‘We stick to our roots’: Local brothers grow their love for lemons into booming limoncello business

NEWTON, Mass. — Two brothers originally from Newton are keeping it fresh—and local. Relying on their roots, they started a business in their garage and it has grown so much that their biggest client is now Disney.

“It means to craft with your hands and to create,” said Nick Mastroianni, co-owner of Fabrizia Spirits.

Phil and Nick Mastroianni have always been hands-on in their family businesses--whether it was landscaping or making homemade sausages. So when they saw their cousins making limoncello in Italy---they tried it themselves in their parent’s garage.

“We just convinced all our cousins and aunts and uncles to come over and just get them to peel for a couple of days in a row and then eventually just stop picking up our phone calls because it was just very labor intensive,” said Nick.  “So very quickly we realized we needed to get extra help.”

And they also needed extra space.

“Everything’s made right here,” said Phil Mastroianni, co-owner of Fabrizia Spirits.

So they moved to this 12,000 square foot facility in Salem New Hampshire where they get shipments of lemons directly from Italy.

“The cost is the same, but the risks and the logistics of bringing over so many at once are just a lot higher,” said Phil.

“It’s all-natural that we’re not taking all these fake flavorings and these other ingredients try to blend it to cut costs,” said Nick. “You know, we try to stick to our roots of real juice, real fruit, and those are the most important things to us as a whole, as a company.”

When Phil and Nick were peeling lemons in their garage, they could do about 100 an hour. But that was tedious. And they wanted to ramp up production. So they went to Italy and got this machine. They named it Giuseppe. And Giuseppe can peel about a thousand lemons in one hour.

“Without this piece of equipment, we absolutely could not peel the nearly 1 million lemons that we process every year,” said Phil.

Even though it’s just the lemon peel that goes into limoncello--

“Everybody always thinks it’s going to be a lot more,” said Phil.  “But this. This packs a punch.”

Phil and Nick make sure they use every ounce of the fruit.

“We peel it, we juice it, and then even the leftover, we have a farm from Maine come and they take the lemon and they use it for biofuel so the whole lemon doesn’t get wasted,” said Nick.

The juice goes into other products they make—from canned cocktails to baked goods.

“Our best seller hands down is still the cookies,” said Phil.

When restaurant closures during the pandemic slowed spirit sales, Phil and Nick started the Fabrizia Lemon Baking Company—shipping lemon loaves, truffles and biscotti all infused with their limoncello.

“When you go from something so small as making batches in your parent’s garage to it now being proudly served at Disney World, you start to say, wait a minute, maybe we could dream even bigger,” said Phil. “So that’s been the most rewarding part of the whole thing. We never thought we’d get this far.”

The brothers cheer their success-- to the family.

“I feel very lucky I get to come to work every day and work with my brother,” said Nick.

“That’s definitely one of the things I enjoy the most,” said Phil.

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