Passion for Pasta

Morgan Hill chef shares his love of Italian cuisine

Tommy Palmer is the founder of Palmerino’s, a Morgan Hill-based cottage food operation. Photo courtesy of Tommy Palmer

Food for the Palmer family is a tradition that has been passed down through the generations.

Specifically, it was the spaghetti and meatballs cooked by longtime Morgan Hill resident Tommy Palmer’s grandmother that always brought the entire family together, sharing stories, making memories and celebrating life.

When his grandmother passed away in 2017, it set Palmer, a lifelong foodie and cook, onto a career path focused on Italian cuisine that he continues to pursue.

Palmer is the founder of Palmerino’s, a Morgan Hill-based cottage food operation that sells his hand-cooked pasta and offers in-home cooking classes.

“The backbone of my business is my grandma’s spaghetti and meatballs,” he said. “That’s the dish that’s been bringing my family together all these years. It’s the dish that basically pushed me into this career.”

Palmer envisions operating a storefront, selling his pasta and other products that make up Italian cuisine, where people can take them to their homes and create their own family memories.

But it’s proven to be a difficult process. Palmer said he’s approached many local building owners and pitched his idea to them. They all loved the concept, he said, but were hesitant with his lack of business experience and the fact that he was not a certified chef.

“After hearing that enough times, I decided to get a culinary certificate, with a focus on Italian food,” Palmer said. “What better place to learn than in Italy?”

After intense online research, Palmer enrolled in the Italian Culinary Institute in Staletti, Italy, under the tutelage of Chef John Nocita.

The intense course, which took place daily for 12 weeks, covered just about everything there is to learn about Italian cuisine: pastries, gelato making, wine pairings, meat curing and more. Palmer graduated from the course in April 2019.

“The amount of stuff we covered exceeded my expectations tenfold,” he said. “We really covered all the foundations that make up Italian cuisine. It was a heck of a time, that’s for sure.”

Now, Palmer is taking what he learned back home to Morgan Hill, in memory of his grandmother.

“She’s the one that solidified the culinary traditions in our family,” he said. “I wanted to pay honor to her by doing this.”

Palmer said he’s been fortunate to have many talented women in his family who have taught him how to cook. He added that he loves making things with his hands, as well as sharing his love of food with others. Hearing the feedback from those eating his food, especially when they say it reminds them of being back home, is a rewarding experience, Palmer said.

Palmerino’s pasta products available to purchase are vast: fettuccine, farfalle, tagliolini and of course, spaghetti, are just some of the offerings.

Palmer also provides in-home pasta making classes, where he provides the ingredients and the equipment. Afterwards, he’ll cook a dish using the pasta made by the attendees.

Even though he cooks pasta everyday, Palmer doesn’t consider himself a master of it. There is so much to learn, he said, adding that he is constantly working on ways to perfect his craft.

“Food is something I could be doing every single day and it still throws me surprises,” he said. “With food, I’m making something I personally love to eat. And I love to eat.”

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