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Inside Victoria Fine Foods, one of Brooklyn's last food factories

While Brooklyn used to be known for its manufacturing, the industrial side of Brooklyn has been noticeably shrinking through the past decade.

Blocks away from the Canarsie L, the last stop on the line, stand the Victoria Fine Foods factory.

Started as a family company in 1929, 86 years later Victoria still heads its operations in Brooklyn, pumping out over 200,000 pounds of pasta sauce each day!

Though the 24-hour factory is closed to the public, amNewYork took a tour inside to see how one of Brooklyn's last great food manufacturers stirs up all that sauce.

Welcome to Victoria Fine Foods!

Upon entering the building, which houses both corporate
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Upon entering the building, which houses both corporate offices and kitchens, the scent of stewed tomatoes automatically takes over. It's like being ushered into the headquarters of Brooklyn's most Italian, generous grandma.

Inside, a laboratory is responsible for turning small-batch family recipes into a full-scale food production.

The test kitchen and lab looks much like a regular home kitchen.

That is, if your New York kitchen doesn't
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

That is, if your New York kitchen doesn't double as a living room and had a few extra scientific gadgets. Sauces are tested for taste and consistency, using high school (and more advanced) science methods like tasting pH level for acidity.

On the day we visited, Victoria Fine Foods was making its signature marinara sauce.

The recipe begins with fresh ingredients: special tomatoes
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The recipe begins with fresh ingredients: special tomatoes grown in Italy (for consistency, they are preferred over local tomatoes) and fresh basil, onions and garlic.

To start the sauce process, cans of tomatoes are opened and prepared.

From there, they go straight to the kettle
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

From there, they go straight to the kettle to simmer and thicken.

For the classic tomato sauce, fresh, local ingredients (in huge quantities!) are used.

Factory workers chop thousands of pounds of onions,
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Factory workers chop thousands of pounds of onions, garlic and basil to prepare the ingredients to cook in the sauce.

While some recipes may use a machine, chopping by hand for a slow-cooked tomato sauce is essential.

The women dicing onions at the factory were
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The women dicing onions at the factory were impressibly swift!

Buying fresh ingredients, like basil, in bulk, helps obtain top quality product.

Rather than having picked-over basil that's been processed
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Rather than having picked-over basil that's been processed and separated, Victoria Fine Foods buys enormous quantities of herbs, leaving the bunches practically untouched until the basil is cleaned and used to cook at the factory.

And all that hard work goes into a bucket!

Cooking up huge batches of factory-made food in
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Cooking up huge batches of factory-made food in a homemade style is no easy feat. To make marinara, onions are sauteed in olive oil until translucent, whole Italian tomatoes are then added for ninety minutes and then the garlic is stirred in. To finish the batch, whole basil and sea salt is added.

Victoria has two gigantic sauce-cooking vats (not fully pictured for proprietary reasons).

Pictured here, Nonna, the grandma of the slow-cooking
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Pictured here, Nonna, the grandma of the slow-cooking sauces. Across from her, Mamma. The kettles cook tomato sauce for hours to bring out all the natural sugars (no sugar added) and thickness (no tomato paste added) of the tomatoes.

Here's a top-secret Sauce Control Panel.

If you want to be Captain of the
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

If you want to be Captain of the Sauce, you'll have to master these buttons.

After sauce is cooked and tested for consistency, it's jarred

Victoria Fine Foods cooks over 38 million jars
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Victoria Fine Foods cooks over 38 million jars of sauce per year. Stacking the jars end-to-end would reach from Brooklyn to San Francisco.

Jars are then given a hot shower and tested via X-ray for consistency.

It's very high tech. Though Victoria has been
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

It's very high tech. Though Victoria has been in Brooklyn for 86 years, the company has used advancements in technology to keep the almost-centenarian recipe alive and consistent through the decades.

Once jarred, the sauce runs through a hot shower.

A clean jar of sauce is then scanned
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

A clean jar of sauce is then scanned through an X-ray machine, which checks to make sure each batch is the same as the previous one.

Jars are dried in what is basically a mini car wash.

If only those driers were pappardelle, though.
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

If only those driers were pappardelle, though.

When the sauce is deemed perfect, jars are labeled.

The label machine slaps names on the jars
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

The label machine slaps names on the jars which then travel to be packaged into pallets.

There's really just so much sauce!

About 113 people work in the factory, around
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

About 113 people work in the factory, around the clock.

Victoria Fine Foods runs 24 hours a day.

Prep, cooking and clean up are part of
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Prep, cooking and clean up are part of the three shifts that run the factory around the clock.

After jars are labeled and sealed, they're put on pallets.

And from here, they travel the world. To
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

And from here, they travel the world. To local grocery stores, Costco and beyond!

Victoria has begun listing ingredients on the front of the jar.

Part marketing campaign, part food education tactic, this
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

Part marketing campaign, part food education tactic, this unique way to list ingredients enhances the transparency and homestyle cooking of Victoria Fine Foods' sauces.

In addition to marinara, Victoria also makes organic, vegan, low-sodium and more sauce varieties

Victoria's vegan Alfredo sauce is currently the only
Photo Credit: Victoria Fine Foods

Victoria's vegan Alfredo sauce is currently the only bottled vegan Alfredo on the market. Additionally, the factory is Koshered by a rabbi to make kosher sauces on-site as well.

And little-known fact: The marinara works great in a Bloody Mary

And here's the recipe. Cheers! Makes 48 ounces
Photo Credit: Melissa Kravitz

And here's the recipe. Cheers!

Makes 48 ounces mixer, enough for 12 Bloody Marys

1 jar marinara sauce

3 cups water

1 ½ tablespoons grated horseradish

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

Cracked black pepper

Celery for garnish, 8 stalks, halved

To make mixer:

Stir together water, marinara, horseradish and Worcestershire sauce.

To make drinks:

Pour 2 jiggers vodka over ice and add 4oz mixer. Stir, garnish with cracked black pepper and celery stalk and serve.

Tours of Victoria Fine Foods are not open to the public

... but you can find Victoria products at
Photo Credit: Victoria Fine Foods

... but you can find Victoria products at local grocery stores!

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