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North Hills Monthly

Heavy Appetizers, Late-night Bites Edging Out Traditional Wedding Dinners

Jan 30, 2017 07:42PM ● By Hilary Daninhirsch

There are very few Pittsburgh wedding traditions more iconic than the cookie table. While the wedding caterer sometimes provides cookies, it was, and still is, a cost-effective way for mothers, sisters, grandmothers and aunts to participate in wedding preparations.

While the cookie table is a mainstay and does not seem to be going anywhere, wedding food in Pittsburgh is nevertheless evolving to reflect traditions elsewhere in the country.

The buffet v. sit down dinner conundrum has plagued brides for decades, but most experts report that buffets and food stations are gaining ground once again. “People always lean toward buffets because it gives their guests more of a choice and keeps the wedding moving,” said Roy Mazzoleni, owner of Remo’s Catering, adding that moving stations (carts on wheels) are becoming popular as well.

Tonya Edinger, wedding planner and owner of Weddings of Pittsburgh, agreed. “In the weddings I’ve done, people are gearing more toward the cocktail party and having heavy appetizers while staying clear of the traditional sit-down dinner.”

She described one wedding where there were scattered food stations that served throughout the whole night, so people could grab food at any time.

Nicole Brough, wedding planner and owner of Your Big Day, said that many folks are opting for family-style service, which bridges the gap between buffet and sit-down dinners.

As far as what’s on the menu, folks are shying away from traditional stuffed chicken, beef and fish selections. “People are trying to put more creativity into their food options,” said Brough.

“Pittsburgh is still a meat-and-potatoes town, but a lot of people are doing vegan or gluten-free,” said Mazzoleni, adding that while people still respect tradition, he has been preparing some ‘off the wall’ menus as of late, including one that was strictly breakfast items. Even when he caters a wedding with traditional food, he added that he takes a multigenerational approach by almost always incorporating something trendy.

Rather than making a choice, why not give people a little bit of this and a little bit of that? “Some people are opting for more eclectic duo platters, such as steak and fish or steak and chicken,” said Edinger, who refers to many of today’s wedding menus as “simple comfort.”

Folks often incorporate their ethnic heritage into their menus as well, which can include anything from Polish kielbasa to Asian fusion, soul food, Italian dishes or almonds at Greek weddings. “I always try to pull in something from their ethnicities,” said Edinger. “It really goes far with the grandparents; it’s a way to include them and say that we remember our heritage.”

Brough has done weddings where the menu reflects places that the couples have traveled for foods that they like. "I love any opportunity that my couples take to add their own personal touches to their wedding day, and food is a great way to do that," she said.

According to Mazzoleni, this can mean incorporating a bit of Pittsburgh into the menu, such as chipped ham sliders or pierogis.

The experts all agree that the focus has shifted from appetizers before dinner to late night bites post-dinner—and this is where the wedding party’s creativity can shine. “Late night bites are a way to bring out that whimsy,” said Brough.

Edinger said that she has done “fun and happy foods” at the end of the night, including a pizza bar, nacho bar, and a French fry bar. Another trend that the experts are seeing is weddings lasting into the morning, followed by brunch offerings.

Despite the rise of late-night savory bites, desserts are never going to go out of style. In addition to cookie tables, cupcakes are still popular, often in lieu of traditional wedding cakes.