In 1986, I visited Baltimore, Marylandand was taken to dinner at the best Italian restaurant that I had ever eaten at. Part of the dinner was a salad with their "House” blue cheese vinaigrette. It was so fantastic that I bought a wine bottle full to bring home (that was when you could still take a bottle on an airplane).After about a month, I had used up half the bottle and realized that I was not going back to Baltimore again. So I spent one whole Saturday tasting, testing, and recreating the dressing. I think I still even have the original recipe somewhere. It was quit a piece of work, 18 teaspoons of this and 12 teaspoons of that. Each teaspoon full added one at a time, tasting, testing, and balancing, back and forth for the entire day. By the end of the day, I had mastered the formula! I then made a big batch just to make sure it worked and it was perfect.
This occurred in November and the tradition of handing out bottles of my special sauce for Christmas began. That was 25 years ago, and it has evolved over the years. It wasn’t until five years ago that the final and current formulation was arrived at. Over the years there have been many changes, additions, subtractions and even a few happy accidents. The best one was when a helper misread the amount of fresh garlic to be added and increased the amount 10 fold. It ended up so good, I even added more. That was the beginning of what my friends, neighbors and family have called for years “Dave’s Famous” and most still do.
Over the years people have begged, pleaded, urged and even demanded that I take the sauce to market. (They wanted to be able to get sauce more than once a year.) I’ve looked into making it commercially periodically over the years but the regulations seemed daunting so I never pursued it. Finally, in January of 2011, I said OK and started the process. It took until July to get the final sign off and here we are, selling our “Famous” sauce.
About the name change: A few years ago, I looked into taking the sauce to market but with Famous Dave’s being too close to Dave’s Famous, it was time for a name change. I wanted something that would say “ITALIAN and GARLIC”, so it was changed to Sicilian Sauce. (And, yes, I know that Sicilians don’t necessarily think of themselves as Italian. InAmericawe do.) On 8-8-08, I married my beautiful wife,Mary Sandino. On that day she became a grandma, (I already had nine wonderful grandchildren.) hence the name “Grandma Sandino’s Sicilian Sauce.” It says what it is a lot better than “Dave’s Famous” anyway.
Although the sauce started out as a copy of a “blue cheese Italian” salad dressing, it has evolved over the years as something a lot more. A number of my kids and grandkids have become “vegi tarians” and vegans, so I took out the cheeses. (Yes, I know it is spelled wrong on the bottle.) I always call them “vegi’s”, therefore, Vegi tarian Garlic Sauce.
The interesting thing to me is that it has a lot more uses without the cheese. It is now a salad dressing, marinade, dipping sauce, pasta sauce, grilling sauce, stir fry sauce, sauté sauce, steak sauce and whatever else you can imagine. Like drizzling it over fresh garden tomatoes or adding it to a brochette or caprese salad. Just use your imagination. I even have one friend that puts it on his scrambled eggs.
Myself, Grandma Mary and a number of other people still love the cheese versions of the sauce so eventually I will be adding them back to the available sauces. When we make the sauce at home, I can mix and match and use real cheeses but now I have to please the USDA and make it consistent for market. (We still do make the annual batch the day after Thanksgiving. It is called “Garlic Friday” and the whole family shows up to help. It is one house full and you can smell garlic when you turn the corner of our circle.) I’m working on new formulations and approvals and when completed the “Three Cheese and Italian Blue” will be available. We are also converting some other family recipes to be “marketable products”. We already have the Garlic Bread Mix and Gourmet Dip and Spread Mix available. There is more to come.