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The Dream-Come-True Story Behind Pasta Corner

Pasta Corner now has locations in Los Angeles, Paris, and New York City, serving fresh pasta to go, composed plates to stay, with a small market and some big star power. Co-founder Vincent Benoliel explains how he and his French pop star partner, M. Pokora, brought it to life.

11:00 AM EST on November 14, 2023

Vincent Benoliel and Matt Pokora

(From left): Vincent Benoliel and Matt Pokora, co-owners of Pasta Corner, at the NYC location. Photo: Francesco Sapienza

Vincent Benoliel has a knack for being in the right place at the right time—even when times are tough. During the pandemic, the French baker and businessperson was sitting at his bakery, Michelina, at the Original Farmers Market in Los Angeles, with his friend M. Pokora, when an opportunity presented itself. The landlord for the space stopped by the table to tell Benoliel that Covid shutdowns had created some vacancies in the market: Would he like another space for a new concept with generous rent terms due to the pandemic?

Benoliel had been telling Pokora — the well-known French pop music and TV star whose wife is the American actress and model Christina Milian — about his idea for a restaurant and pasta shop where workers would make fresh pasta within view of patrons. He says that the two decided then and there to go for it. Pasta Corner soon opened in LA, then they found locations in Midtown Manhattan and Paris for a quick expansion. All three are now serving full menus of fresh pastas with traditional sauces, as well as wines, charcuterie boards, and more. 

Lumache vodka sauce
Lumache in pink vodka sauce from Pasta Corner. Photo: Francesco Sapienza

It’s a remarkable feat to open one new restaurant, let alone three, each at least 3,000 miles apart from each other, in two years. So why’d he do it?

“I’m very superstitious,” Benoliel tells me over coffee at the most recent Pasta Corner to open, a few blocks from Manhattan landmarks like Radio City Music Hall and the Museum of Modern Art. He’s explaining to me that he’s decided to take chances on his businesses—seeing signs in fateful situations and betting big on them. Pasta Corner wasn’t the first time he’d done so, nor was it the first time he had succeeded.

Benoliel started his culinary business career in Miami, after moving there from France in the early aughts. His father was a real estate developer in South Florida, and discouraged his son from joining the family business at the time because the market had suffered a prolonged downturn after 9/11. The younger Benoliel turned to hospitality, opening a restaurant in Coral Gables, then expanding to South Beach and elsewhere. He created a commercial baking business, Le Macaron, that took off, with eventual clients including Disney and Air France. He had several locations of his French restaurant and lounge Le Boudoir. But he and his wife decided that Miami wasn’t where they wanted to raise their children. Benoliel began selling his businesses and briefly moved the family back to France to plot their next move. Then, while traveling in Thailand, he received a call. 

“A friend of mine in L.A. says, ‘I’m calling you because I think there’s a deal for you here. A bakery is going bankrupt and you could take over.’” Benoliel stopped to see the space and soon, he and his family were moving to LA. 

Photo area with shot of Central Park and neon sign reading It was all a dream
The selfie area in the back of Pasta Corner NYC. Photo: Francesco Sapienza

Benoliel says that the Original Farmers Market board of directors embraced him from the start. “They said they wanted a French guy who does bread and speaks with a thick French accent,” he says, laughing. “I did a meeting with the board—it’s a big operation—and one of the bosses comes to me after my speech and says, ‘I didn’t understand a word of what you just said, but I loved it!’”

This bread-baking guy with the thick French accent—which he hasn’t shed even after two decades living in the States—is now a player in the pasta game. Pasta Corner has exceeded his expectations, he says, with each location taking on a life of its own. In LA at the market, lines form as shoppers vie for a chance to grab a plate of cacio e pepe, spinach ravioli, or a signature lumache in pink vodka sauce. In Paris, Benoliel says, patrons flock to the 6th arrondissement Pasta Corner in large part to dine at a restaurant owned by Pokora, whose French pop songs are staples on the radio and have streamed tens of millions of times on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music. (He's currently on a six-week tour of large theaters and arenas across France.) The NYC location of Pasta Corner, which opened this summer, is something of an anomaly in Midtown Manhattan. It’s an affordable dining-out option for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, in a neighborhood whose restaurants include the most luxurious tables in New York, including Le Bernardin and The Modern. 

Truffle Tagliatelle
Truffle Tagliatelle at Pasta Corner. Photo: Jonathan Young

As such, Benoliel says he’s been surprised to find such a robust business that ranges from after-work crowds coming for glasses of wine and cheese and charcuterie plates, to a lunch rush where guests either dine in or order from digital kiosks for takeaway. The long, narrow space has a counter with a glass case that features the freshly made pastas, baked goods, and items like chocolate bars and bottles of Pasta Corner-branded extra virgin olive oil. It features a line of tables to accommodate dine-in guests as well as a nook outfitted with Instagram-friendly art. Speaking of which, a small space in the back is designed for guests to take selfies, with a floor-to-ceiling photo capturing the expanse of Central Park, a wooden swing, a pay phone, and a neon sign reading “It was all a dream.” 

Speaking with Benoliel, it’s easy to imagine him placing the order for that neon sign based on his own accomplishments and experiences. He’s managed to build and grow businesses in South Florida, pick up and move to LA, where besides opening Michelina and Pasta Corner, he also created a popular creperie in the Original Farmers Market, The French Crepes. And he’s expanded Pasta Corner to Paris and New York—achieving a trifecta that few restaurateurs have managed.

Art on a wall
Art on the walls at Pasta Corner in NYC. Photo: Francesco Sapienza

The only question that remains to ask Benoliel, really, is why he chose pasta as a medium after a career spent creating delicious croissants, baguettes, and macarons—closer to his French heritage than the Italian staple he now focuses on. He seems amused by the question, replying, “Because everybody loves it!”

fresh pasta
Fresh pasta at Pasta Corner. Photo: Jonathan Young

Then, elaborating, he notes that he sees pasta as versatile, mostly lighter than the typical French cuisine. Plus, he says, “I always thought about fresh pasta. When I started, there was no concept where you could go to a restaurant, see a guy making fresh tagliatelle, and then order a plate of fresh tagliatelle.” 

Should he and Pokora open another Pasta Corner, perhaps his next neon sign should read, “Give the people what they want.”


Visit pastacorner.com for locations and menus, and follow @pastacorner_us for events, specials, and more information.

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