With tradition on the menu

It’s rare to see Al Ciuffetelli sitting at a desk.

He’s more often out and about between the many sites and events served by Homestyle Caterers.

He might be stopping by a corporate luncheon, a post-round golf gathering or a glittering wedding reception.

It’s done, he says, to “just make sure” all is going well.

And he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“Customer service is what we’re about.”

On a recent afternoon, Ciuffetelli has made time to meet with WAG, and we are indeed sitting, this time in his office at Putnam County Golf Course in Mahopac, one of Homestyle’s venues. The talk is all about his family-owned business and what keeps it going.

As Ciuffetelli shares, “I did not want a job that I was going to be bored at.”

Seems he got his wish.

Today, Homestyle Caterers provides healthy lunches for countless schools and institutions, operates grille-room restaurants, food service and private events at this course as well as at Dunwoodie Golf Course in Yonkers, offers off-premises catering and, most recently, has expanded into the entertainment field.

The rewards, Ciuffetelli says, are many, reinforced most vividly at countless Homestyle events.

“That’s what I love,” he says. “I love watching people having fun. …They’re making memories.”

A TASTE FOR BUSINESS

For as long as he can remember, Ciuffetelli has had a passion for food, something shared with his brother Joseph, whose training includes study at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park.

The brothers, who grew up in Yonkers and now live with their respective families in Yorktown, have worked together for more than a quarter of a century in various aspects of the food industry.

“I started actually when I was 14 years old,” says Al, who began at Morley’s, the noted market in his hometown that he would go on to purchase at age 29.

“We started as a supermarket, but it just grew,” he says. The catering aspect, he adds, “just took off.”

Eventually, he continues, the brothers had an opportunity to start a new business and sold the supermarket and its affiliated bar and restaurant.

“We took a chance,” and entered the food-service end of the industry, with early days focused on providing meals to schools, nursing homes and the like, soon breaking into the corporate world.

From the start, it seems, the brothers’ roles were clear. Ciuffetelli considers himself the “face” — and voice — of the company and oversees the business end, while Joseph focuses on the culinary side.

“He was just so talented I couldn’t compete,” Ciuffetelli says, before playfully adding. “I don’t cook — I cut. Like I’ll do the antipasti.”

THE FAMILY AS A TEAM

For Ciuffetelli, the business has grown naturally.

“It’s all about relationships. We’ve built up so many relationships over the years.”

The most important one, though, just might be within his own family. The company, he notes, grew from a staff of five to a thriving operation that now employs nearly 60, many of them family members.

“That’s a big part of what we are,” he says. “Family’s a big part of it.”

Ciuffetelli views the company’s success — which includes now operating for some four years at each of the golf courses — as something strongly tied to the public’s perception of Homestyle Caterers.

“They love our food. They like what we have to offer. We’re a family.”

And it’s one that supports family events.

At the Putnam course, for example, Homestyle offers Friday-night barbecues, with music, in the summer.

“All the families are out here. It’s not just the adults.”

And that tradition of gathering continues.

“We take the entertainment from the outside and take it inside. We never stop.”

Through this all, there is plenty of work with nonprofit organizations and local causes.

“We’re all about the community,” he adds.

And, of course, the food.

Ciufftelli credits his brother — “He’s so creative” — with keeping on top of culinary trends, offering new twists on many classics. Changing tastes and dietary requests are always kept in mind, too.

“We listen to our customers,” Ciuffetelli says. “They give us great ideas.”

They also give requests for those Ciuffetelli classics.

“We’re very big into the Italian dishes,” he says, mentioning antipasti, penne vodka and chicken dishes.

With the next generation already getting involved, Ciuffetelli says with a laugh, he finally thinks he’ll be able to “retire one day.”

But, he admits, that’s a long ways off.

A WIDER WELCOME

At Homestyle, Ciuffetelli says, there are always thoughts toward the future.

“We serve 2,000 meals every single day.”

There is, he says, a real strength in being a year-round, seven-day-a-week operation capable of creating events for parties of 40 to more than 1,000.

“We’re so diversified,” he says, noting the company also caters for commercials and television shows. More recently, it’s been catering business events and bringing in entertainment to the Westchester County Center.

“We started out doing the food, and we got started in entertainment,” he says of his newest venture.

From the “Legends of Motown” event in September to the Kenny Rogers concert set for Dec. 11, Homestyle is ever expanding its offerings — but goals remain.

“We’re really trying to get more corporate office buildings,” Ciuffetelli says.

With its new White Plains kitchen, Homestyle Caterers is poised for such expansion within the business community — and will bring, Ciuffetelli says, more than just delicious food.

“The people know when you love what you do. That’s a fact.”

For more, visit homestylecaterersinc.com.

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