GLENS FALLS, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Since its early days in 2018, the Glens Falls Shirt Factory’s regular food truck corral events have held among their offerings a table where two people – husband and wife Giovanni and Francesca Casanica – show exactly what traditional Italian food is all about. They make their own pasta right onsite, in front of hungry visitors – many of whom may have never seen the process before.
The Casanicas are the owners of Giovanni Fresco, an Italian food vendor that has called the Shirt Factory’s events home over the last several years. Now, the pair of Italian immigrants have a new home for their hand-made pasta and sauces – just a block away.
“Basically, we want to do like what we do at the markets,” said Giovanni Casanica on Friday. “Small batches of everything that we do, every single day. Then, when we’re finished, we go to the next day.”
The Casanicas – who moved to the area from Rieti, Italy in 2016 – are the new owners of 30 Walnut St., the former home of the Open Door Mission. Situated at the corner of Walnut and Lawrence streets, the small facility is fully outfitted with a commercial kitchen, from its years of service to the homeless. Now, Giovanni Fresco will use it to feed the public in a different way.
Until now, the Casanicas have cooked and prepped entirely out of commercial kitchens, weaving around other tenants and having to work by night in many cases. A facility they fully own means more space to cook for the food truck corral and farmer’s markets that make up their business. Currently, Giovanni Fresco also serves fresh pasta at markets in Troy, Schenectady and Saratoga – but the family wants to put more roots down in Glens Falls, with eyes on joining the Glens Falls Farmer’s Market in the coming months.
Home cooking finds its hometown
Why the dedication to the city? Glens Falls is where the warm welcome has been the loudest, and the customers the most passionate. Saratoga and Troy offered potential customers, but stiff competition from established Italian restaurants and vendors with a greater capacity. After two years of hard work and harder days, a breakthrough came from the north.
“We were at a breaking point. We even talked about going back to Italy,” Casanica recalled. “A fresh pasta bar was our new idea, and the Shirt Factory was the first to give us the chance. That was an immediate hit.”
At Giovanni Fresco’s first trip to the Shirt Factory, they packed supplies based on what had sold at their previous events – and they sold out in 45 minutes. The next week, they brought twice as much food, and sold out in an hour.
Before coming to an event, Francesca does most of the cooking – Giovanni works a full-time job in addition to the business. Once they arrive at the Shirt Factory, both are on their toes – she forming pasta dough into spaghetti, lasagna noodles, and more, while he boils pasta and keeps the pair’s four styles of arancini coming. For Giovanni Freco’s loyal customers, seeing the pasta get made is half the experience.
“We’ve had customers come to us and say ‘My Nona used to do this every Sunday, and she’s not around anymore,’ or they say ‘now I can show my kids how pasta is made,'” Casanica said. “Kids watch and think it’s a magic trick. That’s why Glens Falls.”
Currently, the Casanicas are getting ready for a busy summer season, meaning that for now, their new home will stay closed to the public, used as a commercial kitchen for the two of them – and, hopefully, an additional employee or two. In the fall, they hope to open shop more officially, selling fresh pasta, as well as fresh-frozen meals and items.
They know that Italian-American cuisine is its own beast, in ways that surprise some customers – like the fact that chicken parmigiana and Alfredo sauce have no place in Italian food culture. They plan to expand their menu in time, always letting customers know what foods are part of the American twist on their culture and cuisine – and what comes from their homeland.
“The name is Giovanni Fresco, and ‘fresco’ means fresh. We want everything to be fresh.”