Hi! I'm Allison, founder of Pasta Friday.
Pasta has literally changed my life, three times over. Here's the long story: 

In 2011, I sunk every last penny I had into following my dream: opening a restaurant. I co-founded Homeroom in Oakland, CA, and for almost seven years, this mac and cheese restaurant was my life. Since the day it opened, every single night the crowd would spill down the block, people waiting over two hours for a bowl of mac and cheese and a slice of peanut butter pie. I helped grow the business to two locations and about 90 employees. We were featured on The Food Network, The Cooking Channel, The Travel Channel, The History Channel, QVC, Chow.com, the Wall Street Journal, you name it, we've been on it. Iā€™m also the co-author of the best-selling Mac and Cheese cookbook. The success Homeroom has seen is so rare, that restaurant moguls far and wide wondered how we did it.

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Pasta changed my life...

Cooking mac and cheese for Homeroom at a food festival in Oakland, CA.

And then I sold it. I sold the business that I literally built from the ground up. My dream was always to open a restaurant. Turns out, it was never to run a big business.

Homeroom grew big, and it grew fast. My workdays, instead of greeting customers and developing recipes, were suddenly packed with strategic growth meetings and hours and hours of deep dives into wage-band analysis charts. 

I was miserable. Stressed. I turned into an insomniac. My dream was killing me. 

And, I felt like a failure. Why wasn't I ambitious enough to grow the business? Who wouldn't want to run a wildly successful mac and cheese business? I was walking away from my retirement plan. Giving up my kids' retirement plan even. I just kept thinking, "What if this was it? What if this was my one shot at success in life?"

I surrounded myself with family and friends as much as possible, because those were the only times I wasn't wallowing in self-doubt. And to make sure they all stuck around, I cooked for them. I started an event called Pasta Friday where every week I'd cook a giant pot of pasta and a big salad, and invite all my friends over for dinner.

Pasta Friday changed my life. And it became a feast! Just like my grandmother would do every Sunday, I now spend the entire day in the kitchen preparing. Every Friday my two young boys wake up yelling, "It's Pasta Friday, it's Pasta Friday!" I have 90 people on my email list, and every week I cook for around 30 adults and 15 kids. Guests bring a bottle of wine, and we laugh and drink and eat and forget about the chaos of everyday life. It's casual ā€“ you'll catch people stealing small pieces of my homemade cheese off the counter, kids running around with red popsicles before eating their dinner. But most of all, you'll find people connecting. Unwinding after a long week, and thankful they don't have to cook dinner. New bonds, new support systems, a new way to share meals ā€“ new for this generation, at least. 

My dream now is to turn Pasta Friday into a cookbook: 52 pasta dishes, 52 salads, 52 stories. I'm attempting to use a different shape of pasta every week. Some people say the pork neck ragu with strozzapreti was their favorite. Others say it was the spicy roasted red pepper cream sauce. I actually think my favorite was the Sicilian string bean salad. Man, was that good!

And after that? A food truck. A small(er) restaurant. A place where I can continue making a difference in peoples' lives through cooking and connecting.

Contact me at allisonvalo@gmail.com, or head over to the contact us page.