In the US, it seems like there’s only two ways to really get good pasta. You can go visit your parents for a nice homecooked meal, which is honestly the best. But there’s no such thing as a quick bite there, you’ll get roped into conversation and chores and next thing you know your afternoon or evening has vanished on you. Alternately, you could go to that Italian restaurant downtown, but the prices are pretty high, and you’re gonna spend a few hours getting there, getting seated, and eating.

Why does eating pasta have to be a four-hour ordeal? You have a craving, but you don’t need to make your entire evening about it. You have things to do.

If you’re in Philadelphia, Daniel Lee’s Farina Pasta and Noodles has you covered. Just like Chipotle lets you build your own burrito, and Subway lets you build your own sandwich, Farina lets you choose a quality handmade pasta shape, sauce, and topping, so you can fully satisfy that craving without breaking your budget or your evening plans.

Daniel’s Military Service

Daniel Lee served four years in the US Army from 2011 to 2015 as an EOD Tech at Fort Stewart, Georgia. While he enlisted out of New jersey with the idea of deploying overseas to do his part in the US’s ongoing conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, he ended up remaining stateside his entire enlistment, separating as a Specialist (E-4). Of course, with his skillset, being stateside did not mean being idle.

Between 2011-2015 (read the US Bomb Data Center Explosive Incident Report here) the US experienced somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 explosive recovery incidents, 2,000-5,000 suspicious package reports, and 500-700 hoax explosive device incidents every year. Fort Stewart’s proximity to the Port of Savannah meant that Daniel saw his share of fieldwork—detonating unexploded ordnance and responding to suspicious package calls in the region.

Entrepreneurial Spirit

After his time in the Army, Daniel enrolled at Drexel University’s culinary arts program. In 2018, he took a pasta-making class at Drexel, and started to wonder why most quality pasta-focused restaurants were for higher-priced fine dining. Where were all the great casual handmade pasta restaurants at reasonable price points? The more he investigated, the more he began to believe had stumbled into a sizable unfilled restaurant niche.

It wasn’t long after that class that Daniel studied pasta making overseas in Italy, pursuing his vision. He started with a food truck concept, but partnering with the wrong person led to setbacks, and the idea eventually collapsed. Then the pandemic hit, and by March of 2020, the city of Philadelphia was completely shut down, and opening a new restaurant seemed unthinkable.

However, Daniel found a way. He re-launched his pasta and noodle concept as a food delivery service fulfilling orders in the Philadelphia area through GrubHub, UberEats, and DoorDash. He cooked the food in a “ghost kitchen,” an apartment building where tenants rent commercial kitchens that have no dining facilities. While the ghost kitchen gained some real traction and proved demand for his tasty product, the meal delivery services took 30-45% of his earnings, making his envisioned price points unsustainable.

Connecting With Bunker Labs

Daniel knew about Bunker Labs early in his time at Drexel University, and even attended a few events with the idea that he’d be a business owner at some point in his culinary career. However, it was during Farina Pasta and Noodle LLC’s transition from ghost kitchen to brick and mortar dine-in restaurant that he finally enrolled in our Veterans in Residence Program (ViR) and joined the 21B cohort.

During his time in ViR, Daniel connected with experts who were able to give him critical advice during that transition from the ghost kitchen to a dine-in location. Bunker Labs helped Daniel get his marketing concept up and running, and gave him help looking over leasing contracts. Daniel also learned about budgeting his business for the year to account for seasonable swings in customers, and ideas for additional revenue streams to help get through the lean months.

Learn more about how Daniel transitioned Farina Pasta and Noodle from a ghost kitchen to a brick and mortar shop during Covid on Bunker Lab’s Office Hours LIVE show that aired October 26, 2021.

“Bunker Labs has been pretty instrumental in how my business started and the growth up until now.”

-Daniel Lee

Farina Pasta and Noodle

Next Steps

Farina Pasta and Noodle’s first dine-in location has been an enormous success, and Daniel recently celebrated the location’s one-year anniversary this past September. He was also a Bunker Labs Impact Award nominee in June of 2022, recognizing his success and contributions to his community. He also pitched on the most recent episode of Veteran Shark Tank along with three other Bunker Labs cohort members. He also has gotten featured in media, including CBS Philadelphia, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and even a social media video feature on the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers social media. Daniel continues to learn and optimize his current location, most recently by adding a customer rewards program. Ultimately, he’d like to expand Farina Pasta and Noodle throughout the tristate area and beyond, and is looking to close on a second location toward the end of this year.

Veteran Shark Tank Finalists

It’s Your Turn

Start accelerating your own entrepreneurial journey today with Bunker Labs! Fill out an interest form for our Veterans in Residence Program to grow your regional network and face the challenges of entrepreneurship alongside fellow veteran and military spouse entrepreneurs. Bunker Labs’ Breaking Barriers in Entrepreneurship workshop is also accepting interest forms for its Asian, Black, Latinx, and women cohorts, which explore the unique challenges of running a business for those from traditionally underserved demographics. Start changing the trajectory of your business today and fill out an interest form!