“We had 30 people over for dinner every Sunday, so if you wanted your family’s attention you were in the kitchen,” she said. “I was good at it and I loved it.”
However, Rizzo did not pursue a culinary career until much later. After college she became roommates with now-business partner Archie Gianunzio, who she met as a teenager while both worked at The Gap. The duo would host fabulous dinner and cocktail parties for friends right out of their apartment, but it wasn’t until several years later in New Orleans when a friend suggested culinary school that Rizzo seriously considered it.
“I was at Jazz Fest in May, and by September I was in culinary school,” said the Institute of Culinary Education graduate and co-owner/executive chef of Halcyon Gourmet, which caters events all over the city and beyond. Halcyon Gourmet recently expanded into a larger kitchen, so prepared meals will likely be available at its storefront by the end of the month.
“It’s important that we have a presence in the neighborhood by offering healthy and delicious meals,” said Rizzo. “Nobody wants to cook at the end of the day and it’s helpful if you have a meal prepared by a fellow mom.”
When Rizzo and Gianunzio get orders for big events, they hire close friends and family because, pointed out Rizzo, “everyone who works for us cares about us and wants people to know how great we are. We only host parties we’d want to be at.” In addition to the menu, every last detail is planned out, from the décor to signature drink to take-home desserts in a bag.
“You never know what your next opportunity will be, so you always have to put your best foot forward,” said Rizzo, who for the last four to five years has served as personal chef to Whoopi Goldberg. “Everything you put out has to be the best representation of you.”
Halcyon Gourmet is located at 202 Banker Street in Greenpoint. For more information call (718) 349-2882 or visit their website.