Anthony and Elke Catania come from different backgrounds when it comes to selling food, but the husband and wife duo have created a two person operation that has thrived over the last three and a half years without much exposure.
Making everything from dessert to lunches from scratch, serves a variety of sandwiches and prepared meals for take out that the customer makes at home. "The idea is to give restaurant quality food at home. You know how sometimes you get take out and once you get it home it's all soggy? We've developed a way that with some simple reheating instructions you can have it at home as if it just came out of our kitchen," Anthony Catania said.
Elke, the daughter of a grocer, handles the front of the house business and Anthony, whose family has spent years in the restaurant business, cooks and prepares the food. The only other help the couple have in operating the business is from Anthony's brother who helps do prep work on Mondays."We've been in food all our lives. We're self taught but if we see a clean plate and people saying "Mmmm" then it doesn't really matter if we never went to culinary school," Catania said.
Reservations Gourmet To Go
4703 North Nebraska Avenue
Coming together in Florida: Elke is from Buffalo while Anthony is from New York City. The pair met in Tampa and were wed seven years ago moving into the Seminole Heights area. They were working in the catering industry in areas like South Tampa, but they always wanted to open a store front. "We looked around and we just started thinking, we live here, why not try to be a part of developing the place that we live," Catania said.
Taking a chance: "We really took a chance coming here because just days after we opened the economy fall out started. I think we're at the top of the bottom right now, but it's paid off being here because over the last few years a lot of other places have opened around here and it's been a good thing," Elke Catania said.
Price range: For lunch, the menu consists mostly of hot and cold sandwiches priced very reasonably in the $4.95-$7.95 depending on size. The dinner menu is constantly changing allowing Catania to display his extensive repetoire of nearly 300 entrees. The two items that are always on the menu, Chicken Rustica and Mini Meatloaf, are priced at $13.95.
Vegans go vegetarian: One menu item that has proven particularly successful is the Portabello Aioli sandwich which has inspired changes in the eating habits of some. "That sandwich is a real hit because we have a lot of vegetarians in the area. We've turned vegans into vegetarians with it. We still haven't gotten them to eat red meat or anything but..." says Catania with a laugh.
Flying under the radar: "We've got incredibly loyal customers and we get a lot of compliments. It's been extremely rewarding, but we've flown under the radar quite a bit because we're literally a mom and pop, not a bar and we aren't open late. A lot of critics haven't discovered us yet, but we're hopeful that will happen," Catania said.
How do they make the menu if it's changing every week? "We confer. We take a look at what's out there when we go shopping, which we do almost daily. We come up with a menu every Sunday for Monday and I try to challenge myself all the time to add something new to my repetoire. It goes out in our e-mail once we know and it hits the website then too. We try to mix in ideas from the customer too so it's not just up to us," Catania said.
Fulfillment: "It's hard to put it into words how gratifying this has been. It's hot over a stove and I don't know how he she handles all the traffic up here. I guess that's the secret, we each have our area. I can't imagine doing something that we didn't love this much," Catania said.
Background: The foundation of Catania's cooking is Italian like his heritage, but over the years, French and American influences have found their way into his cooking.
Hours: Reservations Gourmet To Go is open Monday-Friday from 11:30a.m.-6 p.m. The couple does catering orders only on Saturdays and is closed on Sunday.