Meet A Local Monday| Michael Marino
Growing up in Brooklyn, NY with a masterful Italian cook for a mother, Michael Marino wanted to share the Calabrian flavors that he enjoyed throughout his upbringing with America. Together with his mother, Nonna + his partner Jorge, Michael started City Saucery.
What Inspired You To Start Your Company?
My mom (aka Nonna Carolina) was cooking at a local restaurant and I wanted to document her new journey. It went from creating her a Facebook page to scheduling cooking demos/classes around NYC. At these classes, we would pair the food with my mom's home made sauces and people just fell in love with the flavors. They couldn't believe they were eating fresh tomato sauce. My mom's artistry in the kitchen definitely inspired the company.
Tell us about your products.
Nonna's Spicy Sauce 'tomato sauce with a kick' is inspired by my mom's region Calabria in Italy. It's the spiciest region in all of Italy. They love their chili peppers and they use it on pretty much everything. Even their honey. We wanted to highlight that unique regional fact with our first product.
Nonna's Sweet Sauce 'tomato sauce with a kiss' is basically our simplest. It's the perfect go-to for people who do not want any heat at all. We call it "sweet" because of the naturally sweet ingredients we use. We DO NOT use any added refined sugars in our sauces at all the way most other tomato sauce products do in the USA.
Nonna's Smoky Sauce 'tomato sauce, smok'd' is inspired by the mountainous Calabrian region where smoking foods is not uncommon at all. It's never been done before with a tomato sauce in the USA, so why not bring that to market and give people something to really bring home for dinner? It's one of our top sellers.
Nonna's Spicy Pesto 'not your typical pesto' was inspired by traditional 'nduja. A pork spread from Calabria. The twist is it's vegetarian and we use only fresh habanero peppers that we grow ourselves. It's both a tomato spread and a flavor enhancer for most dishes that need some umami. A top seller at farmers markets always.
What Does “Artisan” Mean To You?
Artisan to me means a skilled maker. Someone who loves to use their hands and make things. An artist and visionary. Unfortunately today, the word is losing it's meaning because of the bigger companies who are cashing in on it by smacking the words "handcrafted" and "artisan" onto their NOT-AT-ALL handcrafted or artisanal products. The food industry in this country has been running a very false marketing campaign for decades but that soon will come to an end.
What is your favorite artisanal treat?
That's tough. So many out there right now. Polvilho stands out. They're these crunchy handcrafted Brazilian 'cheese puffs' made with yuca and coconut oil made by our friends at Polvilho Bakery here in NY. So addictive!
What Drew You To Food?
My childhood. My Italian parents raised me and my siblings with food that they understood and grew themselves right in our Brooklyn yard. This was normal in the neighborhood I grew up in. Everyone did it. I was surrounded by conversations, debates about food daily. We all had fig trees in our yards. In Brooklyn!
Where Does Your Food Inspiration Come From?
A combination of growing up in NYC and spending lots of time in Calabria. Growing up in the city exposed me to many different cuisines that I would have never tasted at my parents' dinner table. So, that made me very curious about the world in general. Spending summers in Calabria exposed me to a very specific regional cuisine that I would never have experienced even in Rome. My relatives' in Italy are stocked with provisions for years that they've handcrafted themselves. This is the way they know. This had a huge impact for me.
What Person, Living Or Dead, Would You Most Like To Have Try Your Product?
My great-grandmother, Bisnonna Fuda. She taught my mom how to cook.
What’s The Best Piece Of Advice You’ve Gotten In Building Your Business? What Advice Would You Give Other Artisans?
To have fun with it and approach every project one at a time (because there are just too many). My advice is to be consistent and VERY persistent.
What Other Local Food Artisans or Chefs Do You Admire?
Chef Dan Barber. What he's doing at Stone Barns in NY is just great.
If You Had To Choose Your Last Meal, What Would It Be?
First: Pasta with a spicy oil based sauce with tomatoes and olives. Loaf of rustic bread. Second: my mom's braised lamb with rosemary roasted potatoes. Wine: Cannanou riserva. Dessert: strong cup of espresso and a brioche stuffed with gelato.
Favorite Restaurant or Food Experience?
Lunches at home. In elementary school, my sister and I would go home for lunch. In our wine cellar (that was our cafeteria) was always a lunch bag waiting for us that my mom/dad had prepared. I always wanted McDonalds to be in that bag, but it never was. My parents absolutely forbade fast food. This definitely had an impact on my perception about real food growing up.
What’s Do You Enjoy Doing Outside of the Kitchen?
Photography. Design. Taking trips with my partner in crime, business and life, Jorge Moret. We share a lot of the same hobbies so it's easy to select a destination.
What’s Your Favorite Kitchen Soundtrack?