Yolanda Garretti

Saul Taylor / May 23, 2019

How Italian can one person be? Yolanda Garretti might take that cake. When you grow up in Italy and go on to work as the Culinary Arts Editor for Spanish Vogue you have every right to start a catering company in New York and rise directly to the top. Her well fed clients with Acquolina include Christies’s, Bulgari and Dior.

What is it about food?

I came from an Italian family and Italian people live with food. When I was in New York 25 years ago I really wanted to do catering and I dont want to sound snobby, but I wanted to do it at a high level. I began very small and slowly I started to do it full-time — growing, growing, growing — building a company to show Italian cuisine at a different level, a high level. It was Italian cuisine with Italian presentation in the best homes in New York. And then we moved onto the private luxury stores. That’s how it started. My business partner is American and the combination between us works very well.

Do you travel back to Europe much?

A lot, because food culture changes, even in Europe. I travel two or three times a year and pick a variation of courses. We continue to evolve the best basic Italian and European food but with a little, you know, something new. We change it every season. We need to try and not be the same, or else you get bored, you know?

What makes you different in a crowded schedule of events?

The quality, the presentation, our service and maybe because we dont use model waiters. Okay, we use a few models because people like the cute waiters! But in the back we have a very old style. The style that posh people are used to. And we have another level of service. But in the end it is all about the food. I think in New York we have the best food — the invention of food.

And what about the raw ingredients?

They are imported from Italy. The oils and all these things come from little providers, little farms, little organic places. And from markets — always with seasonal organic offers. In summer the truffles are not perfect; the porcini, theyre not perfect, so we don’t serve them. You know, it’s cultural. In Italy you get up in the morning and have breakfast and you’re already thinking about what to do for lunch and dinner. You are thinking about food all the time. So we try to have the best quality, I think this is our difference. On top is the quality and the flavor. All round taste, all round presentation.

How do you keep your menu fresh from event to event?

We change, of course. We have a basic menu but we try to have a fresh one every season. We make small versions of big Italian dishes. We have the small version of the yellow risotto with asparagus sauce in one bite. We make polenta — fantastic in the winter with porcini — we have a small basket with the polenta. If theres a big version we have the small version. And we change, we try to invent something new all the time.

And what about the drinks?

Oh, the drinks. I actually don’t drink. I dont like wine — this is terrible, I know! My husband knows about wine. We pair each season’s new dish with a wine. My son-in-law has a farm in Italy which provides a fantastic one. We try to have one or two wines with each menu. Ninety per cent of the clients want to provide the wine themselves anyway, but we say we have one, two, three with each menu if they want it.

What makes a great event?

We [as owners] need to be there. I arrive at the event before the staff. I deal with the client. The client comes in the morning and if they see you theyre more comfortable. If you stay on top of them, everything is going to be perfect. And you must, absolutely, be busy. You cannot delegate. This is why sometimes we dont book so many events in one day. Because if I cannot go myself… Oh…