Mia Cucina Sauces Have Famous Family Connections

Newark-born John Celentano of Little Egg Harbor was the first in New Jersey to create sauce from all-Jersey tomatoes for a huge-scale marketplace. (Image by Ryan Morrill)
His buddy named him “Maestro” for the way he orchestrated the ingredients to 100-gallon batches of marinara sauces.
Newark-born John Celentano of Tiny Egg Harbor was the initially in New Jersey to make sauce from all-Jersey tomatoes for a significant-scale current market. The ancestry that goes into the ability and inspiration for his Mia Cucina goods traces back again to Sorrento, Italy.
“It’s in my blood, you know, if you consider about it. My grandfather was a cheese maker, (also) my father, my uncles.”
Indeed, he belongs to that Celentano family members, of ravioli fame, which is also credited by culinary historians to have bought the very first frozen pizza nationally.
The Celentano Brothers business is no lengthier in the spouse and children, but John’s youth in Newark brims with reminiscences of increasing up in the family’s foodstuff output and the Italian specialty shop there. Less than the second technology, Celentano Bros. was headquartered in Verona, N.J., and in the calendar year 2000 was bought by Rosina Food items Products.
As an adult, John Celentano’s past practical experience with generating Italian cheeses and sauce mixed very well with work in distribution and in promoting New Jersey agriculture to give him a recipe for good results on his own. He “continues a tradition of high quality,” as it says on the sauce label.
“My grandfather was intended to be a mason, but he did not want to be a mason. He was dwelling in the hills exterior of Sorrento when he was a boy, and he required to be performing with his uncle who was a cheese maker in Sorrento. And then he arrived below.”
John Celentano and his spouse, Donnah, a nurse practitioner, founded the Jersey Naturals enterprise, creating Mia Cucina, in 2009. Does the corporation use a massive manufacturing facility, or personal a significant back garden in a Backyard garden State backyard, or use a decades-aged recipe? The solution is none of those people Mia Cucina built its individual historical past. Now their sauces are offered in ShopRite, Wegmans and specialty marketplaces.
“You simply cannot just multiply the components to go from one gallon to 100 gallons,” he claimed as he commenced to outline how the recipes for First Marinara, Merlot and Fra Diavolo sauces had been devised. “I did these recipes myself.”
Good results wasn’t right away just on the advantage of the family name far from it. There had been policies protecting against any spin-off working with the Celentano identify. He and his now-late brother Joseph had imagined of tomato sauce 30 many years in the past.
“A very long time ago we desired to do this, but we weren’t allowed to for the reason that we could not set our name on it,” Celentano stated. “It’s not uncommon a case I can feel of, the Gallo brothers, the wine people, shed in court docket mainly because just one of them desired to do cheese with the Gallo identify, but the other brothers wouldn’t enable him.”
His grandfather Antonio Celentano immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th century and opened a latticini, or Italian dairy product business enterprise. The prolonged household heritage also features the trademark circular ravioli shape, printed reviews position out.
Quick-ahead to the following era and John’s father, Gaetano, the oldest of 4 Celentano brothers in the frozen food items small business, died in 1960 when John was 7 several years outdated. John grew up in the meals market, and the “amazing” Italian grandmothers had no modest section as perfectly.
“From my uncles, I learned so much about organization, so a lot about managing people today: personnel in the manufacturing unit, prospects.”
But functioning for household can be “weird” if you are a 25-year-previous wanting to “make your possess tracks,” John recalled. His very own time was ripe afterwards, after a vocation in foods-related careers that included industrial product sales for Sorrento cheese (“I realized the business”) a condition submit as the initial account government for the foods sector in New Jersey that finished for “political” reasons and distribution for Frito-Lay. The very last resulted in knee accidents that lingered.
With changed knees and middle age, he viewed as what course to go next, and Jersey Naturals was born. “You just keep rolling that’s the whole matter.”
The Jersey tomatoes are obtained through Violet Packing in Williamstown (now owned by B&G Foods), which the Celentanos had bought from yrs ago. He works by using them because he likes the flavor of their tomatoes, grown mostly in Salem County. And just as you simply cannot get a famed San Marzano tomato outside of San Marzano, Italy, “you simply cannot get a Jersey tomato outside the house of New Jersey.”
The spot he identified for generation, which a glass provider advisable, was in Looking at, Pa., after a Rutgers-related facility close to Bridgeton wasn’t significant sufficient. “I ended up chatting to him, I took the recipes there, and we begun making sauce.”
How to Get
From A single to 100
Here’s the place basic multiplication does not make an industrial-sized recipe.
“The nuts issue is one particular of my friends I experienced brought with me, they known as me Maestro, because, here’s what we did,” Celentano associated from his kitchen area desk. “I had my recipe set for a gallon, and you just cannot just multiply the components to go from one particular gallon to a hundred gallons. So what I did was I set all the tomatoes in 1st, with a large amount of oil and with garlic.
“So, we have all these buckets of the other ingredients. We have the pump likely to recirculate every little thing, just heat so I can get the flavors. I would choose up a bucket and put in some salt, combine it up, flavor it – ‘good plenty of, cease.’ What was remaining we subtracted from the initial number then you know how substantially you had to put in.
“You have to play close to with the recipes,” he insisted. “And then there was the basil. In accordance to my gallon recipe, if you multiply it, it was like a 5-gallon bucket with this significantly basil,” he gestured high. “That’s why you cannot multiply. So I took out a little, tasted it I did this with all the ingredients.
“And there’s really very little in there except tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, basil, salt and pepper,” he said of the Initial Marinara taste. It is all-pure, and there is no sugar included.
“I experience when you make a fantastic food, you don’t need to have to have a million components, and you never want to have an overabundance of salt. Our sodium is seriously pretty small.”
He has noticed about a few or four other firms occur out with a Jersey tomato item due to the fact his, but Mia Cucina is doing very well. He makes use of three unique distributors to get the product to marketplaces. In the Manahawkin ShopRite, the screen is in the make aisle, a nod to “Jersey Clean.”
“Here’s the other issue about what I needed to do, primarily based on my philosophy about foods. I required to come out at a value stage that would make it reasonably priced for the most volume of men and women,” he claimed, figuring he’s never ever going to get the buyer who 10 a long time back was searching for the $1 jar of sauce. In 10 many years, the value only now has been lifted to $5.99 from $4.99, and which is thanks to price will increase from the glass on through. “This virus has actually harm a good deal of individuals in conditions of price.”
Xmas time reminds him of the working experience of introducing the Italian traditions to his Irish-German spouse.
“My spouse, for a when, she wasn’t used to how us Italians run,” he stated, smiling. “She didn’t know that Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were two distinct vacations. Since we’d go by somebody’s dwelling for Christmas Eve, for all the fishes. Our basement in Vailsburg, we had the normal next kitchen area, anything else. Our basement experienced all the things from christenings to funerals. New Yorkers believe they have almost everything, but we also had the same stuff in Newark, and they did not have Italian hot puppies.”
Cooking is rewarding and “from the coronary heart.” Celentano “loves the process” of turning milk into cheese of turning tomatoes into a great tomato sauce. His recipe for limoncello is a entire other discussion – you need to have Everclear alcoholic beverages and the diligently peeled yellow-only rind of lemons, and then about 14 days, but he insists it is not a difficult process.
Of his personal sauces, “It’s really type of amazing to know that you did one thing,” he concluded thoughtfully. “And it is in the ShopRites and individuals are getting it. I never brag about it, but it will make me imagine, ‘Wow, I did this on my individual.’ It is genuinely nice.”
There’s even extra to master at jerseynaturals.com.

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