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Although heavy equipment mixing ingredients at pre-dawn hours sounds like a bakery, it's actually pasta dough the three young owners are stirring at Bayside's Graziano Ravioli - dough that two other machines will then mold and spit out as linguini to be a bed for meatballs or a sponge for white sauce; ziti to bake beneath a blanket of melted mozzarella; or ravioli to stuff with ricotta cheese, lobster meat or ground beef.Co-owner Jeff Santo, 24, dips a container into a caldron of homemade tomato sauce, seals it and adds it to the 50 or so others piled on the table, ready to be trucked out to some of the 100 or so various restaurants, caterers and delis throughout the city.In the front room, sausages, aged cheese and salad ingredients are displayed behind a glass counter. A customer on his lunch break curses when he sees there are no chicken cutlet Parmesans left and orders three sausage ones instead.Graziano makes around 1,000 boxes of ravioli each week from its tidy "factory" in the back. And that's only one of about 40 different pasta items served either wholesale or by retail from the pasta factory/Italian deli at 215-19 39th Ave., which opened in January.With only three youthful Italians running the show, the workload can be a bit daunting."In truth, it's a lot tougher than I expected, going from being a college kid to the end all be all of this," said Mike Silvestri, 27, a former Queens College student who bought the original Graziano store in Flushing about five years ago after that many years of working for its owner. "But the work I do I love, once you get past the hours."As the new boss, Silvestri recruited his younger brother, Eric, out of his first year at Queensborough College. Then about a year ago, around the time he was looking to move to Bayside to spike his retail sales, Silvestri brought in his third partner, Santo, who played baseball with Eric at Holy Cross High School."These guys are showing me the ropes," Santo said, pointing toward the other two while sealing the last of the sauce containers. Standing together sporting baseball hats and five 'o'clock shadows, the three owners could easily have been brothers in a fraternity nursing a hangover.Instead, they were running a streamline business, with Mike Silvestri in charge of the accounts and production, Eric Silvestri prepping ingredients in back and Santo working the counter up front. It's an operation they hope to expand into a retail chain soon, with their factory hub mixing 65-year-old recipes in Bayside."I snatched him out of college," Mike Silvestri said, nodding toward his brother. The two live a block from each other in Bayside. "Some brother, huh? Well, we'll see in 10 years."Reach reporter Zach Patberg by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.
©2005 Community Newspaper Group
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