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Linden Ponds chef captures taste of Italy

Grandmother's sauce recipe bottled and sold

Created date

December 25th, 2012

Natale Umbro fondly remembers Sunday family dinners in Calabria, Italy; in his house, pasta was served with red sauce, better known as gravy, from a decades-old family recipe. Your mother s making it on the stove and you go over with a piece of bread and it s the greatest thing in the world, Umbro says, reminiscing. The sauce first created by Umbro s grandmother more than 100 years ago, regularly appears on the menu at Linden Ponds, where Umbro is chef de cuisine at the Fireside Restaurant. Now it is also being bottled and sold as Gina s Italian Sauce at Linden Ponds, the result of a team project successfully launched late last year.

Passionate team effort

Umbro found that whenever he served the sauce at Linden Ponds, diners would ask if they could take some home. That sparked an idea. Wouldn t it be nice if we could just sell it? he recalls, saying, with the idea that proceeds would be put back into the community. It s about the residents, making them happy and keeping them involved. It s all about resident satisfaction. What ensued was an effort involving multiple staff members at the Erickson Living community in Hingham, Mass., who researched the logistics of canning and jarring the sauce in-house, and developed the brand and pricing for the product. It was a great team effort by a number of folks who were passionate about the product, says Director of Dining Services Tomas Omar Gonzalez, who coordinated the project. Restaurant Manager Katie Costello, Banquet Supervisor Andrew Marron, Cook Paul McGovern, and Restaurant Associate Laurie Micarelli also played key roles in the production. Our culture is we are going to contribute beyond the walls and beyond the reach of the department, Gonzalez says. Marron was instrumental in driving the creative artwork, labeling, and other essential pieces of the project. Marron and Micarelli drew the label for Gina s Sauce, which is named for Umbro s granddaughter, Savanna Gina. Micarelli photographed Savanna in Umbro s garden, and they used the image as the basis of the label.

Rave reviews

The sauce made its debut at Linden Ponds annual artisan fair, and more than 100 jars were sold in the first month, many to people who have grown to know Umbro and his granddaughter. The sauce now sells for $4 a jar in the Marketplace and Harborside Caf at Linden Ponds. We re just crazy about his tomato sauce, says Yolanda Catale, who lives at Linden Ponds and serves as treasurer of its Italian-American club. Umbro says he wanted to do a service for the residents, who might want to entertain or make an easy meal for themselves without having to leave the community. Yolanda doesn t drive, and she says in the afternoon, particularly in wintertime, if she doesn t feel like going to one of the on-site restaurants to eat, she ll make pasta with Umbro s sauce. The only thing is, I m not used to doing dishes anymore, she says candidly. Nick Avitabile, president of Linden Ponds Italian-American club, says he and Umbro easily developed a friendship. Umbro has become an integral part of the club, helping to cook for its annual functions. Erickson Living should be proud to have a guy like Chef Natale around, Nick says. He s done a great deal for us here at Linden Ponds.

Love what you do

Umbro celebrated four years at Linden Ponds last month. He came to the community from a position at 33 Restaurant in Boston, but Umbro wasn t always a chef. For 13 years, he worked as a federal fire fighter for the Department of Defense. During that time, at age 19, Umbro was called upon to fill in for a cook who was out sick. I d never cooked a thing in my life, he says, but he called his mother for help and learned his way. When an accident forced him to give up being a fire fighter, Umbro went to cooking school. When I became a chef, the passion that I have for it is unbelievable, almost the same as a fire fighter, and isn t it great that I have had two professions that I love? he says. Asked about the secret to his sauce recipe, Umbro says: Love. You have to sit down and love what you do; it has to be amore, as we would say in Italian. When you love something that you do, you do it very well.