The first batch of Nellino’s (formerly Nello’s) sauce happened after Neal McTighe and his date (now his wife) attended Tomato Day at the Carrboro Farmers’ Market. Together they crafted the original Nellino’s recipe, inspired by the sauce recipe his great-grandmother had brought from southern Italy in 1919. Neal had studied Italian, traveled in Italy, and gone on to have an academic career. He loved all things Italian and got the idea to sell the sauce he loved to make. In 2011, Weaver Street Market was the first store to carry his product.
As Nellino’s expanded, Neal moved production first to the Piedmont Food and Ag Processing Center in Hillsborough and then to a facility in North Raleigh. Nellino’s Sauce is made with simple ingredients and an old-fashioned method. Production has been scaled up to meet demand, but the process remains the same; it tastes like sauce made from scratch.
Neal has been working to develop a sauce made with local tomatoes. He partnered with a farmer during the 2015 growing season and hopes to continue such partnerships. He has also been donating Nellino’s sauce to the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC. In 2017 he began the American Pasta Sauce Company, featuring sauces with a more classic American flavor.