Meet Noodle Lab’s Ally Lim-Gonzales, Metro Manila’s fresh pasta queen

Ally co-owns Noodle Lab, a Makati-based pastificio that makes fresh artisanal pasta that you can order with just a few clicks. 

We all love pasta. It’s one of those culinary traditions that is not our own but we have come to embrace as ours. 

We love it so much that we made some recipes our own—we added ketchup and hotdogs to spaghetti bolognese, and a splash of cream to carbonara.

While most of us are only familiar with pasta that’s store bought—and there’s nothing wrong with that—fresh pasta, trust me, is infinitely better.

Making it, though quite therapeutic, is time consuming and takes some time to master. Thankfully, we already have a few establishments that make fresh pasta that we can readily buy.

Leading the way is Noodle Lab, a Makati-based pastificio (literally “pasta factory” in English) which makes fresh artisanal pasta that you can order with just a few clicks. 

The Post interviewed one of its owners, Pasta Queen and entrepreneur Ally Lim-Gonzales, to know more about Noodle Lab from its pandemic beginnings to its present-day success. 

Ally Lim-Gonzales of Noodle Lab. Photos from Noodle Lab’s Instagram page

The Post: Could you tell us about the beginnings of Noodle Lab? What inspired you to start this business?

Ally Lim-Gonzales: In February 2020, right before the pandemic hit, we were in Tokyo taking a soba-making class. Afterwards, we were in a small alleyway after class and we were thinking, how cool would it be to make fresh soba in Manila and call it Noodle Lab? 

We flew back to Manila with bags of buckwheat flour in our suitcases, life took over and the idea was soon abandoned, all the flour expired! Haha! 

The pasta loving husband-and-wife tandem of Ally and Nico Gonzales own Noodle Lab.

Then the pandemic hit and a cousin asked us if she could buy the fresh pasta we had been posting on our IG stories as we had been making fresh pasta for dinner parties and special occasions in our home since 2018.  

The concept for the business morphed from soba to pasta. It spread via word of mouth and the business just took off on its own with no business plan, no logo, no capital.  

Nico, my husband, was making the pasta himself at first. Once Noodle Lab took off, his corporate work schedule couldn’t cope with the demand, so I took over operations for Noodle Lab. 

What was your career like before your Noodle Lab days?

Before Noodle Lab, I was in corporate marketing for 10 years. I was the marketing/events lead at Nike Philippines for Nike Running, Nike Women and Nike Sportswear and then country marketing manager for Indonesian startup SweetEscape after that.

My background and strength is really in marketing, events, and PR. So it came naturally to me to start off Noodle Lab with a strong brand identity and strong marketing plan.

The business ops and culinary side, I really just learned on the job at Noodle Lab as I had no experience running my own business (neither did my family) and had no formal culinary training.

From where do you trace your love for pasta?

Ever since I was a child, spaghetti was my favorite food.  It was always very exciting for me when I sat at the dinner table and the meal was spaghetti bolognese.  

Noodle Lab’s Herb and Flower Laminated Raviolo

My mom loved cooking pasta too so we had it very often. I don’t know if you believe in pinaglihi but my mom said when she was pregnant with me, she was always craving pasta. I guess you can say I was made using pasta! I can give up rice, but never pasta.

How did you learn how to make fresh pasta?

It was actually my husband Nico who first learned it. His language of love is cooking meals for me. So anything I crave, he will learn how to make it, everything from scratch.

He is not a professionally trained chef either, he is just really passionate about good food and quality ingredients. Since he knew my favorite food was pasta, he learned to make it from scratch by watching tons of YouTube videos, and then later on he taught me.  

They also have an Asian noodles line which has udon and ramen on the menu.

As Noodle Lab grew, I wanted to make more complicated types of pasta, so I emailed chefs in Europe and the US and they trained me over Zoom during the pandemic. After that, I had the basics so I just kept practicing, experimenting, innovating.

What are your current offerings at Noodle Lab?

We have five main categories: Hand Cut Laminated Egg Pasta (tagliatelle, pappardelle, squid ink spaghetti), Bronze Extruded Pasta (campanelle, bucatine, mafaldine, fusilli), Filled Pasta (ravioli, tortelloni, egg yolk raviolo), Gnocchi (potato, ricotta, and stuffed gnocchi), and we have also launched our Asian Noodles line starting with udon and ramen noodles.  

We have almost 200 SKU’s with different types of doughs, shapes, and fillings.

What are Noodle Lab’s specialties? Your customers’ favorites?

Our Egg Yolk Raviolo really helped boost our popularity and it really propelled our business growth because it’s so unique and hard to make/replicate.  You can barely find it anywhere else, and in the format in which we sell it. You can cook it at home to serve fresh and impress your guests. It’s really a show stopper. 

Truffle Egg Yolk Raviolo

When it comes to our customers’ favorites, egg tagliatelle is still our number one bestseller year-round as it’s the entry product into the world of fresh pasta, as well as Black Truffle Porcini Ravioli. 

How do you come up with your menu? Can you walk us through the process of conceptualization?

We decided that we needed to have all the classics mastered first like spaghetti, tagliatelle, etc. As I mastered each filled pasta shape, we slowly added more to the menu.  

In terms of fillings, we like to launch a new filling every two months or so. We like to keep our customers excited with new flavors and options to add to their dinner tables. We decide first based on availability of authentic ingredients. We make sure we have the correct, freshest and most authentic version of the ingredient that the recipe calls for. We make sure it’s in season as well. After we R&D for weeks, we launch it when we are happy and in love with the product.  

Noodle Lab has almost 200 SKU’s with different types of doughs, shapes, and fillings.

Sometimes, we will be watching a travel video or cooking with a certain ingredient and inspiration just strikes! We usually talk about our dream fillings and shapes late into the night.  Conversations usually go like this, “What if we could have a giant ravioli, with all the elements of carbonara inside it already? A self-saucing ravioli?”  

Our late night brainstorming and ideas go wild, but they do usually end up on the menu after a lot of refining.  Also, we like to sell products that we ourselves crave. So a lot of the things you will see on the menu are my and my husband’s cravings! 

What is your favorite pasta dish? Why?

Nothing beats a well executed authentic carbonara made with guanciale, eggs, pecorino, parmigiano, and pepper. My favorite pasta shape to pair with this is bucatini.

What is your favorite pasta shape? Why?

For hand cut egg laminated pasta, sopressini, because they are small, can trap sauce in its pockets, but at the same time still delicate. The shape is so unique and you can really feel a lot of effort has gone into shaping it. It also goes well with so many sauces.

For bronze extruded pasta, mafaldine, because it’s hearty, can pick up a lot of sauce and the mouthfeel with the ruffled edges is incredible.

For filled pasta, Carbonara Egg Yolk Raviolo because it’s so indulgent and I am a guanciale addict!

Ally dreams of putting up a brick and mortar fresh pasta deli someday.

What are your plans for Noodle Lab in the coming months/years?

We have been slowly but surely expanding our B2B business, supplying restaurants and chefs with fresh pasta creations customized to their specifications.  We want the commissary to grow into that.  

Right now, people order online, we make the fresh pasta at our commissary and they pick up the pre-ordered pasta from us. But I also dream of putting up a brick and mortar fresh pasta deli someday where you can walk in and browse what fresh pasta and provisions you want to buy.

For more immediate plans, we have been doing a lot of pop-ups and supper clubs, doing five course fresh pasta tasting menus.  I have been seeing there’s a lot of interest in our fresh pasta and the dishes we make with it.  

Without revealing too much, expect to be able to dine in with us soon on a regular basis.

To order from Noodle Lab, click on this link or send them a message on Instagram.

The new lifestyle.