients from local farmers markets. Fresh herbs might appear in a pesto. The late-winter eggplant crop shows up as pasta alla norma. Cooking from the garden is a habit he picked up from his Caribbean-American family and he acknowledges that island flavors influence his dishes, resulting in a reinvention of Italian pasta traditions.
Reinvention is nothing new to Nic Bryon. His promising career as a chef was just beginning when a 2012 car crash in his hometown of Ocala left him with devastating injuries, unable to handle the physical rigors of kitchen work. “Not being able to stand up for a long time was very discouraging,” he said. But as his body recovered, so did his interest in returning to the kitchen. After a chance meeting with a chef friend of Greg’s, he found himself with his first cooking job in five years.
“It kind of just came back to me, muscle memory,” Nic said. “It felt good.”
Having started over once, Nic was singularly prepared to start over again with a new business as the pandemic changed his opportunities. With Greg’s partnership, Pasta Packs has grown with a rapidity the brothers didn’t anticipate. National news features about starting a business during the pandemic catapulted their small delivery service into a nationwide success story.
Their first few months of business consisted of local delivery, within 10 miles of their North Hyde Park location. Since appearing on “Good Morning America” in January, their sales have doubled—within a few minutes of their segment airing, they had more than 60 active carts and started shipping nationally. “I think in six months or a year we’ll probably do three to four times what we’re doing now,” Greg said.
“We’ve experienced growth like we didn’t expect. Right now is pretty interesting for us—so many great opportunities.”
Those opportunities include new recipes, expanding business, small-event catering, and cooking classes.
“Sometimes I miss the restaurant experience, but I wouldn’t trade it,” Nic said. “This has been a dream come true, to be able to start my own, creating my own recipes and menus, and I get to work with my brother. It checks off all the boxes for me.”