Videri makes a peppery chocolate bar with it. Cary’s Pizzeria Faulisi adds it to a hot honey pie. Whiskey Kitchen uses it in a zesty aioli and the list goes on; Benny T’s Vesta brand of hot sauces, made right here in Raleigh, has been bringing the local flavor for over a decade. Produced by New York City native and self-described “chili and spice enthusiast” Ben Tuorto, the innovative, dry hot sauce varieties are the only products of their kind on the market. Tuorto wanted to share his love for hot peppers with others but in a way that wouldn’t burn their mouths. With each of Benny T’s five different sauces, Tuorto aims to bring out the true, robust flavors of different chilis while taming the heat just enough to make them enjoyable.
His secret? Sautéing the chilis with caramelized onions and toasted breadcrumbs—an ode to his Italian heritage—before blending them into sauce. This method, he says, helps stretch the flavors and spread out the heat and oils from the chilis, which are sourced solely from North Carolina farms. Once it’s cooked, with the assistance of his son Paul, Tuorto dries out the chili mixture and grinds it down into a sifted mix that can be shaken out onto all your favorite foods. “It’s so fulfilling because people will have one taste and buy it,” the senior Tuorto says.
In addition to helping with production, Paul Tuorto serves as the creative director for Benny T’s Vesta brand. An Appalachian State graduate with a degree in design, he created the Vesta products’ bold, cheery packaging. He also works with his dad in their commercial kitchen at Posh Nosh and at local events, making Vesta a true family business.
Vesta varieties range from Hot, made with mild to medium hot chilis including jalapeño, serrano, Thai and habanero, to Reaper, a seasonal flavor comprised exclusively of Carolina Reaper chilis, the hottest chili pepper available to the public. Other seasonal varieties include Scorpion, which rates up to 1.5 Million Scoville Units (a measure of the pungency of chili peppers and other spicy foods) and is Benny T’s hottest Vesta sauce to date. Very Hot remains Ben Tuorto’s favorite variety—he says he has it almost every day, though you have to like heat to really enjoy it yourself. The dry hot sauces can be used for anything you’d use a traditional hot sauce for; sprinkle it on tacos, pizza and pasta—add it to a bagel with cream cheese, one of Ben Tuorto’s favorite combinations—or find it in dishes all around Raleigh.
“All collaborations are a testament to what Vesta is—a great addition to food,” says Paul Tuorto. “We’re proud to have a product that comes from Raleigh and uses chilis grown in this state.” While tasty, Benny T’s Vesta dry hot sauces are not for the faint- hearted. If you can handle the heat, find Vesta products online, at Whole Foods on Wade Avenue or at various restaurants including Oakwood Pizza Box, Capital Club 16, Plates and Happy and Hale. Just don’t say we didn’t warn you. vestatoppings.com