Destination Weddings in Italy: Florentine Catering Legend Guidi Lenci or ART of BANQUETING
Food is one of the essential things at a wedding. Your guests will always remember excellent food (as well as bad food). Food’s quality, freshness, and appearance can easily make your wedding a smashing success, especially when talking about Italy and its fantastic food traditions.
In this blog, I am interviewing an exceptional Florence-based caterer, whose family tradition, love and passion have been passed from generation to generation, Guidi Lenci Ricevimenti.
Please introduce yourself
Ciao! I'm Filippo Lenci, son of Ennio Lenci, and nephew to Gino Guidi-- with whom this entire endeavor began, and who I hope would be proud to see Guidi Lenci Ricevimenti today, now under my and my family's leadership.
We'd love to hear more about your business, Guidi Lenci Ricevimenti.
Everything began when my uncle Gino opened Florence's first high-end bakery in Florence in 1910. The tiny but mighty shop quickly gained recognition throughout Florence for its high quality and delicious, refined products.
As my father grew up, Uncle Gino taught him all there was to know about the "dolcezze" business and eventually passed the torch on to Ennio.
After successfully expanding with an additional pastry shop, the Guidi Company solidified its prestigious position. Yet, my father felt that we should continue to grow, expanding our specialties, nuancing our menus, and crafting evermore creative, stunning baked goods. His true dream was for the Guidi Company to enter into the world of Haute Cuisine and become a key player.
Inspired by his nonna, who worked as a chef for Florentine nobility, my father loved to organize elaborate dinners in the houses of Tuscan aristocrats, while my older brother Andrea was learning the basics of the family business.
For the Lenci family, the perfect product's research and production became a legacy and a passion. Thus, in the 1970s, the ancient bakery ceased its activity to start the Guidi banqueting one. In those years, I, the younger son, also began to work for the family business.
We've worked together with pioneers of Italian Cuisine through those years, and we also worked with the three Michelin star restaurant Enoteca Pinchiorri in Florence.
Over the years, Guidi organized myriad intricate banquets for Ferrari, Fiat, Emilio Pucci, Ferragamo, Chanel, Moschino, etc. During Prince Charles' and Princess Diana's official royal visit to Italy, we had the honor to prepare a luxurious lunch in Florence's beautiful Town Hall.
Who came up with the name "Guidi Lenci"?
Well, when the first company opened, it was called "GUIDI"! A tribute to my family and the namesake of its founder-- uncle Gino. A few years ago, however, another local Tuscan family opened a company with the same name! We knew we had to make a change to ensure that there wouldn't be any ambiguity. In keeping with the original name, we aggregated it with our family surname: Lenci. Coming up with the name Guidi Lenci, therefore, was a family-wide and generation-spanning effort!
You cater for destination weddings. When did you start and why?
We engaged in this activity when destination weddings started gaining popularity in the 2000s. International clients sought out authentic Italian experiences, superb quality, especially exceptional food. Those seeking such vendors found Guidi Lenci, renowned for our attention to detail, traditional recipes, excellent organizational and management skills. Destination weddings, where various cultures come together, let us witness first-hand how authentic cultural experiences introduce a whole new dimension to the couple's wedding celebration. The process of balancing Italian traditions and ethnic food is not always an easy one, but for us, the only thing that matters is the couple's experience. Let them live the true dolce vita and have memories to last a lifetime!
I remember when we planned an Indian wedding, and the family decided to go for the traditional Baraat celebration. In this widely attended parade, families, musicians, dancers, and even exotic animals, escort the bride and groom to the Temple for the ceremony. However, the wedding took place in a Tuscan Villa just outside Florence, and the family and friends with musicians and dancers walked the groom to the garden to the ceremony. The groom was riding a white horse. It was stunning, a tribute of colors, music, laughter, and excitement – what a wedding is all about.
What types of food do you offer? Can you accommodate different food restrictions and particular requests?
It is essential for us to offer our clientèle various menus created from family recipes passed down through generations but with a more modern twist utilizing fresh and seasonal products. We are always happy to meet any needs and preferences that our clients may require due to religious or cultural beliefs or taste so our menus can be tailor-made for every event. In the past, we have catered for many Jewish, Indian, Russian, and Asian weddings.
We try our best to cater for any dietary restrictions or allergies that guests may have, trying to make their menu as similar as possible to the rest of the guests, so they do not feel left out. Sometimes it can be challenging, I do admit, but with a passion and love for food, you can do anything! The most satisfying thing at the end of the day is seeing our couples smile when they thank you from the bottom of their hearts for the delicious meal you have prepared for them and their guests.
Do you have any changes in food offerings and restrictions due to COVID-19? For example, in the USA we cannot offer buffet dishes due to health concerns. How can you assure the guests' safety?
We require that all staff wears gloves and masks and maintains social distance even between themselves as much as possible depending on the circumstances.
There are restrictions to buffet service as well-- for example, there is an extra barrier between the waiter serving at the buffet and the guest. We still create gorgeous, colorful displays of fresh Italian products such as mozzarella and prosciutto; the difference is that the guests cannot retrieve it directly, but only from the designated staff.
What is important to you when working with a client?
I believe that "standard" is synonymous with apathetic, unoriginal-- the opposite of what such events should be. Therefore, it is vital to establish a rapport with each client, learn about them as individuals, and know who they are as a couple. It is the only way to craft a unique menu that satisfies their every wish and leaves a lasting, delicious memory in everyone's minds.
It is also essential that clients feel comfortable and supported through every step of the process, with nothing to worry about and fully able to enjoy their day until the absolute final moment has gone perfectly. We ensure that at least one member of the Guidi Lenci family is personally present at each event to make sure everything runs smoothly and as discussed during the planning. I am delighted that this year my son Pier Filippo joined our team-- now we can cater four events a day instead of limiting ourselves to three!
Finally, an event runs the risk of not meeting its full potential without complete collaboration between all of the onsite vendors. In our case, we are very fortunate to know many of the suppliers working in the wedding/event industry as we have been in the business for many years.
You are located in Tuscany. Are you available to work elsewhere?
We have worked all over Italy, preparing delicious food in villas, castles, gardens, cruise ships, etc.. but we have always been open to working abroad! In 1987, when Ferragamo organized "The Art of the Shoe" Exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum (London), Guidi Lenci was the company bestowed with the honor of preparing our famous Risotto al Cervaro Della Sala for the 350 guests attending the exhibition.