The restaurant and food industry is one of the hardest hit by the Covid-19 emergency. For catering businesses in particular, event cancellations and the lack of formal store fronts, have had terrible repercussions on their economy.

We spoke with La Mendocina Argentine Catering owner and chef Mónica Aveni-Ranii, who started her Pittsburgh business in 1984. Throughout the years she has catered private dinners and tea parties, and even offered cooking classes with much success.

Mónica catering an event

Then it all came to a standstill as people and organizations began cancelling events in March. Mónica applied for unemployment benefits early on, but never received an answer.

“The last two months have been extremely tough for the business. We were waiting for approval from the county to operate a to-go service and I just finally got the green light,” said the Mendoza, Argentina native.

Now Aveni-Ranii is focused on succeeding in her temporary transition to take-out orders. She’s elated, planning on offering two to three take out days per month. Phone pre-orders (412-607-8241) are necessary. The rented kitchen out of St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church provides a temporary space to prepare meals. With no long-term storage space, Mónica must buy just enough ingredients to fulfill her orders.

Argentine empanadas

Thankfully the phone orders have been pouring in. She’s gotten the business up to speed in POS payment options like Square for easy prepay. Her first day of take out is scheduled for May 20 with pre-orders due on the 18th by 5:00 pm. The menu for opening day includes all-time favorites like:

  • Beef, chicken, or corn/ricotta empanadas
  • Spanish potato quiche (Tortilla Española)
  • Spinach & berry salad with feta cheese or caprese salad with balsamic glaze
  • Classic dessert from Buenos Aires Sweet Alfajores or pasta frola/quince filling pastry

Curb-side pick up will be at the church’s parking lot (600 Pitt St. Wilkinsburg, PA 15221) between 3:00 pm and 5:00 pm on scheduled meal days. Staff will be adhering to Covid-19 guidelines, wearing masks, and gloves to deliver containers to customers’ cars.

Getting her business going again, albeit in a different format, feels great to Aveni-Ranii. She will keep her followers updated on the upcoming choices for the month through La Mendocina’s Facebook page.

Her fans and long-time customers are helping get the word out.

“Even with the Covid-19 situation, I try to stay positive. People are already contacting me to reserve catering dates for weddings and events next year. Cooking is my passion and I will continue to focus on delighting my clients, even if just for take out in the time being,” Mónica shared smiling, keeping her eyes on the phone, ready to take the next order.

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