Family Feast: Great taste and exceptional service make it easy to say “I do” to Martino’s Catering

Team MARTINO'S includes Office Manager and Event Coordinator Odalis Cardenas-Linville (left) and President Vanessa Nunez.

By Alex Wilson | Photos by Viktor Budnik

Martino’s Catering has always been a family affair, which might help explain why it’s grown from humble beginnings to now serving about 80 happy couples and their families at weddings every year. Owner Vanessa Nunez met Martin Valera in 2010, they fell in love and got married. Valera was cooking for another catering company at the time and Nunez was interested in being an entrepreneur, so they formed the idea to start their own catering company.

“I told him, ‘Wow, you’re so talented,’ and, ‘You have such good taste in food,’” Nunez told Ventana Monthly. “So I was like, ‘Why don’t we start a business together?’”
At first, of course, they had zero clients, but an initial focus on catering corporate events helped spread the word about the delicious food coming out of their kitchen. Exposure on the nuptial-oriented website WeddingWire, consulted by many couples planning for their big day, helped, too.

SUCCULENT FEASTS made with top-quality beef, pork, chicken, seafood and vegetables give couples plenty of options to delight wedding guests.

“Little by little, we started building the clientele. I think the reviews on Yelp and WeddingWire started getting us known. And so, from there, we grew from a small little mom and pop,” she said.

All in the Family

Prior to getting married, Nunez and Valera each had two children. Together they had a fifth, who is now 11 years old. The other four kids started working at Martino’s Catering when they turned 16, Nunez said. While Nunez and Valera split up as a couple about two years ago, they’re still business partners. Not only that, the rest of the staff feels like an extended family as well.

“I love having the family around because they treat the business as their own. And so, they treat every event, as, you know, it has to be perfect because Vanessa and Martin, you know, they love and appreciate us. So then they treat the business as their own as well,” Nunez said. “I think it has been also one of the keys to our success, is that we have such great staff on our team. Because a lot of it is people that have come to know us or our family in one way or another.”

LAND AND SEA Fresh seafood, locally sourced produce and perfectly prepared pastas from Martino’s Catering.

One of the things Nunez loves the most about the wedding catering business is getting to know the brides and grooms so that every wedding is unique and reflects the newly formed family.

“Going from meeting them to actually going to the wedding day, you’ve already known the couple for about a year, you know, because you’ve had different moments where you interacted with them. So then you kind of get attached to the story, to wanting to make sure that everything is special for the day because you know how special it is for them as well,” Nunez said. “Our mission is to make sure that everything runs perfectly. So we have to, you know, double check everything, make sure that we get all the details of how they want it to be so that we can get it right.”

Old World Meets South of the Border

Martino’s Catering has a wide variety of options to choose from including an elegant chef-carved beef tenderloin served with au jus and horseradish sauce. Tiramisu made with ladyfingers infused with Italian espresso and rum, layered with cream and topped with shaved chocolate, is among many tempting options. Dessert bars with a wide variety of treats are also a popular choice these days, as well as ice cream sundae stations with trimmings like hot fudge, cherries and handmade whipped cream.

Even though they prepare all the traditional wedding favorites, the company has always had a focus on two cuisines that are nearly universally popular in this part of the world: Italian and Mexican.

WORLD OF FLAVOR Martino’s Catering’s menus span the globe, from south-of-the-border specialties to Italian classics and even Asian cuisine.

“I’ve had clients that say. ‘Well, you know, I’m Mexican and he’s Italian, so we want to do, like, a mix.’ We have some chef-created packages and then we have a la carte items,” Nunez said, noting that people can mix and match different cuisines.

As far as what dishes are the most popular, many couples decide to go with Italian flavors and savory beef dishes.

“The biggest hit is, like, the Italian. So, our tri tip is very popular and our chicken specialties. So, usually people get a tri tip with an Italian chicken. One of the popular ones is the chicken Provinciano. And then our roasted red potatoes are pretty popular. And then the grilled veggies are the ones that we sell the most. When people come and taste it, that’s most of the time what they choose.”

Nunez said they’re so committed to getting things perfect for their clients that they’re even willing to try their hand at dishes that aren’t one of their regular offerings.

“I have people that come from different places, like Jamaica or different countries, where they want to incorporate the food and we don’t have that. But we tell them, if you have a recipe, like your mom’s recipe that you love, and you want us to try to create it for you because you don’t want to have your mom cooking on the day of your wedding, give us the recipe. We’ll create it for you, and then you can come and taste it and see how we need to adjust it and how we need to make changes to it. And so, we also do custom menus as well.”

Tres Amores y Cantina

In addition to doing the cooking, Martino’s Catering is a full-service business that also handles rentals and the staffing needs of weddings and other large events. The business has an office and tasting room in Ventura at 577 Olivas Park Drive while much of the cooking takes place at a shared kitchen space in Camarillo called The Kitchen Terminal.

EXECUTIVE CHEF and Vice President Martin Valera.

Nunez and her family took on a new challenge last August, opening their first restaurant in Oxnard called Tres Amores y Cantina in downtown’s Centennial Plaza at 455 South A Street, where the kitchen is also used to support the catering business. A restaurant called SushiWay that offered a combination of Sushi and Mexican food was previously in the space. Nunez said they bought out the restaurant but also decided to hire the sushi chef, to create a restaurant with an even broader choice of cuisines to satisfy a variety of palates.

“We incorporated Mexican, American, Italian and sushi in one place so you don’t have to go to, you know, four different restaurants,” she said. “If somebody wants Italian or somebody wants Mexican, you can get it all in one place is what we envisioned.”

Martino’s Catering
5777 Olivos Park Drive, Suite D, Ventura