We’re Bringing “Johnny” Back

You guys, I seriously want to have some freakin’ delicious food at our wedding reception.

While the town we’re getting married in isn’t devoid of delicious meal options, it does lack variety. In fact, every single wedding I’ve ever been to in my hometown has been catered by the same place, which serves up some admittedly delicious barbeque (we ARE in Texas, after all!). While I do love me some perfectly smoked brisket jazzed up with a splash of tangy, spicy barbeque sauce and a hearty side of green beans riddled with pieces of bacon, I kind of want to serve something different to our guests at our reception.

Going along the same vein, I also want to offer our guests a more cost-effective dinner, so I started thinking about meals that are relatively inexpensive to make, fill up my belly, and taste delicious. What kind of foods comfort me and make me happy? What’s one meal I always feel satisfied with after I finish eating? And then it hit me.

Pasta.

I don’t know about you guys, but I have yet to meet someone who DOESN’T enjoy some kind of pasta dish. Everybody loves Italian food, right? It’s certainly my favorite type of food, and Mr. A’s favorite dinner involves delving into a large, deep dish supreme pizza from Pizza Hut, which is almost like Italian food, so it seems like the most natural choice for us.

The only problem is there isn’t an Italian restaurant in our town, so I wasn’t originally sure how to go about finding a caterer willing to fix up an Italian feast for our guests with such limited resources. I was kind of nervous about how much it would cost to outsource the catering from a nearby town, but even extending out 30 miles there didn’t seem to be any establishments that fit the bill; that is, until I realized that chain restaurants sometimes also cater.

Enter the garlic-infused solution to my problem: Johnny Carino’s.

Johnny Carino’s is a moderately priced Italian restaurant chain comparable to Olive Garden. The restaurant had changed its name to just Carino’s, but I was recently told that they’re bringing the “Johnny” back (not sure why he left in the first place”¦). At any rate, there’s a Johnny Carino’s about 40 minutes from our hometown, so I shot them an email and was contacted by a catering consultant, Shannon, who gave me an initial quote and helped me set up a complimentary menu tasting at the nearest restaurant location.

When we arrived at the restaurant, we were promptly shown to a table and were offered complimentary soft drinks while we waited for the restaurant manager and catering specialist to see us. I brought Mr. A, Mama Dillo, and Lil Dillo along for the ride, and we took advantage of the time waiting to snap a few gratuitous pics:

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Look at those photogenic beauties!

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Ready to get our grub on!

Not much later, we were warmly greeted by the restaurant manager and one of the catering coordinators, Matthew, who immediately got to work asking us all sorts of important questions like where the wedding was taking place, approximately how many people we might be expecting, and what amenities were available at the reception venue. While Matthew asked us all the right questions, the restaurant manager went to work getting the meals we selected to try ready in the kitchen. He promptly returned with a plate of penne alfredo, chicken parmigiana, roasted potatoes, and seasoned green beans. Everything was DELICIOUS.

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Chicken parmigiana. YUM.

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Creamy penne alfredo!

I think what I loved the most about the entire menu-tasting experience was that the catering coordinator really listened to what we wanted and didn’t try to up-sell us anything. In fact, he even went so far as to say that our original price quote we had gotten online was way too much food for the amount of people we were expecting. He also advised us against the original fettuccine noodles for the alfredo sauce and explained that fettuccine tends to not transport well and is difficult to serve, at which point we settled on the heartier penne noodles. We also decided to swap out the spaghetti noodles for penne to go with the chicken parmigiana. Ultimately, our guests will get the choice of either a meat option, a meatless option, or a little of both; they’ll also get their fill of house salads with a variety of dressings and all the fresh-baked bread they like.

Also, I should probably fill you all in now: We’re doing something called a “serviced buffet,” which basically means staff from Johnny Carino’s will serve guests as they come through the buffet line. I know some brides tend to be on the fence about the idea of a buffet, but for our crowd and our budget, I think a serviced buffet is a nice middle area between a regular serve-yourself buffet and a full sit-down serviced dinner. The staff will keep the line moving, people can pick which entree they want, and we’ll get to save some of the money we could have spent on the full-serviced sit-down dinner option. The cool part is, however, that the Johnny Carino’s staff does serve the wedding party, so I don’t have to stand in line in my big ol’ poufy wedding dress!

However, I’ve got to tell you the absolute best part of all of this: Even with the transportation fees, gratuities, and serviced buffet charges, the entire thing still comes out to less than nine dollars per head. I DEFINITELY thought going with a restaurant chain outside of the city limits wouldn’t be within the realms of our budget, but I was so wrong. We’ll get to serve our guests some yummy Italian food without breaking the bank, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

What kinds of food are you hoping to serve at your reception? Did you have to outsource catering from another town? What do you think about “serviced buffets”?

BLOGGER

Mrs. Armadillo

Location:
Houston, Texas
Wedding Date:
March 2013

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  1. Member
    MrsStobe 54 posts, Worker bee @ 8:46 am

    We had a local italian restaurant cater our wedding and it was around $10 per person! we had appetizers, penne with red sauce, chicken parmesan and we the most AMAZING garlic knots, salad and a serviced buffet, and they threw in a bartender for us and it was the most delicious food plus it was WELL within our budget! I definitely recommend having a local restaurant cater rather than a catering company.

  2. Member
    MrsPeachMartini 679 posts, Busy bee @ 8:51 am

    That’s awesome!!! My ONLY suggestion is that you make sure there is a gluten free option in case you have guests with dietary restrictions. And make sure you ask on your response card if anyone has any food allergies or intolerances so that you can plan ahead.

  3. Member
    haelmai 321 posts, Helper bee @ 8:55 am

    Okay, Miss ‘Dillo, when I saw your post, I knew I had to comment!
    I’m in Austin, and I worked at Johnny Carino’s (when it still had Johnny) for two and a half years as both a server and a trainer. Girl, that food is AWESOME! I was always treated well by the staff and managers, and the food was always so yummy!
    In fact, my FMIL has been looking for a place to hold our rehearsal dinner. She mentioned to my guy Carino’s, and he told her that I probably wouldn’t want to have it there as I had worked there for so long. But I told her that I had no problem using Carino’s for the rehearsal dinner, as I knew the food would be good, and it has a great atmosphere! So we might be having Carino’s ourselves the night before.
    P.S. Loving following your posts, Miss ‘Dillo!

  4. Member
    Essa 124 posts, Blushing bee @ 10:38 am

    This is exactly what we are looking for in terms of food for the wedding. Because we said the same thing, who DOESN’T like pasta!? We don’t have anyone with a gluten allergy so we should be in the clear. I couldn’t believe how expensive pasta was through catering companies so I am definitely going to look into the Italian Restaurants around here!

  5. Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 12:42 pm

    What a great deal for delicious sounding food! It’s perfect.

  6. Member
    graywolf 725 posts, Busy bee @ 2:39 pm

    nine dollars. omg. this sounds like the best idea in the world. it makes me cringe to think of what we’re spending…eek! good call dillo!

  7. Member
    mzjynxie 762 posts, Busy bee @ 2:46 pm

    Serviced buffets are what I usually see at weddings, and I love pasta!

  8. Member
    bailey12 366 posts, Helper bee @ 3:04 pm

    That’s such a great deal!

  9. Member
    smendoza912 155 posts, Blushing bee @ 3:25 pm

    I love Johnny Carino’s. The franchise owner of the ones here in Arizona passed away and the Johnny Carino’s went bankrupt and out of business.

    Such an awesome deal! Your guests will love their meal!

  10. Member
    peaches13 2130 posts, Buzzing bee @ 4:30 pm

    We went through the same thought process, too–gotta love the Houston area! We had a local Italian restaurant cater ours, even though our wedding/reception was 40 minutes away. Similar pricing and awesome service. The next time we went into the restaurant after the wedding, our meal was on the house!

  11. Member
    sand dollar 1334 posts, Bumble bee @ 6:35 pm

    Awesome! My family used Carinos catering for our hometown “reception” and everyone raved about the food. It was fantastic. Great choice for your wedding!

  12. Member
    panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:16 pm

    That food looks delicious and you are getting a great deal on it! wow! I thought my food quote was reasonable, but yours is fantastic!

  13. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 9:55 am

    That is such a great deal! And you’re right, everyone loves pasta. Everyone should be happy!

  14. Member
    This Time Round 10219 posts, Sugar Beekeeper @ 3:32 pm

    Good choice.
    Like everyone else I LOVE Italian !!
    So I am sure, it will be a hit.
    Glad to see you nixed the spaghetti tho, and swapped it out for penne noodles. Will definitely be less messy to eat, and lower the chances of getting tomato sauce splashes / drippings on your beautiful Wedding Dress.
    I am not a fan of Buffets for Weddings, but as you say a Served Buffet is better than one where folks totally help themselves (and inevitably someone at the end winds up going without)

  15. Member
    jacofblues 1468 posts, Bumble bee @ 11:42 pm

    Oh my gosh, are you serious? $9 per head is AMAZING! Good on you and Mr A! That food looks yummers too!

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