Meet Jesse Albertini of Sfoglina Pasta in Denver, Colorado

Meet Jesse Albertini of Sfoglina Pasta in Denver, Colorado

Jesse Albertini always wanted to run her own company. “I was getting my hair done for prom, and the owners made an impression on me. [It was a] team of girls who had just started their company, [and] I was their last appointment of the day. They poured champagne to celebrate. It was a moment that I wanted to see for myself.” 

Once she realized she wanted to start a food business, Albertini assumed running her own restaurant would be her calling. That’s not exactly what happened, but she still was able to work in the food world, on her own terms.

Albertini’s Culinary Beginnings

Albertini grew up in Kingston, New York—the original capital of the state—just 91 miles north of New York City. After graduating with a business degree from the University at Albany in 2004, she headed west to Colorado and landed in Winter Park, a prime skiing area south of Rocky Mountain National Park. “The plan was to be there for one winter, ski, and come back,” Albertini says. Twenty years later, she still lives in Colorado.

“My first job was at a gourmet grocery store near my house, sorting the apples that came in,” says Albertini. She then cooked at a small café—her mom taught the chef English when the family came from Italy—making turkey sandwiches. 

While living in Winter Park, she worked in various hospitality jobs. “I loved living in the mountains, but it felt like it was hard to have a career up there,” she says. So Albertini moved to Denver and got a culinary degree from Johnson & Wales University.

“I cooked all over Denver,” she continues. “Especially when I first started out, it was hard to make a living wage cooking. I had three jobs at a time.” She worked each position, from executive chef to line cook, prep cook, and dishwasher. A development job for a catering company let her ideate new menu items and work out all the logistics of properly making and executing dishes.

After earning her culinary degree, she spent 13 years cooking professionally before starting her small-batch pasta company, Sfoglina. “I cooked for so long because you need so much experience,” she explains. “I looked for [restaurants] that could help me become better culinarily, or [teach me] the logistical and financial side of things.” 

Adapt to the Unexpected

Albertini had just completed her business plan and was working on financing for a brick-and-mortar pasta concept when she and her husband found out they were having a baby. “Then three months after she was born,” she says, “Covid hit.” 

The vulnerability of restaurants quickly became apparent. “I sat down, looked at the core of the whole idea behind the business,” explains Albertini. She asked herself, “How could I start small, make small steps towards what would still become reality?” When her daughter, Adeline, was six months old, Albertini launched Sfoglina as a cottage industry (Colorado law allows certain foods to be made in private homes and sold directly to consumers without licensing). “I’m adding more from the original business plan as she gets older, as she goes to school,” says Albertini. 

What won’t change as her business expands is Albertini’s commitment to using local, stone-milled flours in her pastas. “Fresh, heritage flour is so much better for the environment,” she says. “Using local, the way the world is going, it’s more important. It cuts down on my carbon footprint and benefits the local economy.” 

Though she doesn’t get there as much as she used to, Albertini still loves the mountains and all the outdoor activities that living in Colorado affords. In her occasional free time, she reads via audio books (her favorite genre is horror), but lately most of her reading is children’s books.  “Right now my time is in between focusing on the company and trying to make sure Adeline is getting everything to develop into a good human,” she says. 

Embrace Culinary Diversity

The local culinary scene in Denver has changed a lot since Albertini arrived. “Colorado has all changed so much!” adds Jesse Albertini. When she first moved to Winter Park, she could park at the base of the mountain, right at the ski lift. “Now there’s a whole town there.” 

Denver grew over the years too. “There were three to four chefs that had always been in Denver,” she explains. “They had all the restaurants.” You could go to seemingly any spot across the city and see the same beet and goat cheese salad, because someone who worked there had been with one of those chefs. Having chefs from different backgrounds come to the city has helped improve and diversify the culinary scene. 

As for Albertini’s favorite spots to eat noodles that she didn’t make herself? “I love Spuntino in the Highlands, and Dio Mio,” two Italian classics. In Boulder, a city about 40 minutes from Denver, she enjoys Mangia Panino, Rosetta Hall, Oak, and Rooted Craft Kitchen (which also has a location in Denver). For non-Italian carbs, Albertini goes to Uncle, a standby for ramen since 2012, and Sắp Sửa, a new self-described “non-traditional Vietnamese” restaurant. 

Advice for Aspiring Chefs and Restaurateurs

Albertini shares two major pieces of advice for people starting out in a cooking career: get experience, and rethink that culinary degree. “Try to learn as much as you can and be as open to experience as possible,” she says. “Have as many culinary experiences as you can. You don’t really have a point of view unless you work [at] a ton of places.” 

As for schooling, Albertini is happy with her business degree, but would do things differently when it comes to culinary school. “I thought it was the right path, but it was so expensive. You end up with debt. I wish I went abroad and worked and spent money that way,” she explains. 

“When I was younger, people would say, ‘Money doesn’t matter, the experience matters.’ That’s bullshit. You have to be able to live.” Gaining experience and cooking in as many places as you can are important, but the old way of staging—cooking for free, like an unpaid internship in a restaurant—is not sustainable. “Finding the balance between passion and money,” says Albertini, “is key.” 

To learn more about Jesse Albertini and her craft pasta company Sfoglina, head to her website, where you can also order her pasta. The next time you’re in the Denver area, find her pasta at Spinelli’s Market, Ruby’s Market, Tom’s Seafood & Gourmet Market, Littleton Meats, and Moxie Bread locations. 

Be on the lookout for Dreams Abroad’s ongoing Meet the Locals series. Follow our series to meet other global professionals sharing their stories from around the world. 

 

15 thoughts on “Meet Jesse Albertini of Sfoglina Pasta in Denver, Colorado

  1. I absolutely love her honesty. Experience is great, but you do have to have money to live. She’s extremely amazing.

  2. We visited Denver not too long ago and experienced so many great foods. Love learning more about Jesse Albertini.

  3. What an inspiring interview with Jesse Albertini of Sfoglina Pasta! It’s fascinating to learn about his journey and dedication to crafting authentic Italian pasta. I’m definitely adding Sfoglina Pasta to my list of must-visit spots in Denver. Thanks for sharing this enlightening story!

  4. I really enjoyed reading this story. My son loves to cook and it gives much to think about concerning his path in this area.

  5. What an amazing story. She is so inspiring…I would love to learn how to properly cook, that would be awesome.

  6. I love good craft foods and small companies. I will definitely have to check out this pasta. It is nice to support a business like this. I enjoyed reading about the background of this company, and it is tough knowing how many businesses struggled when covid hit.

  7. Interesting story, that’s awesome for completing the business plan and getting ready. Cooking a career is not that easy but so much fun.

  8. I really agree that culinary is diverse. It is very nice that many of people now appreciate this kind of art.

  9. What a lovely post and really enjoyed reading about Jesse, definitely know where to visit if I am in Denver

  10. Lovely honest story from Jesse. Sfoglina Pasta sounds great and somewhere I’d live to go if I was ever in the area x

  11. I’ve just started learning about Jesse Albertini! The story was great, my husband wishes to take to same path!!

  12. This is such a great and inspiring story about how Jesse Albertini started her journey. I love that she started up her own small-batch pasta company, this was brilliant to read!

  13. If I didn’t do what I currently do, I would have gone into cooking! It’s so neat to hear tips from those who have that job.

  14. Thank you for sharing her story and I admire her dedication and passion in the culinary industry. She is inspiring.

    Would love to try Sfoglina if we get the chance. 🙂

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