When he was growing up in Newton, Phil Mastroianni never thought he’d be making limoncello or working in his father’s landscaping business. But that is how he now 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 per week a year-and-a-half ago to half and half with Fabrizia. It’s more time, no more just nights and weekends!”
Early on, Mastroianni was fascinated with the stock market. When he joined the Stock Market Club at and later did some actual investing while at , Mastroianni realized he had a talent. He followed through by pursuing an accounting degree at .
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 acknowledges 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 recounts. “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.”
But 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,” recalls Mastroianni. “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 (2008) we had shipped our first batch to a distributor in Massachusetts.”
So 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. But this didn’t give Mastroianni enough time to do make the beverage he had come to love.
Limoncello is made by taking the peel of the 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.
It was this singular focus that rapidly propelled Fabrizia to the top of the local limoncello market. In fact, in their sole non-New England market, Fabrizia is number two out of six limoncellos sold in Ohio. And this after less than 18 months in business and being the least expensive offering on the market.
Mastroianni is excited that his limoncello is sold in local stores like and . And he is also thrilled that many restaurants offer the beverage and that it can be used in recipes that even the non-drinking public can enjoy.
“An all natural limoncello like ours,” Mastroianni explains, “all of the flavor and color come 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 website. Anything you can do a reduction with, it works great.”
Now that brother Nick is involved in the business and also balances his time working for , Fabrizia is truly a family affair. In fact, as they began planning the release of a new product, their sister Jenna also found a way to get involved.
“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.”
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.”