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Getting Sauced With PJ Monte

Meet The Sauce Boss

January 06, 2021 Hannah McIntosh
PJ Monte | Photo by PJ Monte

It makes sense that a sauce worth a thousand words is made by a guy whose personality fits the same description. PJ Monte, aka The Sauce Boss, Is up to all kinds of things, including drinking wine at lunch (you should try it). But his main thing these days is keeping family traditions alive via Monte’s sauce, an updated take on a classic New York Italian family recipe. Monte’s, a vine-ripened tomato sauce, is made with natural ingredients sourced in the Hudson Valley, strikes the difficult and delicate balance of using simple ingredients to make something complex, and tastes amazing on just about anything. As much as our love for all things covered in delicious red sauce runs deep, we wanted to get to know the man behind the sauce that’s carrying on the legacy of a storied Brooklyn establishment.

Monte’s over ravioli | Photo by Giada Paoloni

NBRHD: Tell us the story of Montes Sauce in a tweet:

PJM: “My family came over from Italy and opened a small restaurant in Brooklyn, Monte’s Venetian Room, which over the years has been a speakeasy, Rat Pack hang out, and gathering place for The Who’s who of Brooklyn. In 1956 we purchased Gurneys Inn in Montauk, and most of the family moved out there to run the joint. Our recipes always remained the same, and fast forward an eventful 100 years, I’m here keeping the legacy alive through our tomato sauce.”

NBRHD: What’s your general philosophy around food?

PJM: “Less is more, quality over quantity, simplicity is key.”

NBRHD: Keep it simple, got it. So where do you go for inspiration when you’re feeling burnt out?

PJM: “To bed. Or the kitchen and then bed. But if it’s a nice day, I never regret a cruise to the beach.”

NBRHD: How have you been decompressing lately?

PJM: “Lunch wines, and sharing great meals with great friends on a regular basis.” 

PJ pouring wine | Photo courtesy of PJ Monte

NBRHD: Wine at lunch – weekends only or anytime? What’s your philosophy?

PJM: Lunchwine is a way of life – the idea is that you should be able to live a life that allows you the luxury of enjoying a nice meal and some wine at lunchtime or whenever you feel like it and be able to handle your business and prioritize enjoying life over solely participating in the rat race.”

NBRHD: Slow clap to that. Speaking of a nice drink, olive or a twist for a martini?

PJM: “Olives, slightly dirty, not filthy, and vodka over gin.” 

NBRHD: What’s your favorite dinner when you don’t feel like cooking?

PJM: “I’ve been living in the Hamptons lately so my go-to would be The American Hotel for a few Martinis, a French onion soup, and a half lobster.”

Lunch at home | Photo by of PJ Monte

NBRHD: What was the last delivery meal you had?

PJM: “Probably when Sean ordered the entire menu of Carbone and Lure at the same time when we were staying at the Bowery.”

NBRHD: What’s the last great thing you read, watched, or listened to?

PJM: “Read (listened to) Heat by Bill Buford and been playing a lot of the new Kodak Black Bill Israel album.” 

NBRHD: What is your favorite purchase in this lockdown period that is a non-necessity?

PJM: “My New York Times subscription.”

PJ Monte | Illustration by Richard Fairhead

NBRHD: Can you recommend a movie to pair with a Monte’s Sauce night?

PJM: Mean Streets by Martin Scorsese.”

NBRHD: What’s something unexpected you like eating Montes Sauce on?

PJM: “I love to make clams or mussels in the sauce – I usually add some cherry tomatoes, herbs, and spice – preferably Calabrian chili for heat. Also, it’s great to use as your tomato base for braising short ribs or pork shoulder. You can get more recipes on our site Montes Sauce or DM us @Montes.Sauce with any questions.”

PJ in front of Monte’s Fine Foods | Photo courtesy of PJ Monte

NBRHD: For those who don’t cook often, what’s the best recipe (or meal hack) paired with Monte’s Sauce?

PJM: “If your in a jam, heat up the sauce and make an Italian grilled cheese – mozzarella en carrozzo – with some fresh mozzarella and white bread, toast in the pan with a little butter and dip that bad boy right into the sauce. Or grab a nice fresh baguette, tear it apart and dunk generously into the sauce.” 

NBRHD: What can we expect next from Monte’s Fine Foods?

PJM: “More collaborations, pop-ups, and eventually new sauces and products.”

NBRHD: What’s your favorite noodle shape and why?

PJM: “Conventional noodles, a mezzi rigatoni does it for me. Perfect bite-sized and pairs well with nearly any sauce.”

NBRHD: What’s your favorite NYC corner?

PJM: “Mulberry and Grand all day next to Danny, Baby John, Ernie, and all the boys.”

Monte’s sauce | Photo by Giada Paoloni

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