Chuck Ross, 42, the man behind the fledgling company, F.A. Nino’s, has found a way to marry his own passions with the demands of the marketplace. Indeed, he makes an array of amazing hot sauces, including one that’s infused with cannabis. The quality of his products, not the heat, is what matters to him. Burning tongues is not his goal; rather he strives for an appreciation of subtle flavors, including those one can taste in adobo.
“The sauces are all pepper-based, whether they’re serraños, chipotles, annaheims, jalapeños or habaneros,” he tells me, in his red-hot style of speaking. Ross doesn’t waste time. Neither do his mouth-watering sauces. The recipes have roots in his family and are inspired by friends and mentors, including hiss godfather, a monsignor in the Catholic Church.
The big letters on the label of the bottle that I hold in one hand while I type with the other read, “The Godfather of Sauce.” There’s also the image of a tough guy smoking a cigar who might have walked off the set of a Francis Ford Coppola movie set in Little Italy.
Good cooking and good food are at the heart of Ross’ aesthetic, plus a pinch of playfulness and a big helping of his family’s culinary past.
“The kitchen is the true hub of any real home,” he tells me. “When I cook, I prefer savory to sweet.”
Ross’ culinary heritage is rooted in Ireland and Mexico.
“I have an especially big Hispanic background,” he says. “My Guadalajara grandmother was a great cook who made dishes I think of as my soul food.”
Born in Southern California, Ross moved to Marin as a kid and then to Petaluma. Over the years, he’s mastered many restaurant trades, including dishwashing, bartending and cooking over hot grills. He’d like to serve cannabis-infused small plates to foodies willing to experiment with their pallets. But that’s still a pipe dream. Meanwhile, his Smokin’ Green Pot Sauce is available in six-ounce bottles that contain potent THC. It’s available at Mercy and the Hook, a popular dispensary that opened not long ago in Santa Rosa.
“You can’t taste the pot in my green pot sauce,” Ross says. Yes, that’s true, but it might get you pleasantly buzzed and also amplify the flavors in an omelette, a steak or a pasta dish made with homegrown, vine-ripened tomatoes. Ross’s sauces have almost no sugar and no sodium.
“My gospel is: treat people with dignity,” Ross says. “Open the doors to everyone.”
The Godfather of Soul is an equal opportunity kind of guy.