Boston University Magazine
Marriage Spices Up Sauce Venture
Paolo Volpati-Kedra met Tessa Edick in a Brighton park several years ago when they were walking their dogs. It was her striking red hair that first caught the young man’s eye, and Edick, who had traveled widely in Europe, was elated to learn that this handsome stranger could speak Italian. He also understood food, which he demonstrated when they began dating.
“I had to do the Italian thing and impress her,” says Volpati-Kedra (SMG’96), who grew up on exquisite meals prepared by his Milanese father. “So I started cooking for her and our friends and neighbors. It came out so nicely that people started coming over every night.” What guests craved most were the pasta sauces Volpati-Kedra created from scratch. From there the couple, who were married in 1997, dreamed up an idea for what’s now an expanding specialty-food business: Sauces ’n’ Love, a line of pasta toppings made from fresh ingredients and packaged in heat-and-serve containers.
The company started in 1999 as a neighborhood delivery service; today it distributes products to seven states in the Northeast. Volpati-Kedra, the president, employs eleven people at his Somerville plant, while Edick is the vice president of sales and marketing. They see their target customer as the health-conscious but overworked professional, who tends to forage on weeknights for convenient meals at high-end grocery stores such as Bread & Circus. The sauce, available in the refrigerated-food section, heats up in the microwave in four minutes.
Each of the seven sauce varieties represents a different region of Italy and sports its own whimsical, personifying slogan on the label. Sugo Rosa, for instance, is a pink tomato-and-cream sauce “made with grace and charm,” whereas the spicy red Arrabbiata (“angry woman”) is “made with a bit of madness.” A new product is a mint pesto, which is infused, says Volpati-Kedra, with the “freedom to experiment.” It was a runaway hit, he says, in the Fancy Food Show in Manhattan last July.
Next the entrepreneurs plan to develop three or four nonperishable toppings and package them in a gift set. Eventually they hope to launch an Italian spaghetteria featuring their signature sauces, as well as salads and panini sandwiches.
As head of operations and finance for the company, Volpati-Kedra draws on what he learned at the School of Management’s undergraduate program in business administration. One of his favorite courses taught him how to design, develop, and market a new product. Those lessons stayed with him, although his first job after college was at State Street Bank.
“I never in my life thought I’d produce fresh pasta sauce,” he says, “but I knew as soon as I started working that I couldn’t work for someone else, where I couldn’t express myself. Thank God this sauce idea came along. It’s a reflection of our lifestyle. Tessa and I love to entertain, we love people, we love good food — and we try to share these feelings through our sauces.”
Paolo and Tessa live in Brighton with their English bulldog, Divine, and boxer, Madeo.
by Hope Green
Boston University Magazine