What sets the brand apart from others, according to company officials, is that the sauce is cooked entirely on premise in the Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, restaurant—from scratch, using fresh ingredients that are prepped, sautéed and blended by hand in the restaurant kitchen, with no additives or preservatives of any kind.
The sauces use simple ingredients—imported tomatoes from Italy, fresh herbs and spices, garlic or onion and olive oil. The result is six distinct flavors including Marinara, Tomato Basil, Filetto di Pomodoro, Puttanesca, Arrabbiata and the newest, Home Style Gravy.
The line of sauces were developed in response to consumer demand. Patrons were asking to take the sauce home with them, so the restaurant began sending regular customers home with a small batch. As the demand continued to grow, John Cacace, the restaurant’s chef, suggested it was time to jar it in shelf-stable containers and make it available for wholesale purchase.
The sauce you can buy today in gourmet markets and groceries across the U.S. follows the same recipes that Michael Cacace, the restaurant’s founder, followed that have been in his family for generations.
The classic Marinara is made with just garlic, olive oil, tomato, basil and oregano, ideal for spaghetti or as the basic sauce in your lasagna or parmigiana recipes. The fresh Tomato and Basil is fresh tomatoes enlightened by lots of fresh basil; Filetto di Pomodoro combines prosciutto and onions, fresh basil, olive oil and spices and Puttanesca is a heady combination of hand cut green and black olives, anchovies, capers, parsley, basil and spices. Arrabbiata is for those who like it hot, cooked with hot peppers, fresh basil, olive oil, parsley and spices, and Home Style Gravy, the most recent sauce to be placed in a jar, has a thicker base, made from ground tomatoes instead of crushed and sweet caramelized onions instead of roasted garlic, without any meat.
Michaels of Brooklyn sauces are distributed nationally, sold in economical 32-ounce jars that are 33% larger than most brands (and generously feed a family of four).
Michaels first opened in 1964 as a small pizzeria (just a pizza oven and four tables) by Michael Cacace, and gradually grew into a Neapolitan restaurant. It then took over more space, evolving into the fine dining Southern Italian restaurant and bakery it is today. Cacace left the restaurant in the hands of his sons, John, who oversees the kitchen and is the chef, Fred, who manages the front of the house and day-to-day operation, and Michael, who heads up the wholesale business.