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Michael’s of Brooklyn sells its authentic pasta sauces nationwide

Borough institution selling its pasta sauce nationwide

Brooklyn Daily
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Some people may say that the borough’s manufacturing base is withering, but one Brooklyn small business in looking to expand production.

Michael’s of Brooklyn, the iconic Sheepshead Bay restaurant, sells its signature, home-style pasta sauces nationwide, giving people across the country a little taste of old Brooklyn, while promoting the borough’s brand with an authentically local product.

“There are sauces out there that have Brooklyn in the name, but they’re made in Jersey,” said co-owner Fred Cacace. “Brooklyn has a certain cachet to it.”

The half-century-old, family-run restaurant first dove into the sauce-selling game four years ago and began by marketing locally.

For years, the Cacaces sent patrons home with take-out containers of their famous sauces, but as time went on, they saw an opportunity and began packaging the stuff in shelf-stable jars.

Now gourmands can get the restaurant’s gravy, marinara, puttanesca and arrabbiata from grocers like Fairway, Eli’s, and Whole Foods.

In fact, its products are available coast to coast — and they even have Texans saying ‘fugheddabo­udit.’

“Texas is one of our largest markets,” Cacace said.

The restaurant’s cooks make everything on-site at the Avenue R restaurant. The production is not complicated, but that’s what makes the product so good, Cacace said.

“It’s simple,” he said. “It’s the way you would make it at home.”

Workers cook hundreds of pounds of imported Italian tomatoes in three 80-gallon kettles, adding olive oil, garlic, herbs, and other ingredients, depending on the sauce. When the mixture is done, it’s piped into jars via a filling machine. Then the cooks pop on a lid, label the jars, and let them cool. In a day the production team can turn out 280 cases of sauce — that’s 3,400 32-oz. jars — said manager Joe Cosenza.

Soon that output may quadruple. Cacace said the company is investing in machinery to automate the sauce-making process, allowing the restaurant to make around 1,000 cases a day — roughly 3,000 gallons of the red stuff.

Automating production won’t burn the 12 people Michael’s employs making the sauce, tough. Cacace said the company will actually take on more workers to keep up with production.

“The object is to make more sauce, not get rid of people,” he said.

Anticipating an even heftier output, Michael’s is joining the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, and the organization’s president said he couldn’t be happier.

“They are a true Brooklyn success story,” said Brooklyn Chamber president Carlo Scissura. “They are Brooklyn.”

Reach reporter Max Jaeger at mjaeger@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-8303. Follow him on Twitter @MJaeger88.
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