An Affair to Remember
Four Orlando caterers who can deliver the goods to make your wedding a success.
For you, the highlight of your big day is the “I do.” For your guests, however, the most memorable part is likely to be the reception. The caterer can make or break your wedding, so choosing one whose style and sensibilities are a good match to yours is critical. When choosing a caterer, keep these key points in mind: capability, flexibility, reputation and attitude.
Orlando brides are fortunate; there are a number of experienced caterers in town ranging from small, personable boutiques to operations capable of throwing a full-throttle party for 500 or more. Here are four to consider:
Puff ’n Stuff Catering
Puff 'n Stuff's Lobster Mac and Cheese
(puffnstuff.com) When owner Warren Dietel’s parents moved to Orlando from Trinidad more than 30 years ago, they began catering weddings. Now in its second generation, Puff ’n Stuff operates from a state-of-the-art facility in Maitland, and there’s very little in the way of special events they can’t do. Puff ’n Stuff recently produced a gala in a two-story tent that involved creating an on-site restaurant and serving six full courses to more than 600 guests.
- TRENDS: “We’re seeing somewhat smaller weddings,” says Dietel. “The focus is on quality instead of quantity.” For menu choices, he says couples want to know what farm the foods are from and if the ingredients are organic. “We’re doing more with vegetables.”
- SERVICES: Puff ’n Stuff's staff can coordinate every detail, from providing the food to hiring and organizing all of the vendors. Puff ’n Stuff is the exclusive caterer for The Ballroom at Church Street.
- MOST-REQUESTED FOOD ITEM: “Our crab cakes and crab dip; the other most-requested dish is our lobster mac and cheese.”
- DISTINCTIONS: “We take the time to understand our clients,” says Dietel. “I think people are sometimes afraid we’re too big, but that comes with a lot of strengths. What we do is hard, in essence opening 15 restaurants a day. Our staff has the ability to execute.”
Cocktails' Coconut Shrimp with Piña Colada Sauce
(cocktailscatering.com) The name for Avery Potter’s catering company is more than a clever sobriquet; it explains its origins. Potter first started Orlando Private Bartending, providing unique bar set-up and service.
Then, “OPB’s clients kept asking us to serve food and produce events, so we launched Cocktails Catering and did our first wedding in September 2009,” Potter says. “From there, it took off.”
- TRENDS: “Buffets have become really popular over the last year,” says Potter. “We’ve found ways to make it more elegant, by stationing servers behind the buffet to serve the guests.”
- SERVICES: Cocktails Catering is full-service and also offers complete event-planning services through its staff consultants.
- MOST REQUESTED FOOD ITEM: “Clients just love our coconut shrimp. Our sauce is a homemade piña colada sauce, a really thick purée.”
- DISTINCTIONS: “We try to be very personal in our approach,” Potter says. “For our menu tasting, the couple is one-on-one with the chef who’s going to make the food right there with them, taking notes.
"We’re a one-stop shop; they can hire their photographer, DJ and florist from us, too. We’ll make sure the other vendors are on-board, calling to follow up a week prior to the event to get the load-in times and make sure everyone is prepared.”
Dubsdread's Crab Cake with Remoulade Sauce
(taproomatdubsdread.com/weddings.html)You can’t get much more local and authentic than the cozy reception room at Dubsdread, with its planked wood floors and beautiful open-beamed ceiling.
“Dubsdread has been producing weddings in this building since 1924,” says owner Steve Gunter.
He and his staff have also taken their show on the road, and now cater weddings and events throughout Central Florida, including at the historic Highland Manor in Apopka, where they are the exclusive caterer.
- TRENDS: Gunter and Cathie Ashby, director of catering, are seeing more themed weddings, with drinks and food items named for the bride and groom.
“We had a recent wedding where the food and drink stations had names,” Ashby says, “including ‘tried and true’ for the groom and ‘flair for the dramatic’ for the bride."
- SERVICES: Historic Dubsdread can help plan and execute all aspects of the wedding.
“We have a list of vendors we work with, and if one of them ever performs at anything less than an A-plus level, they’re off the list,” says Gunter.
“You can use vendors who aren’t on our list,” Ashby adds, “but we’ll talk to them to make sure they can perform. ”
Gunter and his team have produced weddings in diverse locations from the Winter Park Farmer’s Market to the Courtyard at Lake Lucerne to the Citrus Bowl.
- MOST REQUESTED FOOD ITEM: “Without a doubt, it’s our crab cakes. We use lump crab meat and put a lot of crab in them,” Gunter says. “Our Chicken Wellington is also very popular.”
- DISTINCTIONS: “We don’t take shortcuts,” Gunter says. “Our staff is all about old-fashioned personal service. The food comes out of the same kitchen as The Tap Room, so you already know the quality.”
Isabella’s Bella Cucina
Isabella's Pasta Siciliana with Arugula
(foodwithpassion.com)Weddings are very personal, and so is the service from Isabella’s Bella Cucina. Chef Isabella Morgia di Vicari and her staff produce private dining experiences for a few couples, as well as weddings with more than 100 guests.
“Food with passion, that’s our mission,” Morgia di Vicari says. “With us, it’s all about bringing family together.”
Morgia di Vicari also comes from an Orlando food family; her father owned a popular Italian restaurant here for years.
“I’m the first generation born in America, my family is all from Italy,” she explains. “My grandmother used to say ‘Sensa sapore non ce amore,’ there is no flavor in anything without love. I translate that to the bride and groom and to the guests; it’s all about amore and what it brings. It honors people.”
Isabella Morgia di Vicari
—Isabella Morgia di Vicari
- TRENDS: “The trend today is to mini size everything. But brides and grooms don’t want a mini bite without flavor; it better pack a lot of wow,” Morgia di Vicari says.
"We’re seeing more intimate weddings than in the past. When you have a table filled with good food, conversations begin, and we build relationships. How special is that when we’re focusing on someone’s wedding where we’re bringing two families together?”
- SERVICES: Says Morgia di Vicari: “Our job is to make the wedding less stressful and as memorable as it can possibly be. If the bride and groom put their trust in us, in the heart and passion we bring, we’ll take care of it for them.”
- MOST REQUESTED FOOD ITEM: “My signature dish is Pasta Siciliana with arugula, and for dessert, it’s almond cake with berries topped with zabaione sauce. We do a great osso bucco, but if you don’t want to pay for veal, we do it with beef. People get tired of chicken and, even though we make great chicken dishes, I’d suggest a crab-stuffed grouper, or you can make it with tilapia and it’s still exquisite, but more affordable.”
- DISTINCTIONS: Isabella’s Bella Cucina is about producing quality weddings one at a time, Morgia di Vicari explains.
“I like doing things family style. That allows each person to control the portion size. If someone doesn’t like this veggie or that starch, they can take exactly what they want.