Locally-grown ingredients like 100% New Jersey vine-ripened tomatoes, extra virgin olive oil, and aromatic herbs bring out flavors reminiscent of home-cooked meals from Mama's kitchen. Or in this case, Nonna's kitchen.
City Saucery is a modern family business based in Staten Island. Inspired by his Nonna' Carolina and her Calabrian roots, Michael Marino and his partner Jorge Moret started the business to share their love for delicious and real food- devoid of GMOs, chemical additives, or preservatives.
With Nonna at the core of their product, Michael and Jorge have packaged the same fresh home-cooked goodness that Nonna creates in the kitchen into jars of beautifully-designed handcrafted tomato sauces—to much success.
They are now one of seven finalists in our Taste of NYC: Fancy Food Fellowship, sponsored by NYCEDC and the Specialty Food Association. (They were also one of our Fall 2014 Crains New York trade show scholarship winners!)
Through the Fellowship, City Saucery has a chance to share its unique and healthy line of tomato sauces at this year’s Summer Fancy Food Show, where over 22,000 buyers from more than 100 countries will converge to view top-of-the-line specialty food products.
We spoke to co-founder Jorge about how the business got its start.
How did City Saucery begin?
It all started in the Spring of 2011.
My partner Michael and I were not happy with our respective career paths in advertising and design. Michael's mom (aka Nonna Carolina) started cooking at a local restaurant where she showcased her incredible skills as a home cook with delicious and unique dishes from her native region of Calabria, Italy. She quickly acquired a following, which led to Michael and I promoting her dishes on social media with local classes and demonstrations. We would teach people ancient techniques on handcrafting and preserving foods and jar small samples of her homemade fresh tomato sauces as a takeaway.Interest grew exponentially from there, so we saw potential in Nonna's sauces.
After some research and invaluable help from the Entrepreneur Space, we started getting our first wholesale accounts that September and our company was officially born!
Did you have any culinary or business experience to help get City Saucery started?
The 'power of three' has been invaluable to us and is the core of our company. Nonna's Italian upbringing, plus her amazing skills and intuition in the kitchen; my long-time experience in graphic design and advertising; and Michael's design background and vision have all been invaluable during our company’s growth.
We've designed all our labels, logo, branding, and built our website as well as handled all photography. This has not only allowed us complete creative control in all aspects of our manufacturing, but it has also saved us thousands of dollars in outsourcing fees.
What are some of the major obstacles you face in your day-to-day operations?
Infrastructure is a major obstacle.
Not having all our operations under the same roof means we currently travel between three different boroughs constantly and NYC traffic is no easy challenge. Distribution is another big challenge when your product is heavy to ship and relatively fragile, requiring additional freight costs.
What role does your local community play?
The support of our local NYC community has been crucial to our growth. Local farmers markets have not only given us the initial platform to present our products and build brand awareness, but have, up to this day, successfully helped us grow our following and bring our products to local independent shops and large specialty retailers.
Any fun facts about City Saucery?
A lot of people think 'Nonna' (meaning grandmother) is a fictitious or symbolic name for our products. Little do they know that she is not just a real Italian grandmother (of five), she's City Saucery's ‘sauce boss’, inspiration, and a real spark plug in the kitchen! Standing at only five feet tall, she has a little step-stool to reach over the stove and a three-foot wooden spoon to stir her sauce—and you better not mess with her sauce!