Meet Auroville: Antonello from Gastronomica

Antonello is from Italy and came the first time to Auroville 20 years ago. He is a trained therapist for several massage techniques. After practicing his profession he turned to crafting pasta, bread and pizza for a living. He lives in Auroville with his family.

How did you end up in Auroville?
The first time I came to Auroville was around 20 years ago to learn about Ayurvedic massage. I spend one month here and I said “I will never ever return”.  Somehow I returned every year after that until in 2014 I stayed. I made a big shift in my life. The first two years I gave therapeutic massages to fellow Aurovilians, for free I have to mention, until I did not have any money left to live on. I was not sustainable so something needed to change. I had always cooked so why not do it professionally? In 2016 I started to manage a small restaurant at Joy Guest House in Auroville with my friends, it was called “Dolce Vita”. We had pasta and pizza night and many other happenings., we had to close after seven months because some neighbors complained. I learned so much during this period about business and the reality in Auroville.

When did you start Gastronomica? What was your inspiration to start it?
We started in April 2018. I had a pizza oven at home making pizzas and pastas for friends. So at some point the demand increased so much that I thought, why not take this commercial? My kitchen at home was tiny and not suitable for larger productions so I started looking for a place.  I found this great spot opposite the bakery in January 2019 and here I am. The gardener from my home helped me to set up and somewhere along the lines I started teaching him how to make bread and pasta. From January till July I experimented a lot with what kind of pasta people like to eat, I got a lot of feedback and experimented. Now it is a mixture that everyone likes,  even the Italians and Indians.

Why pasta and bread?
Twenty years ago when I came to Auroville for the first time I wanted to eat pasta. I asked around because I could not find it. Everyone told me that “we don’t have pasta here..” and my thought was one day I will come back and make pasta even though I never wanted to come back…
For me to realize this now that I make what I thought I would do 19 years ago is incredible. It is soothing special but for me the circle closed.

How is it to run a start up in Auroville? What are your challenges?
The main challenge is to be honest that there is very little support. There are some people in Auroville who have financial means and if you are close to them, you can get support, if not then it is very tough. So many people told me that my idea is very nice but nobody wanted to invest.
I want to be self sustainable, I do not want to be in the position that I need to ask for help from the community to support me and my family. I started out with this venture because after all these years of giving things for free I needed to make money so I can survive. And now I have a profitable business and I am so happy.
But starting off was tough. You buy one oven, you wait until you have some money. You buy a fridge, you wait until you have funds again and so on. Slowly  I collected my tools.

What do you love about your work?
I love to see the people happy when they come back and tell me they liked the products I made.
I work hard on improving the recipes and products to have a great taste and quality. If I reach a level where I sell so much high quality pasta that I can survive I am very satisfied.

How does a typical day look like for you?
I get up at 4 am and I come to the kitchen to make bread. At 8 am I stop for an hour to have my breakfast. I need to take time to have my coffee. Like today we made almost 300 breads. We were done at 1pm and after we had to clean. We wanted to make pasta after but I postponed it to tomorrow.
On normal days I am in the kitchen till 6 or 7 pm, so my days are long…

What is your vision for Gastronomica? What is next?
When I think about my activity in Auroville, I want to spread my pasta and one could say my ego all over India fast. On the other hand because of the place where we are living I can feel that I can go far but with development. I want to do well. 

Living in Auroville means to you…
When I came here, I thought this is a place where everyone is sharing and closely knit to each other. At some point I realized that we are not this kind of community. The spiritual work is very personal, it is very deeply in every single person. Connect with yourself first and make yourself happy, then this is something you bring into the community. But the community is not a “happy” one. I did not find what I was looking for when I came here… I found something with more value. The vision of Auroville is so different to what you might see around but to connect with the vision is so much more powerful. To step back and connect with your inner being, to connect with the real way of Auroville and the reason one is here is very important to me.