Some say that the borough’s manufacturing base is withering, but one Brooklyn small business is 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 passed, they saw an opportunity and began packaging the stuff in shelf-stable jars.
Now gourmands can get the restaurant’s gravy (actual, brown gravy), marinara, puttanesca and arrabbiata from grocers such as Fairway, Eli’s, and Whole Foods Market.
Michael’s 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 is 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 is piped into jars via a filling machine. The cooks then pop on a lid, label the jars, and let them cool.
The production team can turn out 280 cases of sauce in one day — that is 3,400 32-oz. jars — said manager Joe Cosenza.
Soon that output may quadruple. The company is investing in machinery to automate the process, allowing the restaurant to make around 1,000 cases a day, or roughly 3,000 gallons of the red stuff, Cacace said.
Automating production will not burn the 12 sauce-makers Michael’s employs, though. The company will actually take on more workers to keep up with production, Cacace said.
“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 could not be happier to have the team aboard.
“They are a true Brooklyn success story,” said Brooklyn Chamber president Carlo Scissura. “They are Brooklyn.”