Landscaping To Limoncello: Former Waltham Resident Follows His Passion
Bentley University graduate Phil Mastroianni talks about his commitment to his Fabrizia Limoncello business and how he balances this with working for his father's business, Phil Mastroianni Landscaping & Tree.
When he was growing up in Newton, Phil Mastroianni never thought he’d be making limoncello or working in his father’s Waltham-based landscaping business. But, that is now how he spends his days.
“I left my job [as an accountant] and began working for my father’s landscaping company. I’ve gone from one day, a year-and-a-half ago, to half and half with Fabrizia. It’s more time, no more just nights and weekends," said Mastroianni, a Bentley University graduate.
Early on, Mastroianni was fascinated with the stock market. When he joined the Stock Market Club at F.A.Day Middle School and later did some actual investing while at Newton North High School, Mastroianni realized he had a talent. He followed through by pursuing an accounting degree at Bentley University.
After graduation, he moved to Waltham and went to work in Boston at KPMG, one of the nation’s major accounting firms. And while he liked what he did, Mastroianni acknowledged that he didn’t feel that “fire, that passion.” He found that on a trip to Italy in his junior year.
“Three of my four grandparents are from Platania, in Calabria,” Mastroianni recounted. “My great aunt Rosina and my father came over to visit me while I was on this trip. And we went down to Calabria. All of a sudden, I’m this Italian-American kid, and my whole world had opened up. I had this real connection.”
It wasn’t until a family dinner back in Newton that Mastroianni really saw the opportunity to turn this experience and his passion into a business.
“We started making limoncello as a hobby. Christmas, everybody loved it and it was a big hit,” Mastroianni said. “In January, my uncle, Joe Albano, said, ‘Phil, this is the best limoncello I’ve ever had. This is what you should be doing.’ By the next morning, I called Brett and by the first week of October [in 2008], we had shipped our first batch to a distributor in Massachusetts.”
For almost a year, Mastroianni, and then-partner Brett Bell, balanced their work at KPMG with making their Fabrizia Limoncello at night and on weekends. This, however, didn’t give Mastroianni enough time to make the beverage he had come to love.
In case you don’t know, limoncello is made by taking the peel of a lemon and steeping it in grain alcohol and then adding simple sugar syrup. Most producers of the popular liqueur also add the dye FD&C Yellow 5, but Mastroianni and Bell were committed to the idea of making a beverage that was wholly natural and dye-free.
Keeping the beverage natual has reaped benefits. Out of six limoncellos sold in their only market outside of New England, Fabrizia is the second best seller in Ohio. Mastroianni said he is excited that his limoncello is sold in local stores like Marty’s and Gordon’s and that many restaurants offer the beverage. It can also be used in recipes that even the non-drinking public can enjoy.
“An all natural limoncello like ours,” Mastroianni explained, “all of the flavor and color comes from oils in the lemon rind. It’s all natural, it crystalizes really well when you cook with it. Scallops with limoncello, cake infused with it, we have a frosting on the Web site. Anything you can do a reduction with, it works great.”
When Mastroianni bought out his partner, Bell, he brought his brother Nick on board, making it a true family business. Even their sister, Jenna, has gotten involved by naming a new product yet to be released.
“We’re hoping next year to come out with a bottled version of our Italian Margarita. We were on FOX News Morning show and brought on Jenna’s Italian Margarita, because she named it. It’s limoncello, tequila and lemonade. It tastes great, it’s so refreshing," Mastroianni said.
While he is happy with the growth of his limoncello business, Mastroianni is also enjoying the opportunity to help out in the family landscaping business and spend some time outdoors, even if it means occasionally juggling things a bit.
“When I came here to meet with you, I had my green [Mastroianni Landscaping] shirt on. I changed into my Fabrizia shirt in the car. That’s part of the fun. I wear different shirts, like some people wear different hats.”