Carl Petitto Interview
(Cataldo's Pasta Sauce)
Carl Patitto is the owner of Greg’s restaurant and Gouverneur New York. His family has been involved in the restaurant business for five, count them five generations. Now Carl has entered a new business venture. He has gone public with his pasta sauce, Cataldo’s. Carl talked with us about this venture.
Q - Carl, I believe this is the first year (2013) that you’ve had your pasta sauce on display for sale at the Pride of New York building at the New York State fair.
A - It is.
Q - Now, how does that work? Did you contact them? Did they contact you?
A - I contacted Pride of New York. I believe it’s an association. It’s within New York State. I filled out an application and joined that organization.
Q - And that led to your pasta sauce being part of the Pride of New York display?
A - It did.
Q - When did you start making your pasta sauce?
A - I started producing it for sale, started bottling it July 1, 2013. That was the first production. You’re catching me right at the beginning (laughs)
Q - What was the motivation behind bottling the sauce? I see gourmet pasta sauces come and go on the grocery shelves, why do you think you should be doing this?
A - My reason is primarily sentimental. It’s a very large piece of our family history that I can immortalize. I hope to anyway. The history is my great grandmother made a living throughout Rome, Italy in the surrounding communities by cooking for private families. At the time they were called the royalty of Rome. It was members of Roman government. She was their private cook in their house. One story that I really like that my grandmother tells me is the master of the house called the staff to line up. Very passionately he said, who’s responsible for this sauce? Back then there was no unemployment or social benefits. You had to make money any way you could. She was pretty nervous and raised her hand and she was relieved when he passionately said, why I should kiss your feet. This is the best sauce I have ever had! My family migrated and opened the Roma restaurant in Gouverneur in 1948. It was all the same sauce and salad dressing and meatball recipes from my grandfather in the old country. Five generations in the restaurant business later were still doing it the same way. We had a lot of family from around the area, Rochester to Buffalo to Utica who have camps and cottages in this area (Gouverneur) and they come out to dinner and for years they’ve been purchasing quarts of sauce to go. We make them fresh at the restaurant every day. We put it in quart containers and freeze it for them. When they go back home they put it in their car and bring 10 or 12 or more quarts home. For a long long time people have been saying when are you going to bottle this sauce? We want to bring it to Florida with us when we go back down for the winter. After working through the regulations of the agricultural markets and the F. D. A. (Food and drug administration) we finally have product in bottles. I’m very proud to say it’s the same recipe and the same quality product that’s put together and made the same way as it always has been. That is something I take great care to never change. In that way it’s something much bigger than myself.
Q - This is the same sauce that people would get in your restaurant when they order a meal isn’t it?
A - That’s correct my family has been serving this in restaurants or meals for five generations now.
Q - Why do you think there’s such interest in gourmet pasta sauces these days?
A - Without any doubt people are much more quality conscious today. You can certainly tell the difference between a large corporate manufactured product compared with a small batch family recipe, high quality. I started looking into manufacturers that could do much larger batches so my cost per unit would decrease so I could sell it cheaper to customers. I found that the large manufacturers buy the product in much larger batches and the product they use for example, the tomatoes out of Napa Valley in California, they won’t use them because their packaged and numbered in tin cans and they won’t open all those numbered tin cans. They use the tomatoes they get from various Packers in big, open crates. They tend to be more watery. They’re not as flavorful. A larger batch occasionally due to economic reasons ends up being substandard quality.
Q -Wwhat do you charge for a bottle of your pasta sauce?
A – For a 24 ounce jar will range from $5.75 to $6.00. The market I’m going after is people who are really looking for an excellent flavor profile, a market who wants a product that is just tomato sauce that has a great flavor. A lot of those bigger, large batch, you’ll see items in tomato sauce that I think is a sin to put in tomato sauce - corn syrup, sugar, a lot of preservatives, a lot of stuff that frankly I don’t think belongs in a true Italian quality tomato sauce. The customer is sort of looking for a high quality, excellent flavor profile, traditional tomato sauce from the old country is going to like Cataldo’s and they will be a repeat customer as they have been in our restaurant for five generations. They are buying out of our restaurant like crazy and they are buying it out of Kinney drugs here in Gouverneur pretty quickly. That really gives me a lot of encouragement. There is a lot of word-of-mouth that people are saying, Hey this is great! I go home. I open the jar and it tastes just like it does at the restaurant. That surprises a lot of people. People think all right, he made it fresh on stove, o.k. it tastes really darn good. Then they say o.k. I’m going to get a bottle. There half expecting to go home and open it and it’ll be good but not as good as made fresh in the restaurant because it’s bottled, but they come back very pleasantly surprised and I’m pleasantly surprised that it tastes the same. (Laughs).
Q - Where is the sauce being made where you can have some quality control?
A – It’s being made in Cazenovia, New York by Nelson Farms. They’re part of Morrisville State College. It’s supervised by me. They have an inspection facility they can manufacture the product and bottle it right there. They have my full confidence. When they do a production I go down and supervise it. Also, they retain sample from each batch for quality control.
Q - It is your intention to get this sauce on the shelves of grocery stores isn’t it?
A - It is. Working in the restaurant is very rewarding in the sense that I see people get up from their booth or their table and they walk out and just look very satisfied. They say it was very good. Thank you. We’re making people happy. That’s what I always stress with my staff. No matter how stressed out we are and no matter how busy it is an hectic it is in the restaurant, were in the business of making people happy. We’re doing it; my team and I are doing it with this product that has so much sentimental value to me. So, if I can bring this product outside the bricks and mortar of my building and bring it to people around the country with my life story in supermarkets and specialty stores than that really gives me a great sense of personal satisfaction. Yes, I want to increase business, sure. Everybody is in business to make money. But what really makes me feel good, deep down is to see people enjoying it and getting compliments on it. It’s nothing that I can take credit for. I take credit for getting it into the bottles and bringing that product to the people. But, the person who can truly take credit for the recipe and the product is my great grandmother.
Q - You’re in the entertainment business and today food is entertainment!
A - It really is because food is satisfying on many levels with the feel and smell of the food, with a sense of taste. A lot of Italian families, tell me that’s similar to the way my grandmother made it. That hits a chord with them emotionally. Everybody has their comfort foods especially when it’s chilly outside and you sit down with a nice plate of pasta and a couple of nice meatballs and a beautiful bottle of wine, it can turn a stressful day into a very happy one quickly. (Laughs). In short we're in the entertainment business.
Q - The name of your restaurant is Greg’s, yet you call pasta sauce Cataldos. What’s the significance of that name?
A - Well my father’s name is Greg. He opened Greg’s restaurant in 1984. I wanted to come up with that brand name a one word catchy brand name. Greg I felt was a little bit plain of a name, my grandfather’s name was Cataldo. I was named after my grandfather. My grandfather Cataldo always went by his nickname Carl. My name is Carl. I was named after his nickname. I grandfather and my father always taught me the value of hard work and the value of taking pride in your work in making everything you do excellent quality and making everything consistent and being reliable. So, that’s sort of way to immortalize him into name the product Cataldo’s and I also like the name. He used to own the Roma restaurant which was very famous. He sold a lot of sauce through there.
Official Website www.gregsrestaurantny.com
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