Make it an event with Gigi’s Laura Pensiero

Gigi’s catering facility on Pitcher Lane in Red Hook at the Greig Farm

Gigi’s catering facility on Pitcher Lane in Red Hook at the Greig Farm

Although Gigi Market and Café on Pitcher Lane in Upper Red Hook closed recently, the space is now home to a brand-new, refocused Gigi, with expanded catering and event planning and a world of flexible options.

The story, in the food world, began in the not-too-distant past with a turning point, leaning toward seasonal menus in restaurants and catering operations. Diners wanted exciting menus that weren’t carved in stone, that used fresh foods in their season and at their flavorful peak, rather than things out of cans and packages. That trend evolved into one that honored the local purveyor, rather than sourcing menus from a faraway warehouse via another faraway warehouse. The best of the fresh and local was what it was all about.

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Chef Laura Pensiero

Chef Laura Pensiero

Now many places have gotten onto the seasonal, local bandwagon, fitting flexible menus to the time of year and the farmer down the road. Like many other places with these goals, Gigi Trattoria began this way, too – one of the first in the area, actually. But with dietitian and chef Laura Pensiero at the helm of not only the restaurant but also a growing catering company and more, there is a third priority in this triad: good nutrition. “Local plus seasonal equals deliciously healthy,” she says of her philosophy.
Since 2001, Gigi Trattoria has been offering fans a mostly Mediterranean menu of its acclaimed Skizza, a pizza-inspired, topped flatbread with an ever-changing variety of toppings, plus frittatas, soups, pot pies, pastas, sandwiches and entrées made from locally sourced ingredients. Gigi Catering customers can choose from a huge variety of items, for pickup or delivery, ready to serve or ready to reheat or grill, with specific, user-friendly instructions.
To start, choose salt cod fritters with lime aioli, mozzarella in carrozza with arugula/parsley pesto, lump crabcakes with saffron/orange aïoli, balsamic-glazed black figs wrapped in Mountain Smokehouse nitrate-free bacon, swordfish “meatballs” with tapenade vinaigrette, bacon-and-cheddar Feather Ridge deviled eggs or many more appetizing items. Options for mains include whole branzino, arctic char or several other fish, jumbo shrimp skewers, herb-marinated prime rib, marinated hanger steak or leg of lamb, sausages, chops and chicken. Sides might be grilled corn with chili-and-lime compound butter, North African spiced fregola with pistachios and dried fruit, roasted seasonal vegetables or braised gigante white beans. Look for soups, paellas, lasagnas and other pasta dishes, as well as sweets and desserts appropriate for any occasion.
After Pensiero wrote Hudson Valley Mediterranean (William Morrow, 2009), she realized that many of the dishes were Italian-focused, and she has since branched out to offer more food inspired by other Mediterranean lands, from Spain to Morocco, at her popular trattoria in Rhinebeck. The spring menu features regional Italian specialties, though – which is pleasing the customers, she reports. The catering menu goes even further afield than the Med, with choices inspired by many lands. There are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan and vegetarian options as well.
Although the café and retail operation is no longer located at Pitcher Lane in Red Hook, the catering offices remain there, as well as an on-premise catering space for rehearsal dinners, weddings for up to 100 indoors, plus a tented outdoor area to accommodate many more. Gigi also caters in places popular with those who choose to have their event in the Hudson Valley: in those lovely rustic barns and on farms, where catering can be challenging.
In fact sometimes the whole event may need Gigi’s expert guidance. “Sometimes it’s hard to separate event planning from catering,” says Pensiero, so they are available to help with all facets of the party, according to the individual needs of the client. Some just want food delivered to the site. “Clients may like the process of party planning and want to be more involved,” she says. Others need help with the many other complexities of orchestrating the event, from renting tables to finding the perfect flowers.
With the new e-commerce facility online, a whole catering job can be ordered via an easy online form, or Gigi’s catering manager can do it over the phone for more guidance. So the degree of participation by client and caterer is completely customizable.
And how it all gets where it needs to go is flexible, too, depending on needs and budget. “We travel around the Hudson Valley,” she says, to deliver feasts near and far, which can arrive piping hot (when appropriate, of course) and ready to serve, or refrigerated and ready to preheat. Staff is available for help, or not. And for even tighter budgets, anything can be picked up instead of delivered.
And Gigi’s doesn’t just do weddings, rehearsal dinners and private dinner parties for ten or two. “We do lots of photo shoots for New York City-based companies,” Pensiero says, “for people who want good healthy food, set up on time.”
More options for dining á la Gigi abound, with Otto’s Market in nearby Germantown now offering a full line of Gigi’s prepared foods and packaged products from sauces to a Skizza™ kit.
Find Gigi’s Catering’s via www.gigihudsonvalley.com or (845) 758-8060, Gigi’s Trattoria at 6422 Montgomery Street in Rhinebeck, (845) 876-1007, or Otto’s Market at 215 Main Street in Germantown, www.ottosmarket.com or (518) 537-7200.

Read more about local cuisine and learn about new restaurants on Ulster Publishing’s DineHudsonValley.com or HudsonValleyAlmanacWeekly.com.

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