15 Fox Place - Jersey City, New Jersey 07306
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|"Kathryn Budinich dollops pastry batter onto a baking sheet while her mother, Josie LaPrete, stirs a pot of tomato sauce or "gravy" as she prefers to call it.
"When I was first married, I was a terrible cook," Budinich says, placing the pastry puffs in the oven. They're destined to be stuffed with seafood once they're browned. "I got Ragu and some frozen something and my husband got sick that night."
Budinich persevered and now she doesn't have to advertise the family's Jersey City catering business. As its name indicates, it's grown by Word of Mouth. Her schedule overflows with weddings, birthday parties, fund-raising luncheons and political tete-a-tetes. Every Christmas Eve she can count on catering 45 parties before midnight.
Word of Mouth keeps business all in the family with friends and relatives scurrying back and forth chopping veggies, cutting meats and rolling breasts of chicken in wine sauce for Budinich's specialty, chicken roulade. Many of the crew of 20 - including cooks, waiters, buyers and ice carvers - has worked together for more than 20 years when they first prepared sausage and peppers and jumbo pots of meatballs for the feasts at the Church of Mt. Carmel down the street.
Budinich started Word of Mouth in 1986 and recruited those same friends and relatives, including her father, Nicky LaPrete; husband, Richie; son Marc, sister-in-law JoAnn, best friend MaryLou Roche, and family friend Dominick Grieco, who was also a featured player in the Martin Scorsese film "Casino."
Strictly an "off premises" caterer, Budinich designs the menu for many county and local government functions, but half her business comes from the suburbs of Westfield, Chatham and Morristown and shore points like Spring Lake, Brielle and Mantoloking.
"When I first started I had no stove," Budinich says. "I did everything with an electric frying pan. Then when I had a job, I bought a stove. I had another job, I bought a refrigerator . . ."
Today, Budinich owns two stoves and 10 refrigerators and creates a smorgasbord of foods for any occasion whether it's brunch, lunch, a buffet or an elegant sit-down dinner. She does all the cooking and creates dishes with poultry, seafood and roasts, but it's the Italian specialties that stand out on her nine-page menu: eggplant rollatine, cavatelli with ricotta, manicotti, ravioli and lasagna, to name a few. They're all made with her mother's mouth-watering gravy.
To prove how much people love her food, Budinich grabs a postcard off the refrigerator door from a couple whose wedding she catered. They sent it on their honeymoon in Bora-Bora, thanking Budinich for the fabulous food at the wedding.
"The nicest part of the whole thing is that every day you're doing a party," Budinich says. "You're not doing anything sad. Everyone's always happy. It's so important to be happy in your job."
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