HOW A STILLWELL AVENUE BASED CATERER AND EVENT SPECIALIST HAS WEATHERED FAST CHANGING TASTES FOR AN INCREDIBLE 123 YEARS
BY CATHERINE GIGANTE BROWN
According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend, over Thanksgiving and Christmas, an average of $115 per person on special event food in other words, shopping dedicated to holiday celebrations exclusively. And typically, this money covers just two or three events during the season. Given those expenditures, chucking the shopping, prepping, and cleaning hassles and hiring a caterer which is easy to dismiss sometimes as an extravagance could, in reality, go a long way towards economizing, and will certainly improve a host’s disposition.
Of course, the import (and impact) of selecting an outfit with capability and reliability is only amplified when next year rolls around and the event being contemplated is a wedding. According to industry analytics firm The Knot, the average cost of a wedding in Brooklyn is $46,808 (median household income in the borough was $44,850 in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau).
With the significance of these figures in mind, Kings County’s event space Riviera Caterers has, since 1895, been entertaining guests with an evolving menu of fare and services at its Riviera Brooklyn venue on Stillwell Avenue (another off Union Square in Manhattan), along with a range of other sites a client may select. Its expertise runs the gamut, from nuptials, anniversaries, and family celebrations to corporate events (including conferences, seminars, product launches, and holiday parties), as well as nonprofit galas and fashion shows. “We’ve also expanded to gatherings of as few as 75 people,” said Manager Thomas Chiasson. “Depending on the lead time, we will happily accommodate smaller groups.”
“We’re a fourth generation institution family owned and operated for its entire history,” Chiasson explained, adding that instead of tired, traditional buffet “red gravy dishes,” coin of the realm here is emphasizing considerably more inventive selections from Riviera’s bespoke menu. “We do restaurant quality food in a catering environment. Since our Michelin caliber chefs are versed in many different types of cuisines, we create a customized menu for each occasion, highlighting classic flavors but adding our own twists.” Also on hand is a crew of cocktail mixologists whose inventiveness and presentation finesse rival those in the best city lounges.
Wherever an event takes place, production values are a vital consideration. Riviera touches include sparkling sixfoot acrylic displays lined with fingerfriendly apps and other bitesized sweets; pass arounds might include petite lobster rolls served alongside a minimug of Brooklyn Lager, or house specialty chili powder dusted poached shrimp on pipettes spiked atop tiny Bloody Marys.
Of course, food finesse and presentational visuals alone would not be able to propel a company past the century mark. Asked to detail Riviera philosophy more broadly, Chiasson pointed to a foundational impression that needs to be made to clients that their gathering is not merely one of many on the company calendar. Speaking specifically of the Brooklyn space, he explained that “the whole building is the client’s for the entire event. Many of our competitors do assembly line, cookie cutter weddings and host multiple affairs at once, day and evening. It’s hard to dote on clients when several parties are happening simultaneously.”
“You also have to exceed requirements,” offered Andrew Cavitolo, CEO and creative director, in the company’s blog. “You make a promise, and if you deliver just ten percent extra, you are successful immediately. For me, that’s the recipe for success in almost all areas of life.”
It’s also important to be visible in the media eye, Chias son said. Asked for an example, he pointed to Riviera Caterers’ cooking segment on hosting the ultimate “Friends giving Feast,” which ran on news and lifestyle site Elite Daily’s Facebook Live page, and has more than 35,000 views.
Creative flexibility in planning is difficult to overemphasize, and company Event Designer Amelia Silvestri recalled one instance in which her quiver of skills was put to a unique test.
“It started with four day simultaneous events for one of our favorite clients, who shall remain nameless,” she recalled (likewise on the Riviera blog). “Not only were they in two of the biggest venues in Manhattan, but…the client’s production company kept making changes and asking us to source custom items in timeframes we thought were impossible. We turned around custom stations in less than 24 hours, [including] custom trays, and found all sorts of basketball equipment throughout the city to utilize within hours of acquiring it.”
Prompted to detail his favorite event dish, Chiasson hesitated. “There are so many, but if I had to choose, it would be our tomahawk côte de boeuf. It’s a generous cut of ribeye, left on the bone and just cooked to perfection. But each menu is tailored to reflect the client’s individual tastes and needs.”
Off site catering is also a company specialty.
“We’ve expanded to Manhattan with Union Park Events, a venue space in Union Square,” the manager added. “We also have the capacity to partner with party facilities throughout the five boroughs to meet all types of off premises solutions,” adding that “we are tasked with something very significant… creating a memorable experience, and clients tell us that people are still talking about their wedding 40 years afterwards. The beauty of that is we get repeat customers generation after generation. Nothing speaks to our success more than that.”
2780 Stillwell Avenue / 718.372.3031 /