Michael Marino and Jorge Moret came to the food business from the design world—Marino has a furniture design background and Moret is a graphic designer—and pursued it from a desire to create something tangible. "We were tired of jobs where we weren't making anything," Marino explained. "We wanted to bring something to market."
Inspired by the Sunday dinners of Marino's youth and the old-country cooking of his Nonna Carolina, they started Spicy 'n Sweet. They named the company for the two flavor profiles they'd pursue with their as-local-as-possible tomato sauces. Nonna's Sweet Sauce includes carrots and sweet bell pepper, while the Spicy Sauce adds chili peppers, capers, and olives for more kick. The latest product in the line, Nonna's (Spicy) Red Pesto, is nut- and dairy-free, made with sun-dried tomatoes instead of the fresh New Jersey varieties used in the other sauces.
Their site includes recipes for using the sauces in some unexpected ways, like ratatouille or sloppy joes; some recipes include videos of Nonna Carolina cooking. "Tomato sauce is very, very versatile," Marino explains, "We want to see people using it in different ways. Pasta is the obvious answer, but it is in fact a condiment. You can use it with vegetables, mashed potatoes, or in a bloody mary."
They'll be putting more videos on the site in the coming months, including—here is were the design sensibility comes in—some tutorials for reusing the empty glass jars.
This next few months bring exciting developments for Marino and Moret, as they tend their own urban garden at Nonna's place on Staten Island. They'll be growing herbs for their sauces once the summer starts, and they'll begin selling at the New Amsterdam Market. For a full list of markets where they sell and shops and sites that stock their products, visit their site.
About the author: Stephanie Klose has more mustard than you. You can follow her on twitter at @sklose.