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FAL L 2014

Guide to Great Weddings 22 Pages of Insider Tips Covering Food, Drinks, Music, Flowers and Décor

What Modern Traditions Means Now Russo’s Redesign Puts a Contemporary Accent on Elegance

Vetro’s Big Year

After the Storm, a New Wave of Honors and Achievements


A G U I D E T O G R E AT W E D D I N G S Our experts provide their thoughts on the latest ways to add distinction to your wedding 41

Food & Drink

Flowers & Décor

Current Culinary Directions 42

The Perfect Setting Makes the Fantasy Real 52



Get Your Party Started 48

New Trends in Wedding Gowns, Bridesmaid Gowns and Tuxedos 56

Cover: Laura & Francesco Bille, married at Russo’s On The Bay, May 2013. Finalist of Russo’s Moat Extraordinary Wedding Contest. Photo by Silverfox Studios. 12



F E AT U R E S Nice Day for a Web Wedding



Meeting/Marrying Online, 64

Frank Russo, Jr. Russo’s On The Bay, Owner

What Modern Tradition Means Now

Russo’s Redesign puts a Contemporary Accent on Elegance 68

Columnists/Contributors Dan Feinstein Sue Goldenberg Fran Harrow Jack Raplee

Vetro – Big Year

Advertising Sales

After the Storm, a New Wave of Honors and Achievements 80

Michael Plevener Joe Vacca Staff & Administration


Lauren Taylor, Event Concierge

Most Extraordinary Wedding Contest

Vinnie Vitucci, Executive Assistant Design Team

Top Eight Winners 22

Duke Woolsoncroft, Creative Director Richard Marchione, Production

In The Spirit of Tradition

Photography Team Infinity Photography

It’s All About Family 28

Produced by: Creative Marketing Plus, Inc.

It All Began at Russo’s On The Bay A Cherished Tradition for Families 32

FROM THE EXPERTS Letter from the Publisher, Frank Russo, Jr. 15

Event Planning by Lauren Taylor Adding that Wow Factor to Your Wedding 20 Advertiser Index 108

“It’s Never Too Early to Plan Ahead” R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 13

Letter from the Publisher


Welcome to the Fall 2014 edition of Russo’s Modern Traditions. As always, each edition of the magazine provides us with an opportunity to look ahead to the future - but also to look back, remember all that has happened, and gain from that a perspective on all we have to be thankful for. With this in mind, it naturally follows that the theme for this edition of Russo’s Modern Traditions is change, continuity – and gratitude.

including awards from Wine Spectator, Open Table and the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences – that are not only elevating our reputation, but have turned Howard Beach into a new destination for fine dining and wine enthusiasts. And our encyclopedic “Guide to Great Weddings” charts next-generation trends for every part of your big day, from invites, fashion and food to décor and creative cocktails.

As Russo’s celebrated our 25th Anniversary nearly two years ago, we knew that this would be a time of change – but we could not have imagined just how big, and how profound, the changes would be. One of the greatest of these, unquestionably, was Hurricane Sandy, which ripped into our area just before Halloween 2012, leaving unprecedented destruction in its wake. While Russo’s business suffered significantly – as you’ll read in this issue, Vetro required two months of repairs afterwards – Sandy took a far greater toll on others in our community, leaving neighbors, long-time friends and even some of our own employees homeless, with decades worth of family belongings washed away.

Of course, for all the changes, some traditions are worth maintaining – and that’s a core belief here at Russo’s. Since we first opened our doors in 1987, we have built our business on some fundamental values I learned from my father: impeccable service, attention to detail, a passion to excel, and a sincere desire to make everyone who enters through our doors feel completely at home and welcome. With all of my children now working with me to shape the Russo’s tradition for a new generation, I get to celebrate family every day. It’s the greatest pleasure I can imagine and on behalf of all of us, I am proud to share it with you. Please enjoy Russo’s Modern Traditions.

Looking back, what I remember most about the storm now is how the entire

Frank Russo, Jr.

community came together – how Sandy’s challenges and the recovery effort since brought out the best in so many people – and continues to. On behalf of everyone at Russo’s, I would like to express our appreciation to all of the friends and clients who have supported us and believed in us. And speaking personally, I would like to add my heart-felt thanks to the entire team here, whose loyalty, dedication and perseverance have kept us going and growing even under

the most challenging of conditions. Other changes in the past year, luckily, were more deliberate, and more pleasurable. In “What Modern Tradition Means Now,” you’ll learn how Russo’s has just completed a total renovation – a multi-million dollar effort and the most extensive change in our history – to create an even more memorable setting for once-ina-lifetime celebrations. In “Vetro’s Big Year,” we note new honors and accolades –

With best wishes for all good things always,

Frank Russo, Jr.



Add that “Wow” Factor to your Wedding L A U R E N T AY L O R

by Lauren Taylor, Event Concierge, Russo’s On The Bay

Recently, I’ve been seeing an increase in requests from brides who want my help finding that extra “wow” factor – that something very special that will make their wedding truly memorable. Couples come in knowing they’re going to need music and photography and flowers; I guide them toward finding the right fit. Then, as we work though the planning process and they start to see the vision of their day coming together, they naturally want to customize things more. Working with couples during their wedding planning is very personal, and you have to really “get” the couple; once you do, making the right suggestions is easy. I notice after my brides and grooms start feeling less overwhelmed and book their basic vendors, they want to get more creative and add enhancements that really represent their taste, style or sense of humor. Couples really want to entertain their guests and make sure their wedding reception will be remembered uniquely. I get requests for live entertainment added to their core venue. This is one of 20

Lauren Taylor

the things I love most about what I do. I get to show my bride and groom how well I’ve gotten to know them by suggesting the right performer for their event. This could be anything from a living topiary performer during the cocktail hour, to a string quartet for their ceremony such as the Chaminade Players, to a live singer to complement the DJ, even if just for a few tracks. There are so many other fun touches such as strolling tables, dancers, comedians....


Live entertainment really puts a personal touch on an event. For weddings, live entertainment really gives the bride and groom an opportunity to express their own personal style and taste and provides something unique and exciting for their guests to experience. Enhancements always result in people talking about an event long after it ends. Live entertainment comes in many shapes and forms, and anything goes -- from an individual singer or dancer to a

10 dancer show. Live entertainment, such as a mime or a living topiary performing next to the place card table when guests arrive for cocktail hour, seems like such a simple addition, but makes an impact that is sure to keep the guests interested. Adding a saxophone player or percussionist to the DJ adds such an impact to the sound; it really accentuates the beats and moves the crowd. A touch as simple as a live singer to perform just a track or two, such as a Frank Sinatra song, really adds a touch of class and variety. It’s also nice to break away from the predominant entertainment to hear something completely different. A live performer commands a certain attention and appreciation from a crowd. I think it also shows the guests that the details were carefully considered. A live dance or singing performance also adds a bit of a theatrical vibe, which always has a lasting impact. Live performances have such a tremendous impact because they are emotional, and people feel that emotion in a room, especially for a wedding, which is an emotional event. It makes the whole experience very “intimate;” you almost can’t explain it, and you don’t have to, but every-

one in the room just knows that something special is happening. I also think that most people have an appreciation and respect for talent, and the guts it takes to put on a performance in front of a group. There are many factors to consider when deciding on the right music for an event. The type of event, the size of the space, the needs of the client, and any traditional/ ethnic music should all be considered, but most of all, it is a matter of taste and the desired mood for the evening. A great band or DJ can cover any couple’s request, whether it is to create a very traditional mood or a totally modern club style vibe. When it comes to weddings, ultimately the entertainment should represent the taste and style of the couple; I can direct them to the right professionals, who will be able to guide them in making the right choices, allowing the couple to make their vision of their event a reality, while also covering the logistics necessary to ensure a memorable event. And, of course, couples can use different types of music at different points in the event: *As guests enter… you know what they say about first impressions; this is the first opportunity for the host to make an impression, so don’t overlook the entranceway or lobby areas of the event hall. A string trio or a harpist for a light classic sound really makes an impression as the guests arrive at the venue. Or, for more intense impact, consider trumpeters in costume playing as the guests arrive.

*At cocktails…guests are moving around and usually making introductions, meeting new people, seeing people they haven’t seen in years; there is usually a lot going on. Something soft such as a harpist or trio or an individual singer would be just the right touch. *As the bride and groom enter the reception…the introductions are my favorite part of the evening. Whether there are 50 guests in the room or 500, it doesn’t matter; everyone in that room is there to see those two people and is very excited to see them announced for the first time as husband and wife. The band or DJ will play something very exciting at this time and the right ones will know just how to build up the anticipation in the room even more with the right beats. The bride and groom usually pick the song to be played as they enter the room, so it becomes very personal at that point and the anticipation dies down to almost a relief as the crowd is now complete. *To encourage dancing…the beats get faster and louder… the MC encourages everyone to get on the dance floor. Of course music is not the only way to add entertainment to your event. Performers in costume often leave a crowd very entertained, sometimes even mesmerized. Human statues, also referred to as Living Art, such as the type of entertainment provided by Ten 31 Productions, are intriguing. A performer dressed as a tree or plant, sitting or standing in an urn placed at a high traffic point in the reception

Gio Venuto Band

Jim Altamore

facility where all of your guests will have an opportunity to see, is a lot of fun. Strolling tables are live performers in costume who are actually in the middle of a real table that can be topped with appetizers or desserts. The performer can then interact with the guests as they help themselves to the items on the table. Guests love taking photos of these performers, as well; real time photos at these events will often end up on Facebook and Instagram. I also remind my brides and grooms not to overlook the other aspects of entertainment, such as lighting and décor. Event design has come a long way and anything is possible. At Russo’s we give our clients

the freedom to create any look and feel they desire. I have seen our exclusive design team, Something Extra, do some really amazing transformations in our ballrooms, changing the look so drastically I couldn’t believe I was standing in the same room. Down-lighting can change the color of the room at any time, creating an entirely different mood. Moving gobos can give the effect of the room being alive, and drapery can soften a room for a completely different feel. Event design really takes things to a new level and what is even greater about it is that no two events ever have to look or feel alike.

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 21

Most Extraordinary Wedding Contest Each year hundreds of wedding receptions are held at Russo’s, each uniquely crafted through collaboration with the bride and groom and Russo’s personnel. This year we sought out the “back stories” of many couples—how they met, what led up to the big day and how they enjoyed their reception. We present here eight stories that appeal most to us (admittedly subjectively), either in their back story or their perception of their event.

Judith & Jose Melosevich

contact with one another. Thanks to the Internet, we found each other again after 20 years!

Russo’s that afternoon. It was Sunday July 14, 2013, one month and 10 days before the wedding date.

That was then and this is now.

When I arrived at Russo’s I first I met with Jennifer, wedding consultant. She was really nice and really professional. Joining us a bit later was Frank himself and together they showed me many for attractive options followed by a tour of all the salons. We also visited Vetro, another Russo property.

I live in Howard Beach and we had planned to have our beach wedding at my house. Unfortunately, Sandy ruined that plan when my house was destroyed by the hurricane. I thought we would be able to make repairs and still have the wedding there but my friend and neighbor made me aware of how much time would be needed to make the repairs and that they probably couldn’t be made in time.

My fiancée and I met in December of 1983 (when we were young and beautiful, LOL). We were friends until I moved to New York in 1989 and we lost 22

The invitations were out and I was in a panic. That’s when my neighbor suggested that I call Frank Russo of Russo’s On The Bay. I took her suggestion and called Frank. When Frank learned of my situation he asked me to come to


When we returned to Russo’s On The Bay I selected the Tivoli Room for the event. Together Jennifer and Frank put together an amazing package in seemingly no time. I was so thrilled and relieved I gave Frank a big hug and Jennifer a kiss. As soon as the venue and package was all set, Jennifer started educating and guiding me through the whole process.

She even attended the evening food tasting and the vendors’ showcase. Working with the wedding professionals at Russo’s took a huge load off my mind and made me completely confident that the wedding would come off beautifully. That said, the real work started. Get the dress, help my fiancée with his suit and pick the favors, flowers, DJ, photographer, videographer and limo. I have no family in New York but Russo became like my family and in less than a month put our wedding together with such excellence and professionalism. Russo’s On The Bay exceeded all of our expectations for the beautiful and elegant wedding we experienced. On the wedding day the staff was extremely professional and very helpful to everyone, especially me. I had left my tiara and earrings at home and a Russo’s staffer lent me hers! The food was delicious and the view magnificent. All our guests told us they had a wonderful time. My husband and I are so grateful for helping make our wedding so memorable!

Ivana & Anthony Lombardi

From the moment we stepped into Russo’s, we knew this was the place we would get

married. We were greeted as warmly as could be and the very first impression was all we needed to solidify our wedding venue.

Carolyne & Antonio Napolitano

When we arrived at the scene on our wedding day, July 20, 2013 we felt as if we were at home. Our Maître D made us feel comfortable and her receptiveness and attention to detail was spot on. It was as if she anticipated what we needed before we could even ask. From presciently having our next drink at the ready, to ensuring that we were on our desired schedule during the day, it was clear that the staff was highly trained and extremely professional. Our guests were tremendously impressed by the breathtaking cocktail hour. From the making of the fresh mozzarella, to the sushi bar and beautiful carving stations, we couldn’t have been more pleased. Everyone raved about every bite they tasted. The drinks were flowing and the vibe was invigorating. It was clear the tone was being set for a wonderful reception. Once our guests entered the Tivoli room, they were greeted by a beautiful combination of radiant lighting and amazing décor and centerpieces that Flowers by Brian had created. The Tivoli room has a small circular glass enclosed elevator in which we entered (through the floor and up) ballroom. Our entrance was spectacular and is is something we, as well as our guests, will never forget. The MC, music by a band called Satisfaction Guaranteed, and lighting, really set the scene for what was the best day we could have ever imagined. To top off the amazing night, there was a jaw dropping Venetian hour, with the most decadent desserts imaginable. Needless to say, our guests have not stopped talking about our wedding. Russo’s On The Bay created memories for us that we will cherish for a lifetime.

July 14, 2013 a day that my husband and I will remember always. We waited more than a year for that day. In the week leading up to the day there were only dark skies and rainy days. We were both pleased to wake up on that Sunday morning and find the sun shining. It was a beautiful day and the hottest of the summer. My fiancée and I were engaged on April 20, 2012, a Friday like any other only on this day my best friend would ask me to begin our life’s journey together. I was shocked, excited and beyond happy. After the shock of being engaged we needed to start planning for the wedding. My fiancé and I decided right from the start that it was our wedding and we were planning it the way we wanted it and to not allow others’ opinions to get between us in planning our very special day. We explored a few different vendors but we knew that Russo’s On The Bay was going to be the place where we wanted to treat our guests to a spectacular evening. It was that day that Antonio and I booked our date and signed on the dotted line. Once the reception hall was chosen the rest of the planning began. My husband and I make a great team. We did our research and kept it simple. We wanted the best and chose the perfect vendors for us. Our day was extraordinary because Antonio and I made it extraordinary in our own way. We added our touch of elegance and being that


we both grew up in Brooklyn in an ItalianAmerican neighborhood we chose to stick to our roots. After going to weddings all our lives and seeing what we liked and didn’t like we had the opportunity to make our wedding fit our wants. Simple and elegant was the way we wanted it to be. We wanted our wedding day to seem like we didn’t plan it. And with Russo’s extraordinary help we got it right. We thoroughly enjoyed our wedding as did our guests. All we wanted was to have a fun day with lots of dancing, great music and delicious food and that is exactly what we had. Our wedding was extraordinary because we planned it with the help of professionals and they did a fabulous job. We made ourselves a promise to do it our way and we kept that promise. You can have the best of everything but unless you do it your way, your wedding will be just as ordinary as the next couple. July 14th, 2013 is an unforgettable day for several reasons. I married a fantastic man, everyone at our wedding left stuffed and my husband and I looked amazing. Russo’s On The Bay will forever be our chosen vendor for all of our future events. The staff was phenomenal and the hall is beautiful!

Christina & Vincent Della Torre

Our wedding day was the best day of our lives! However, it was almost the day that didn’t happen because of Hurricane Sandy.

a sudden shift in the wind. Embers flew to our side of the street, but the houses didn’t catch fire.

I grew up in Rockaway Beach across the street from St. Francis de Sales, the church my parents were married in. Ever since I was a little girl, it was my dream to meet an amazing guy, get married in that very Church and have my reception at Russo’s On The Bay. Every time my parents would drive out of Rockaway through Howard Beach, I would always notice how beautiful Russo’s looked.

We lost everything on the first floor and basement. Our basement was flooded and ruined all our sentimental items; memories from vacations, pictures, and trophies I had won when I was younger for track, soccer and golf. All of our ornaments for our Christmas tree, which my brother and I made or collected from various trips we took, were all gone. Basically everything from my childhood was gone in a matter of 12 hours. Even the invitations that were waiting to be mailed on the first floor in my parents’ house were filled with sludge because the water came up so high.

In 2007, I met the love of my life, Vincent Della Torre, and we were engaged in 2011. By early 2012, we booked Russo’s On The Bay and our wedding date was set for January 20, 2013. My dreams were coming true! We had about a year to plan and booked our vendors accordingly. Everything was going well. Near the end of October I had my invitations addressed, ready to be mailed. Then on October 29, 2012 Hurricane Sandy changed everything. Hurricane Sandy destroyed my childhood home, severely damaged the church I was to be married in, and damaged Russo’s On The Bay. Three houses across the street burned to the ground. Our home was only saved by

The devastation was surreal. The house was unlivable. I told my parents to cancel the wedding. I couldn’t imagine having a wedding when my parents didn’t even have a home. They told me not to cancel, because they believed they could be ready by January and they were right! We rebuilt our house in two months and it was more beautiful than ever. Everyone in my family worked so hard to get our lives back in order. I would go for a dress fitting in the morning, and by the afternoon I’d have on my boots, gloves and mask to clean sludge and mold out of our home. In the middle of all the cleaning, I had my hair and makeup trial. By the afternoon I was scrubbing mold off the walls with beautiful curls. I never in a million years would have thought that this would be part of my wedding planning. My husband-to-be was with me every step of the way. We ripped out sheetrock, rugs and floorboards. It was like we were in a twilight zone, not knowing when our lives would be whole again. My family was displaced for two months while our house was rebuilt. We were still putting up drapes a week before the wedding. The day before the wedding, the priest checked the electricity in the church because he wasn’t sure if it would work for our musician. We checked in with Russo’s regularly, and their repairs seemed



to be moving forward. On the day we were married everything fell into place and it was perfect. It was a testament to our resilience as a family and the resilience of Russo’s. I walked across the street to the church past all the construction workers I got to know well and got a standing ovation. They stopped working for an hour during the ceremony so we wouldn’t hear the jackhammers and drills in the background. The priest said he had never seen a wedding so crowded. Most of the 210 guests came to the church because many of them had helped us during the cleanup and knew just how far we had come in those few months. The local guests were especially excited because it was such a happy occasion.

from Flowers by Brian were so elegant. Our photographer, Silverfox, took literally hundreds of pictures and set up a picture slideshow showing my husband and I through the years. It was everything we had hoped for. It truly was the perfect day. There isn’t a thing I would change. My childhood dreams came true because of my amazing family, now husband, and the staff at Russo’s On The Bay. I couldn’t be happier.

Kristina & Michael Macchia

For the first time in quite a while many of them had a reason to get dressed up on a weekend, rather than put on their uniform of boots, gloves and masks. My 96 year old grandmother made it to the church and we have great pictures with her. Sadly she passed away two days later. Our priest believes she held on for the wedding, but being displaced by the hurricane surely contributed to her death. One week before the wedding, a family friend designed and printed the church programs and wouldn’t accept any money for them. Our musician for the ceremony was able to play because the electricity actually worked. It was the same musician that played at my parents wedding so it was extra special to me. The renovations at Russo’s On The Bay were also complete by our wedding day. I knew I didn’t have to worry about anything. My guests were stunned by the variety at the cocktail hour and were all raving about the food. While we were taking pictures, our friends kept telling us to come to the cocktail hour because it was so unbelievable. The reception was amazing with its almost military precision delivering appetizers and entrees to everyone. The kindness exhibited by Frank Russo and the entire staff was more than outstanding. He really loves weddings and takes pride to deliver nothing but best. People still cannot stop talking about how amazing it really was. Our centerpieces

ing surrounded by the most important people in our lives as we spoke our vows was more than we could ever ask for. Our reception was in the Tivoli Room at Russo’s On The Bay. It was so beautiful! The flowers and the lighting were phenomenal! The room looked amazing. Our photographer actually snapped a picture of me seeing the room for the first time and my face says it all! It was amazing that all we planned for finally came to life. Coming up through the floor in the glass enclosed elevator to make our entrance to the room and seeing all of our friends and family was one of the spectacular highlights of our night that we’ll remember forever! Our first dance was to “I wanna dance with somebody” by the Side Project. As we danced the night away to the fantastic music of the Gio Venuto Band, we were loving every minute. It was perfect. The smiles on our faces were permanent. From the food and service to the atmosphere and entertainment, it was more than either of us could have imagined in our wildest dreams.

May 18, 2013 was the happiest day of our lives! It was our wedding day and it truly was a fairy tale! Our ceremony was at Saint Aidan’s Roman Catholic Church in Williston Park, NY. I had looked forward to walking down the aisle since I was a little girl. I dreamed about my wedding day as all little girls do. As the doors opened to the church, all I could do was look straight at my groom. It was so surreal. It was a moment I will cherish for as long as I live. We had a beautiful mass led by Father Tom Tassone. Ironically, we found out that day that Father Tom is related to Michael. It made our ceremony even more special! Be-

Our wedding party included our Maid of Honor, who is the bride’s cousin, and bridesmaid, who is the bride’s best friend. Our Best Man is the groom’s brother. Our six nephews served as our Junior Ushers and one was our ring bearer. Our niece was our Flower Girl and our other niece was the Junior Bridesmaid. Seeing all the kids on the dance floor made our wedding that much better! They were loving every minute of it! They definitely won the hearts of all the guests. They had waited a long time for this day as well. At the end of our night, we realized how much we planned for this wedding and though it was seemingly over in a heartbeat the memories will last forever! We are blessed with amazing friends and family. We are looking forward to a lifetime of love and happiness!

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 25

It all started eight years ago when we met on a cold Wednesday in January. It was the beginning of a new semester and a new friendship. We were in a literature course at Queens College, and quickly became friends. As the weather warmed up, so did our relationship. Eddie was positive that I was the perfect girl for him the first time he saw me, but I wasn’t so sure I felt the same about him.

Maria & Giuseppe Pagano What made my wedding so special? It all started the summer of 2004 when I vacationed in Italy with my family. For one week we decided to travel to Calabria in southern Italy, to visit my father’s family. Little did I know that in that week I would meet the love of my life, Giuseppe Pagano. I would hang out at night with my best friend that happened to be vacationing there as well that summer. She wanted to introduce me to her cousins, one of them being Giuseppe. It was love at first sight but little did we know we would have a long road ahead.

of exactly when he would be able to come. The day, July 27, 2013, we were finally married. Eight long years now seem to have flown by. Unfortunately, because of his visa status still pending we were unable to go on the honeymoon of our dreams (to Greece) but we’ve promised ourselves that one day we will. We had the best wedding and reception at Russo’s. I wish I could relive it all over again. Definitely worth the long, long wait.

Theresa & Eddie Kubina

For the next five years we traveled back and forth. I would visit him in the summer while on vacation from school and he would visit during the winter for the holidays. He finally proposed to me where we met, on a beach in Calabria, Italy on July 30, 2010. The next couple years proved difficult as we had to get immigration involved so he could legally move to America. After all the paperwork was filled out and signed, sealed and delivered Giuseppe finally received his visa to come in June 2013 (yes, one month before we were to finally marry). I kept myself busy planning the wedding (the church in NJ and the reception at Russo’s On The Bay while waiting for the word 26


Eddie made it very difficult for me not to fall for him. Every time we saw each other, Eddie would give me a poem that he wrote especially for me. To date, I have close to a thousand poems. I cherish each and every one. It was through those poems that Eddie wrote our love story. We were dating by the summer of that year. Our first date was to see a movie called Enchanted. It was in fact a very appropriate title, because it was an enchanting evening. At the end of the night, he asked me if there would be a second date. I happily agreed. Eight years later, Eddie wanted to propose in a romantic, but meaningful way. He took me to see a movie called The Vow. I had no idea that the reason Eddie wasn’t taking his jacket off in the very warm theater was because he had a diamond engagement ring in his pocket. At the end of the evening, he asked me, by reading a poem, to marry him. It was in exactly the same spot where eight years earlier he had asked for a second date. I excitedly said yes. Our relationship has been filled with many memorable experiences and we wanted our wedding day to be the most memorable day of all. There was no question about where the wedding ceremony would take place. As for the wedding reception, we started what I thought was going to be a long process. Eddie however had no question about where the reception would be. He grew up in Ozone Park, and always admired Russo’s. He used to think that if he were ever to get married, that was where he wanted to have the reception. He knew Russo’s would give us exactly what we were looking for: delicious food, beautiful

grounds, and an overall perfect night.

Laura & Francesco Bille

On our first visit to Russo’s we were warmly greeted and began making plans with Carol, our personal wedding consultant. After hearing the amazing menu, walking around the beautiful grounds and speaking with the friendly staff and Mr. Russo, we both knew this was exactly where we wanted our wedding reception to take place. Now all we needed to do was pick a date. Since we are both teachers, we knew we wanted to get married sometime in the summer. We actually really wanted to get married on July 3rd, the same day my sister got married and also the day that Eddie’s parents got married. Our wedding day was perfect. We got married in the Catholic Church where I lecture and run a youth program. I’m a very involved member of this parish. It is also next to the Catholic school where I teach middle school. Making the day even more perfect, the Children’s Choir sang during the mass. Our wedding was memorable for so many reasons. Even though it rained when we were in the church, as soon as we came back outside, the sun was shining. The timing was perfect and we were able to take advantage of the beautiful grounds outside of Russo’s for our pictures. We were greeted by Joey V, our personal wedding consultant, and from beginning to end, he made sure every last detail of the reception was to our liking. We were truly blown away at how well Russo’s treated us with respect and made us feel like the most important people in the world. From the room, to the food, to the service, every aspect of our reception made it truly special. Even months later we still hear from people who were there, how amazing our wedding was. Thank you Russo’s for helping to make our wedding a day we will always cherish.

On a chilly fall night in 2006, Laura, who was out with her cousin Gabrielle, crossed paths with Francesco and his friend David at a bar in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. The couple exchanged numbers but Laura was pursuing a graduate degree in Baltimore, and she and Francesco did not keep in touch because of the distance. Luckily, Gabrielle and David started dating soon afterward. In 2008, Francesco, who had remained curious about Laura, asked David to set the two up once he heard that Laura had moved back to Brooklyn. It was October, so the two couples planned to go to a haunted house together, but on the day of the date, David came down with chicken pox. Francesco and Laura decided to go on with their plans alone, and the two clicked. Laura, who frightens easily, held onto Francesco’s arm extra tight as they walked through the haunted house together. Soon afterward, Francesco asked Laura to be his girlfriend. On March 18, 2012, Francesco took Laura to a Broadway show and dinner at Junoon in Manhattan. After dinner, the couple shared a horse-and-carriage ride in Central Park. After the carriage ride, Francesco took Laura to a hotel balcony overlooking the Hudson River. It was extremely romantic, and she still held out hope that tonight might be the big night. Francesco, on the other hand, was very nonchalant and after city watching for a few minutes, asked Laura to get ready to go home. Laura, disheartened, went to the restroom to freshen up and tried to hide her disappointment. When she returned to the balcony, Francesco was on one knee with a beautiful engagement ring. Laura instantly said yes!

Laura and Francesco celebrated their wedding on May 26, 2013. It was truly the best day of their lives. Every detail was spectacular, from the emotional ceremony at the Basilica of Regina Pacis to the amazing reception at Russo’s On The Bay. Laura and Francesco were absolutely thrilled to see all of the details they had planned so carefully with Audrey, their personal wedding consultant at Russo’s, come to life on that special day. The Renaissance room looked absolutely gorgeous—the crystal chandeliers glittered under the custom lighting they had selected and provided the most perfect backdrop for the couple’s crystal and orchid centerpieces. Laura and Francesco’s guests were treated to an extensive and delicious array of food and drinks throughout the night. Russo’s in-house bartenders created a signature cocktail in honor of the couple. Russo’s also extended its cocktail hour for an extra half hour to accommodate the 300 guests who were provided with Russo’s 25th Anniversary dinner menu, which included appetizer, pasta, salad and 12 mouthwatering entrée choices. The couple’s custom wedding cake was designed in consultation with Russo’s in-house baker and was hailed by their guests as the most stunning and delicious wedding cake they had ever seen and tasted. Russo’s also provided a beautiful spread of pastries and sweet treats during Viennese hour. Laura and Francesco’s guests are still raving about the delicious food, the generous portions and the impeccable service they received at Russo’s On The Bay. In fact, the service was so amazing that when Laura noticed a small tear on the train of her gown before the couple’s grand entrance into the reception, the bridal attendant quickly found an in-staff seamstress to mend it flawlessly and save the day! In addition to a night of eating, Laura and Francesco’s guests truly danced the night away. The couple’s staircase entrance into the Renaissance room was absolutely beautiful and set the mood for an evening of upbeat music and entertainment. Laura and Francesco and their guests will never forget their extraordinary wedding!

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 27


By Sue Goldenberg

t its heart, the Russo’s On The Bay story is about family – the Russo family’s pride in their legacy as new generations prepare to

take the business to the next level, families of longtime staff members who join the team to make their own contributions, and of course, Russo’s overriding philosophy that all guests should be treated as family.

Chef Michael Competiello and Frank Russo, Jr. at Villa Russo

Michael Russo

Chef Teodoro Lambiasi

PJ Connolly

Frank Russo, Jr. learned the business from the ground up as a young teen, working at a restaurant owned by his father Frank, Sr. and Uncle Joe –Villa Russo and Il Palazzo Di Villa Russo catering hall. It was in those early days that he was taught to cook by the very talented Chef Mike Competiello. It was also where he learned the core values which have earned Russo’s its impeccable reputation and assured its enduring success: offer exemplary service and exquisite cuisine combined with professional attention to detail.

in Hotel and Restaurant Management and is an integral part of the marketing team. Frank III, Dining Room Manager, has been involved in the family business since he was 16 and a member of the management team at Russo’s On The Bay for the past four years. Youngest son Robert, who also started at Russo’s when he was in his mid-teens, is rejoining the family business to focus on Vetro Restaurant and Wine Bar.

fact, many of the team members who helped launch Russo’s On The Bay in 1987 are still there today, honoring the long-standing traditions of Russo’s while looking ahead to the future. Many of these loyal staffers have now been joined by their own offspring.

Now, Frank’s children have begun to make their marks and build for the future. The eldest, Toni Ann, has been helping out at Russo’s since she was 15, and is attending college, majoring

A major strength of Russo’s is its senior management team, that boasts an enviable 200 plus years of combined experience directing the most lavish events and parties. Many staff members have been part of the Russo’s team, at Russo’s On The Bay, Vetro and Giardino Ristorante, for a quarter century. In

Chef Teodoro Lambiasi 30


Chef Michael Competiello, who originally worked with Russo, Jr. at Villa Russo from 1974 to 1983, returned to Giardino’s in 2013. In the same year, his son, Joe, was made the Manager at Giardino’s. Chef Teodoro Lambiasi, who worked with Frank Russo, Jr. at Villa Russo in 1979, was a member of the original team who started Russo’s On The Bay in 1987 and was appointed Chef at the new venture. Chef De Cuisine Luis Enriquez has worked

Frank Russo, Jr. and Chef Teodoro Lambiasi

Jeremy McMilleon

Susie Serra

Chef De Cuisine Luis Enriquez

at Giardino’s since 1994 and moved to Vetro in 2013. Overseeing this enviable talent pool is Executive Chef Michael DeGeorgio, an award winning culinary master who joined the Russo’s family in 2004.

On The Bay from Villa Russo in 1989, is now Facilities Manager and has been joined at Russo’s by his wife Joanne. Jeremy McMilleon, Dining Room & Beverage Manager, started at Russo’s in 1990 and has worked in virtually every department in all Russo’s locations. And, Cathy Burns, who’s been with the Russo’s family since shortly after the inception of Russo’s On The Bay has grown with the company and has been joined by her daughter Jaclyn, herself a ten year veteran of Russo’s.

loyal guests, the enormous success the organization has achieved by adhering to such key values as a strong entrepreneurial spirit, compassion, and pride in your product.

It is with great pride that Frank Russo, Jr. looks upon Russo’s strong foundation – the depth of talent under the Russo’s family umbrella, the way time-honored recipes and traditions have been reinterpreted to delight a new generation of

Because to

True to the great value Russo’s places on educating, encouraging and inspiring their employees, many on the senior management team can count their tenure at Russo’s in decades. PJ Connolly, who began his career at Russo’s On The Bay 23 years ago, worked his way up to become General Manager and Wine Sommelier at Vetro. Susie Serra, who has more than three decades experience in the hospitality industry, has been General Manager since 1994; her son Michael is working as a captain’s trainer. Michael Russo, who came to Russo’s

Chef Michael DeGeorgio and Chef Michael Competiello

It is with equal pride and excitement that he looks to “the children” – his own children and those of longtime team members – as the future of the business, to bring it to the next level and continue its evolution with the same passion, dedication and high standards his father passed down to him.

Frank Russo, Jr., family is where it all begins.

Joe Campetiello, Chef Michael DeGeorgio and Chef Michael Competiello R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 31

By Sue Goldenberg

Russo’s On The Bay has become part of a cherished tradition for so many families, a constant that has become intrinsically intertwined with their shared memories of joyous occasions. For those families, this tradition spans generations and is considered the only way to celebrate important rites of passage. The legacy may have been established when a friend or family member held an event at Russo’s or attended as a guest, or simply heard about a fabulous party there. It may have begun decades ago, in Russo’s’ early days, or much more recently. But often, it starts with a wedding reception, a night to remember forever. For Kimi Sena and Michele Papapietro, the legacy did begin with a wedding reception. In Kimi’s case, her parents’ reception at Russo’s set the tone for such a happy marriage that she followed suit a quarter of a century later. Michele’s own wedding reception at Russo’s was the start of her family’s multi-generation tradition, as it was followed by her parents’ anniversary gala and triplets’ christening, First Communion and Sweet Sixteen. For Paula Hartmann, it began with the christening of her triplet sons in 2013, after she’d attended a friend’s wedding, her brother’s wedding, and an array of NYPD benefits there. Here are their stories…



Every Family Milestone…Celebrated at Russo’s

Michele Papapietro’s Story

Michele and Nick Papapietro held their wedding reception at Russo’s On The Bay on April 26,th 1991. As Michele explains, “it had opened not long before, and it was close – I grew up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – and everyone was talking about it. Once we looked there, we knew that was the place for us.” And, from that point on, nearly every milestone in their family’s history was marked at Russo’s. When Michele gave birth to triplet girls Nicole, Marisa and Alexandra, their christening was celebrated at Russo’s in April, 1997. Michele’s parents’ 40th anniversary party was held there in September 2003 and the triplets’ first communion festivities were also at Russo’s, in May of 2004. And, in December 2012, the triplets’ Sweet Sixteen was, naturally, at Russo’s. What has kept Michele going back for every important occasion? Michele says, “when something is done exactly right, you don’t look for anything else. Time after time, everything was done perfectly. And people talked about it for months and months afterward. Mr. Russo comes to the table to talk to you; that doesn’t happen in most places. We’ve never had a bad meal or bad service; everything is always perfect. It just feels like family.”

Even the triplets, a different generation, are big fans of Russo’s. As Michele puts it, “Knowing what we’ve said about it, and the history there from their first communion, they remembered all the good times they had there. They didn’t look anywhere else, because they knew at Russo’s it would be a great party. Occasions like this are about family and friends and Russo’s has something for everyone; it was perfection from start to finish. In fact, our only regret was that, as a six hour party, it went by so fast. “People there had been to so many others, but said the girls’ (Sweet Sixteen) was the best and the most fun, and it was decorated so beautifully. Carol Siva, Banquet Sales Consultant was really wonderful to work with and really cared about the girls. We were displaced by Hurricane Sandy and living with my parents; we thought about not doing it, but wanted to do something happy, have a nice time and get dressed up – something that would mean great memories for the family and the girls.” Although Michele and the triplets are busy now with plans for college, Michele is sure the girls will look to Russo’s when it’s time for their own weddings. “As long as it’s there, we’ll keep coming back,” she says.


Like Parents…Like Daughter

Paula Hartmann’s Story

Kimi Sena’s Story

One of Paula Hartmann’s close friends had held her wedding reception at Russo’s On The Bay in the late 80s. Paula’s brother, Frank Sarrica, also selected Russo’s for his wedding celebration in November 2006, an event Paula describes as “beyond beautiful.” An NYPD detective, Paula has attended many other functions there, including DEA and PBA union Christmas parties and benefits as well as NYPD Honor Legion dinners with her husband, Douglas, a recent NYPD retiree and member of this elite organization.

Kimi and Armando became engaged in December 2011 and started planning their reception last April under Jennifer Falco, Banquet Sales Consultant’s guidance. Kimi says she’s “always known since Day One it would be at Russo’s – there wasn’t even a question.” Much of this is because of the very successful marriage her parents have; so successful that she wanted to emulate the details of their wedding day. “They’ve been together for 33 years and work together in our family’s surf shop; not many people stay married for that long anymore. I’d be lucky to have a marriage like that. I wanted to copy what they did, so we’re also getting married at the same neighborhood church as they did.

Every function she attended there impressed her as “beautiful… and the food was always delicious. People know when you say an event will be held at Russo’s that the food will be great,” she says.

Russo’s On The Bay is part of a treasured – and apparently very lucky – tradition in Kimi Sena’s family. Her parents were married there on January 21st, 1989, choosing it because, as Kimi puts it, “it was new and everyone went there. And it was close and convenient to where they lived, in Rockaway Beach.” Now it’s Kimi’s turn. She and Armando Gerpe, always friends since ninth grade, were married on March 15th, with their reception at Russo’s, of course.

“My parents had photos taken in front of the limo at their house; we bought a house just seven houses away from my parents, and we’ll do the same photo,” Kimi says. And, the tropics beckoned to both couples; while Kimi’s parents honeymooned in St. Thomas, Kimi and Armando are honeymooning in The Bahamas. Russo’s, Kimi says, “is a great place; they do it right. They put on a spectacular wedding reception and they do something different every time. Many of our friends and family who will be guests at our wedding were married there themselves.”



So, when the time came to select a venue for the christening of her triplets Michael, Douglas and Philip in June 2013, Paula chose Russo’s. She says “everyone’s still talking about the food. And, I’ve referred their vendors to others, like the florist I used – people were actually fighting over the centerpieces with the boys’ photos. And, Nick the Balloonatic was great; he kept the kids busy. Everything was exactly what I needed and what I wanted, which makes it easy to use Russo’s again.” And, the christening was just the beginning; she plans to hold another celebration at Russo’s soon. Her 7-year old son, Frank, will be in second grade next year and Paula plans to hold his First Communion at Russo’s. Thinking even further ahead, Paula is looking forward to a fifth birthday party for the triplets and eventually, their First Communion and Confirmation, all at Russo’s On The Bay.


Making it Memorable New directions that put a personal spin on wedding traditions It is, without question, one of the most important days in your life. But how do you make sure your wedding is also a day your guests will remember forever? To answer this question, we turned to Russo’s team of experts to get their thoughts on the latest ways to add distinction to your most special of days. Their insider tips – covering everything from food and drink to party décor – provide a wealth of recommendations worth keeping in mind as you plan your wedding. The common thread in their advice: it’s your day, so express yourself by adding individual touches to every aspect of the event. Here’s the rundown of current trends that allow you to make your celebration truly one-of-a-kind.

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 41


Make it Memorable

New Directions put a Personal Spin on Wedding Traditions By Sue Goldenberg


resher flavors. More diverse tastes for more sophisticated palates. More individualized dishes that are each cooked to order. These are a few of current culinary directions that Russo’s Executive Chef Michael DeGeorgio says are transforming traditional menus. “Food sets the tone for your entire event, and more than ever, our brides and their families appreciate everything we do to personalize our food presentations for their parties,” he notes, explaining that “regardless of the size of the event or the scale of the ballroom, we always remember that this is a day for family. So even for our largest weddings, Russo’s finds ways to add intimate touches to every aspect of our service.”

be fair, there is still a steak-or-chicken option. But the steak here is aged New York Shell, and the chicken is chicken marsala en croute with a spinach and mushroom stuffing. And for vegetarian guests, instead of having to settle for a plate of side dishes from the steam table, Russo’s gives them their pick of such meat-free options as an Eggplant Parmi-

The Personal Approach. One of the most impressive of these ways is the “11-choice entrée” offered for the main course at every Russo’s wedding dinner. Instead of the kind of preselected “steak- Russo’s Executive Chef Michael DeGeorgio or-chicken” platters served by standard caterers, Russo’s waiters giana Tower or a rich Portobello Mushtake individualized orders at each table room Gratinée. Each meal is cooked for guests’ selections from a menu that fresh to order, and each is served with includes everything from pork osso side dishes specially-designed to combucco, Duck a l’Orange and grilled plement the entrée. “Guests are amazed loin veal chop to seasonal salmon and to be offered this ‘a la carte’ fine dining Chilean seabass Marechiara (in a light experience at a wedding dinner,” notes tomato sauce with garlic, white wine, DeGeorgio. “It’s something they don’t extra virgin olive oil and parsley). To forget.”

Interactive Edibles. The cocktail hour affords other opportunities for personalized food service. Receptions at Russo’s feature a number of distinctive food stations – or call them “interactive culinary kiosks” – a Steakhouse Station where chefs serve sliced-as-you-like portions of roast pig, American rack of lamb or filet, a Burrata bar, where guests can get crostinis made to order with accents including sun-dried tomatoes, basil and honey, and a Clam Bar with fresh-shucked shellfish, seafood salads and fried shrimp and calamari. A Peking Duck station gives guests a handson option where they can stuff their own pancakes with succulent duck and all the traditional fixings. “Guests love the chance to “do-it-yourself,” or interact directly with our team of chefs,” says DeGeorgio, “and the constellation of different serving stations serving all kinds of foods adds to the festive atmosphere.” Keep It Fresh. “Light” may not be the first word that comes to mind when thinking about wedding meals, but DeGeorgio sees a big move toward menus that showcase more seasonal, and in many cases, locally-sourced, ingredients. As one example, Russo’s prepares its Atlantic salmon wedding entrée differently depending on the time of year: in summer, it might be baked with a sundried tomato topping and served with a fresh corn sauce; in the fall, it comes topped with a puree of amoretto-laced

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 43

pumpkin, and served on a bed of sweet potatoes, onions and apples; and during winter, the fish is pistachio-crusted with a citrus cream sauce. Russo’s reception antipasti supplement the rich array of classic salumi, formaggi and verdure – including everything from Proscuitto di parma and sweet soppressata to aged Grana Padana cheese and fresh Mozzarella bocconcini classics, olives, roast peppers and marinated mushrooms – with fresh vegetable salads distinguished by their fresh flavor combinations: a salad of fennel with blueberries, for example, or asparagus with raisins and red onions. The Fun Factor. To elevate your wedding, think about incorporating little elements of surprise that will amuse your guests, as well as tantalize their taste buds. Russo’s “Venetian Hour” dessert service showcases some ways to do this. Besides wowing your party with sensational cakes, cookies, hand-rolled truffles and a chocolate fondue fountain, this “final act” of a Russo’s wedding can include a station with popcorn and cotton candy machines, a candy shop with jars of M&Ms and other favorite kids’ candies ready for the taking, made to order omelets (breakfast for dessert, anyone?), a pile of sliders fresh from White Caste or a real Dunkin’ Donuts display. Then, just when your guests think the party’s over, they’ll encounter the Russo’s “To Go” bar, where they’re invited to take away biscotti, candies, fresh fruit and more, along with a final espresso or Cappuccino for the road. Go Global. Great weddings these days often feature an international accent, either to reflect a couples’ ancestral backgrounds, or simply to cater to party-goers’ increasingly sophisticated tastes. “With New York being perhaps the most diverse city in the world – and Queens recognized as the city’s most multi-cultural borough – this diversity


Wedding Cakes: Sweet Sensations Of all wedding rituals, perhaps none is more treasured than the cutting of the cake. But these days, that cake can come in a wider array of shapes, colors and flavors than ever before. While classic white wedding cakes remain an elegant and romantic way to go, many brides now see cake design as a place they can truly express themselves. Key trends taking the cake to new heights: • Bold and beautiful. Brighttoned frosting and graphic patterns bring an eye-catching appeal and modern attitude. • Inner beauty. The cake color story extends to the inside of the cake as well. Red velvet makes a vivid statement when you cut the cake, while other designs

Wedding Cakes: Sweet Sensations

layer cakes in different shades for a striped effect. Fillings can extend the color story – as in a shot of jewel-toned raspberry puree – or a cool counterpoint in neutral-toned chestnut, espresso or vanilla cream. • Organic elements. Seasonal ingredients are another way to add distinction to your wedding cake. Russo’s desserts and all the other parts of our menu are very seasonal, so it’s natural for us to bring the same outlook to our wedding cakes. Fresh fruit can add a color-rich “3D” appearance to cake décor, and some designs incorporate accents – or lavish cascades – of fresh flowers in shades that complement the event’s color scheme. • All that glitters. Metallic detail-

Wedding Cakes: Sweet Sensations

ing imparts a modern glamour to some tiered designs, including cakes adorned in edible gold leaf. An all-chocolate cake provides an equally rich and sure-to-please option. • More than good looks. However artful or elaborate their desired design, Cake is meant to be eaten, not just to be seen. Think from the inside out, starting with the flavors and ingredients they love most can help shape a vision for the overall cake design”. Russo’s believes in beautiful, flavorful cakes that make a big statement when they are presented to the room – and an even bigger statement when the guests get to taste them. To me, there is nothing worse than a showpiece dessert that doesn’t taste amazing.

Wedding Cakes: Sweet Sensations

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 45

allows us to employ interesting and novel ingredients that might seem out of place elsewhere,” explains Russo’s Executive Chef Michael DeGeorgio.

Sommelier PJ Connolly

Americans’ globe-trotting tastes have already turned many regional cuisines – from sushi to Southern BBQ – into mainstream fare for wedding receptions. But reflecting the rich ethnic mix in the communities it serves, Russo’s has gone much further: the bill-of-fare for receptions can already be customized to include options drawn from Asian, Greek, Spanish, Polish, Albanian and Caribbean cuisine, and the chefs continue to expand their international repertoire. On the day of this interview, Executive Chef DeGeorgio was researching Persian recipes for an upcoming reception, “to make the bride’s family feel at home. At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about,” he notes, adding that “sometimes our clients’ families even feel at home in Russo’s kitchen. I’ve had times when they want their grandmother to come in and show me how to cook a dish they like. I’m in the kitchen with grandma, and she’s making one little plate – and then I have to figure out how to cook it for 200!”

Signature Wedding Cocktail

General Manager Jeremy McMilleon


Cocktails and Wine When it comes to directional wedding drinks, Russo’s General Manager Jeremy McMilleon sees a split decision. “On one hand, you’ve got a lot of people looking for very traditional, almost formal, drinks – things like the classic champagne cocktail, a martini or a retro-influenced whiskey cocktail,” he reports. On the other, there’s a real surge in what I’d call ‘craftsy artsy’ drinks. Things like a Singapore Sling have become practically a standard request.” To McMilleon, the most exciting trend right now is the signature wedding drink. “Creating a special cocktail is another great way to personalize the reception,” he says. “When it comes to making a statement, you can do everything with a drink.” When working with bridal clients, McMilleon likes to start with color. “Jewel-toned drinks catch the light and add a sense of fun to the event,” he notes, citing sapphire blue and rose-colored cocktails as popular choices. Some drinks swirl in colored syrups for a multi-toned effect, for what McMilleon sees as a modern reinterpretation of the classic layered liqueur cocktail. Flavored vodkas provide a smart starting point for signature recipes, he advises, “Since there are so many to choose from.” Blueberry, blood orange, cherry

and coconut have been featured in some crowd-pleasing wedding cocktails, he adds, “Though the options are really endless. There’s a cake-flavored vodka. A root beer vodka.” Beyond mixing the drinks, a lot of thought now goes into dressing the drink. “Garnishes are especially important,” says McMilleon. “We use a lot of edible flowers, float pomegranate seeds in a drink, rim glasses with cinnamon sugar, or colored sugar, shaved coconut or a certain salt. “It’s about adding things that enhance the glass – without getting in the way of the drink. A great signature cocktail makes a statement without becoming complicated. The idea is to offer your guests an original cocktail that they will want to drink again at home.” Moving to wedding wine selections, Russo’s sommelier PJ Connolly sees an encouraging move towards diversity. “Today, clients are more educated about wine,” he says. “They are willing to be more adventurous, and want to offer their guests something different.” In white wines, he sees a big shift from heavier, buttery chardonnays to lighter, fresher-on-the-palate wines like pinot grigio. “A few years back it was ‘chardonnay, chardonnay, chardonnay,” recalls Con-

nolly. “Now people are looking for pinot grigios’ cleaner, more mineral-driven taste.” In red selections, Connolly notes a shift from California cabernet sauvignon to spicier varietals like malbec and shiraz, as well as more European-style blended wines. “Malbecs from Argentina are among our most-requested reds,” he says. “They’re very fragrant with ripe fruit and soft structure. For more discriminating clients,” he adds, “there’s growing demand for some of our cabernet-sangiovese blend Supertuscans which lend themselves particularly well to food.” Connolly’s key advice is to not be afraid to try something different, noting that a move from the tried-and-true can yield wine choices that deliver better value as well as terrific taste. That’s especially true, he says, of the wedding toast. “Prosecco is very, very hot as the sparkling wine selection. People are not asking as much for champagne. Prosecco has a little hint of sweetness that people enjoy, while still being crisp and refreshing – and one third the cost!”

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SGE Satisfaction Guaranteed DJ Entertainment

Gio Venuto Band

Jim Altamore


Get your Party Started Making Memories with Timeless, Unforgettable Music By Sue Goldenberg


thousands of events, elaborates, “There are unlimited resources and many options. Today’s clients are much more selective about their music preferences; it’s changed from standard to unlimited. DJs can play an unlimited amount of music instantly due to today’s technology – and have the capability of remixing music on the fly as live musicians are integrated into the songs – to get the best of both worlds.”

s recently as the mid 1940s, wedding celebrations were traditionally held at the bride’s home. While that tradition has largely been abandoned in favor of lavish affairs with more guests than most homes could accommodate, something that never goes out of style is the desire for everyone to have a great time. After all, the wedding reception should be one of the most memorable parties in a couple’s life. This means an unforgettable atmosphere created especially for that event, coupled with the right music and dancing to keep pulses racing. In fact, there’s been a big change in wedding music and entertainment in the past five years, with good Top 40 dance music now seen as playing a key role in producing a successful affair. According to Jack LaSala, co-owner of SGE Satisfaction Guaranteed DJ Entertainment and veteran of more than two decades in the entertainment industry, this trend began when club DJs popularized remixes of Top 40 King’s Brass, Inc. music and now has evolved to include a percussionist, saxophonGio Venuto of the Gio Venuto Band, ist and violinist playing in conjunction part of the eponymous family-owned with the DJ. entertainment company established in As Steven Retas, co-owner of Classie 1974, says, “There’s no better entertainSounds Entertainment for twenty eight ment than live entertainment.” They years and owner of SR Entertainment, offer both a band-only package and Something Extra Inc., and Quality Aua band/DJ package, with the DJ typidio & Visual Inc., who started as a DJ cally taking over for the last hour. And, in 1981 and has successfully created as the house band at Russo’s On The

Bay, specializing in Italian/American music, the Gio Venuto Band repertoire also includes everything from Top 40 dance/club music to Motown, 60s, 80s rock, Spanish and Greek. In addition to tribute singers, Latin percussionists and string quartets for the ceremony and cocktail hour, they can also enhance the ambience by providing video screens and montages, and state of the art sound systems and lighting. In his view, live music is key; he encourages clients to “see and hear the difference a great live band makes.” One constant is the importance of the traditional first dance, aka the wedding song. And, while Top 40 is the most requested genre, the classics of the 60s Rat Pack era also remain timeless. “Decades later, people of all ages still love to sing and dance to the songs of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr. and Tony Bennett. This genre of music is reminiscent of a time associated with elegance and sophistication,” Retas says. And, this is music that transcends generations. As Jim Altamore, a jazz singer known for his renditions of popular standards and who specializes in Sinatra, explains, “I equate it to classical music; it’s really great music that just strikes a universal note with people. Sinatra in particular never wears out his welcome. Even young couples have heard his songs and know the really popular ones.” Often booked to sing eight song sets during the main course or longer

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King’s Brass, Inc.


Key Tips when Working with Music & Entertainment Providers: Make sure the vendor has a clear concept of your event Ask to see examples of the vendor’s work Ask plenty of questions; as many as you need until you are thoroughly satisfied Ask industry professionals if they worked with the person you want to hire Meet the person you’re hiring to host your event Go with your gut; it’s a special day and everything that makes it complete goes Get out on the dance floor early; set the tone for the event Be patient with any glitches that may occur 50


sets during cocktails, Altamore says “The Way You Look Tonight” is popular for the father/daughter dance. Of course, many elements come into play when creating a complete music and entertainment environment for a wedding. Planning can start as little as 45 days in advance, or as far as a year in advance if specific performers are required; much depends upon the event’s size, style and budget. When selecting a vendor, the couple should look for a company with an experienced and professional staff, a real understanding of the couple’s wishes and priorities, and a willingness to address any questions the couple asks until they’re comfortable. As Retas puts it, “It’s all about communication and customer service.” Based upon the relationship that’s been established, couples may opt to provide an extensive song list and just provide some guidelines as to which songs or artists should be played – or not played, trusting the vendor to make the right decisions. As Retas explains, “The right vendor will know how to motivate an unresponsive audience by choosing the right music and will have experience in transitioning the music properly to motivate the guests.” Keys to making the dream a reality are close and frequent communication, the experience needed to adapt to any situation, and the creative talent to not only execute but also expand upon the couple’s vision. There are many vendors who specialize in music and entertainment that are full service, also providing the lighting and décor needed to enhance and complete the event’s unique ambience. For example, LaSala says one of the most creative productions SGE has staged was a destination wedding in the Caribbean, at which the firm was responsible for all the music needs, pre party, after party, lighting, plasma screens and décor. Uplighting, stages, displays of event images on plasma screens, monograms, and step and re-

GUIDE TO GREAT WEDDINGS : MUSIC peat motifs a la awards show backdrops, which LaSala says began as an upgrade to photo booths, are all trends that contribute to the overall theme. Retas says, “The sky’s the limit; the event can be as wildly creative as talent and budget allow.” One wedding he produced was comprised of several unique environments strategically coordinated, with distinct music and décor in each room. In the ballroom, an elegant Great Gatsby theme, complete with an orchestra/DJ combo that alternated classic and traditional wedding music. In the second room, a 1970s disco theme, hosted by a Tony Manero look alike and featuring performances by disco artists. The third room was staged as a Miami VIP lounge, with bottle service, contemporary furniture, palm trees, and a DJ playing club music. And, for a truly regal special effect, why not welcome guests with a fanfare of wedding trumpeters? Michael Klein, owner and founder of King’s Brass Inc., which is staffed by conservatory-trained musicians, says this is a trend that’s increasing in popularity and “appeals to everybody.” The firm’s musicians, attired in tuxedos or Italian Renaissance costumes selected by the wedding couple, play on long bell herald trumpets from which banners are hung that coordinate with the costumes. Involved before, during and after the ceremony, they welcome the guests to heralding fanfares or arias, escort the bride from the limo, and can play in unison with a church organ. Or at an event venue, they announce the end of cocktails and beginning of the reception, and can mark the bride’s arrival onto the dance floor through an arch of heralding trumpets, playing in unison with the band. Klein typically provides two to a dozen trumpeters for weddings and also offers such music specialties as strolling violins, harpists and bagpipes as well as vocalists.

SGE Satisfaction Guaranteed DJ Entertainment


The Most Popular Songs at Weddings: “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke “Danza Kurduro” by Don Omar “Animals” by Martin Garrix “Happy” by Pharrell “Dance Again” by JLO “Yeah 3X” by Chris Brown “Wake Me Up” by Avicii Rihanna Songs Pitbull Songs Jay Z Songs Beyoncé Songs

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James Anthony Floral & Event Design

One Up Event Design

Flowers by Brian

CO2 Entrance


Fulfilling your Vision with Flowers & Décor The Perfect Setting makes the Fantasy Real By Sue Goldenberg


According to Frank Demattia, co-owner with Robert Pontillo of One Up Event Design, a firm with two decades of combined experience in floral design that also offers in-home consultations, “The most

stablishing the mood and defining the moment, flowers and event décor transform a couple’s vision of a perfect wedding into reality. And, while the expertise of creative professionals insures the final result will be magical, it generally requires a year’s worth of planning to achieve, as the couple works closely with their designer to assure perfection. As Brian Cohen, owner of Brian Luxury Flowers, more commonly known as Flowers by Brian, a provider of floral designs, furniture rental and event lighting for a quarter century, explains, “In creating an exceptional wedding, many different elements are taken into consideration. These aspects include the freshness of the flowers, the color and style of the room, the atmosphere at the venue, the table linens, the client’s One Up Event Design color scheme as well as their expectations. These pieces of information important factor is to truly understand the are important to us because they serve as client’s vision. Once you understand how the foundation for the décor at the wedthe client wants their event to look and ding. After taking all of those factors into feel, you can start to assemble tools and account, a client’s dream is transformed put together the design and décor they are into a reality while working comfortably aiming for. We always put our own spin with a designer.” into the mix to show them the different The couple’s input and close communicaoptions that they have. We make this a tion with the floral designer are crucial. reality by reviewing all their options and

by giving them a sample of what they are envisioning.” Until modern times, the bridal bouquet consisted of garlic and strong herbs like thyme and dill to ward off evil spirits. While those days are in the distant past, there are floral classics that endure, like arrangements on tall crystal candelabras and the traditional all-white wedding. In fact, James Anthony, president of James Anthony Floral & Event Design, a firm with 35 years of experience in the industry, says, “White roses are the most commonly used flower in the last 100 years.” Trends in floral design change every year or every few years. Demattia says when he and Pontillo started in the industry, wedding design was very traditional, with extensive use of white and red roses, and color added to compliment the season and the wedding’s color scheme. While metal stands were in vogue as recently as five years ago, according to floral designers, the big trend now is glass. Demattia notes, “Now we are seeing a lot of different glass vases – different sizes, different heights, with different arrangements in each; clear glass, glass in different colors and white/black glass. Arrangements are a lot tighter and include clusters of flowers. The look is very clean, yet trendy. These trends allow an endless amount of variety and style.” According to Anthony, who says he’s

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Key Tips when Working with Flower & Event Décor Providers Do your research…join Pinterest…read reviews Start planning about a year in advance, as soon as you’ve selected your bridal gown, bridesmaid dresses, & color scheme Use a reputable, creative company that produces original arrangements; this creates a sense of uniqueness in your event Make sure you feel comfortable with the designer you are working with; you should be able to express your opinions, ask questions freely, and feel confident that the designer can express your vision Know what the floral decorating company will give you before the wedding day See a sample at the venue & take a photo of the sample prior to submitting the deposit

With a nearly unlimited array of options at their disposal, floral designers are free to let their creative juices flow and stage décor productions as elaborate as budgets allow. For example, Cohen notes, “My favorite, and the most creative arrangements our designers have constructed were made using a tree-like stand covered in fresh hydrangea, with 10 foot tall branches with Hawaiian orchids spiraled around each branch. Leis and opalescent globes of lit candles are hung from the tree limbs.” And, of course, everything is customized to the venue, event and couple’s preferences. As Anthony puts it, “We create sets for all different venues. Each wedding and venue is different from the next. We have in-house carpenters, lighting technicians and floral designers who can create anything that a bride and floral decorating company can envision. We can make anyone’s dream come true..” 2

Select a vendor who has refrigerated trucks; this insures the best quality of flowers Avoid paying extra for equipment like vases and stands by making sure the vendor you choose has or is willing to rent the equipment at no additional charge Give the vendor a timeline for delivery of bouquets, etc. Speak up in advance if you’re not pleased with something; it’s your day and all of your greatest expectations should be met been working with and around flowers since he was a young child, the hottest trends, which started in the last two years, are “crystals, bling, crystal trees, rhinestones and glass.” And, he notes, “All can be used as accessories or as a main effect.” As Cohen explains, “Some of the newest trends include crystal and glass stands that are topped with lush arrangements of roses and/or hydrangea, which are then garnished with hanging crystals or candles. If a couple is interested in spicing up their arrangements up, (we) would instead use tall branches with orchids at54

tached to each limb, calla lilies flowing from the vase and a tight clutch of roses surrounding the vase as an elegant finishing touch.” Cohen believes all trends originate in the expectations and vision of the client. Demattia feels a lot of the recent trends can be linked to the social media boom, wedding-oriented reality TV, and the “clean and trendy” look adopted by hotels, restaurants and clubs. From Anthony’s perspective, the origins are much more obvious; as he notes, “Diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” Regardless, glass is definitely “in.”


One Up Event Design


Introducing the Russo’s On The Bay Enhancement Program Do you wish you had easy access to all of the new dramatic effects that could make your wedding truly memorable? Russo’s On The Bay has introduced the Enhancement Program to make it easier than ever for clients to customize any Russo’s event with a wide selection of room options. All of our options are “in house” and have been meticulously installed into the ballrooms. The Enhancement Program was introduced at Russo’s On The Bay in 2012. The program elements provide a nearly limitless combination of possible choices, much like an a lá carte menu. You, the client, can select from a broad range of offerings in

draping, lighting, furniture and exceptional special effects. You can apply these elements, in any combination, to fulfill your own unique vision. And, since there are so many possible combinations, the ballrooms will look entirely different at every event depending upon the elements selected. Some of these elements include full room draping, dais draping, and soffit draping (columns of fabric). Envision any of these draping options illuminated with down lighting in a color of your choice. Down lighting can illuminate the full room, ceiling, dais wall, behind the dais table, or just the soffits; anything is possible – it’s all a matter of

your own preference. For even more drama, add elements that can make a bold statement. Bright, personalized “gobos” (monograms) can be created to shine on dais drapes or floors. Tables can be lit with spotlights that will enhance your centerpieces. Low lying fog can be used for a romantic first dance. CO2 can be blasted as the guest of honor enters the room to add an exciting WOW factor. Of course, custom designs and deluxe packages are also available. Event Specialist Steven Retas of Something Extra created this Enhancement Program with Russo’s On The Bay to offer all Russo’s clients easy access to a wealth of room options.

Monogram Lighting Enhancement

Flowers by Brian

Dais Draping Enhancement

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Angel Sanchez

Angel Sanchez

Angel Sanchez

Angel Sanchez


Dainty, Dramatic or Simply Sensational?

New Trends in Wedding Gowns Offer Brides an Array of Enticing Options


By Sue Goldenberg

legant, beautiful, magical…you want your wedding to be all of these things and more. A big part of the equation is, of course, The Dress. You’ll want your wedding gown to perfectly evoke the romantic mood of the big day, fit like a dream, and allow your unique spirit to shine through. The perfect gown will look like it was designed for you and you alone. While strapless A-lines, fit ‘n flare silhouettes, ball gowns and sheaths have long been considered de rigueur for wedding gowns, every season heralds a wealth of extraordinarily creative new options. And, as you’ll discover, wedding gowns are no longer necessarily white or long or strapless. Beautifully complimenting the skin, blush and ivory are a welcome change from pure white; pale yellow and hints of blue also made a statement at the recent runway collections. Beautifully constructed shorter lengths – from tea length to just above the knee – are now presented in an array of chic shapes and generating more excitement than ever. Perfect for brides who want the look of strapless with even more allure, gowns with illusion necklines – often embellished with appliqués or crafted in lace – are a very modern choice. Even more dramatic and trend-right are those with lace insets at the sides or enticing back detailing: keyholes, rows of tiny buttons against tulle, draping effects, appliquéd illusions and lace treatments.

Lace, of course, is always in, yet designers are now showing more gowns with dainty lace sleeves – from cap sleeves to ¾ to full length – than in seasons past. Elegant embellishments are also in the spotlight: intricate appliqués and embroideries, large three dimensional bows and fabric swirls or draping, and especially, traces of metallic silver edging straps, embroidered onto bodices, or defining waists. Speaking of waists, peplums are a major trend. Fashioned from silky fabric, tulle or exotic lace and covering just the hips, extending nearly to the hem, or stopping anywhere in between, peplums make waists appear smaller and inject added visual interest into many of the newest bridal creations. Building further on the hourglass/wispy waist look, voluminous layers of satin or tulle ruffles or draping effects are gracing many wedding gown styles this season. Another variation on layering which has come to the forefront very recently is the notion of topping the wedding gown with a wrap, cape, bolero, tunic or shawl. Matching or simply coordinating with the wedding gown, these glamorous accents add both drama and versatility. There are so many beautiful options available, you’re sure to be inspired. To help you select the one that best expresses your vision of the perfect dress, here’s a preview of some of the best new looks by wedding gown designers…

NEW OPTIONS IN BRIDESMAID DRESSES MORE FASHIONABLE & VERSATILE THAN EVER Not long ago, being chosen as a bridesmaid was often viewed as somewhat of a mixed blessing. Of course, it’s an enormous honor, but it was also one that was frequently accompanied by that sinking “I know I’ll never wear that dress again” feeling. But lately there’s been a dramatic change in the fashion forecast for bridesmaids. Bridesmaid dresses have evolved to become much more stylish, flattering and versatile, often incorporating many of the same elegant, sophisticated new details presented seasonally in wedding gowns on the runways. These are dresses your bridesmaids will definitely want to wear again. As they are in wedding gowns, peplums and highly detailed or keyhole back views are key trends in bridesmaid dresses. Asymmetrical and illusion necklines are also major themes, and these are often combined in the same dress for maximum effect. Whether accenting knee length dresses or long languid columns, these details can take on a range of attitudes, from classic and demure to elegant and sophisticated, depending upon the silhouette and fabrics. Lace is a perennially popular choice for bridesmaid dresses, strategically accentuating necklines, bodices, or skirts or lavished all over. Extravagant in its patterning, lace makes an especially powerful, yet feminine statement when

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Angel Sanchez

Angel Sanchez


Angel Sanchez



Angel Sanchez

Angel Sanchez



Angel Sanchez


Angel Sanchez


Angel Sanchez




Angel Sanchez

Angel Sanchez





Angel Sanchez


otherwise unadorned and fashioned into simple strapless shapes. While plum is considered the most popular choice for bridesmaid dresses, a rainbow of other options are available. Blush, understated and delicate, has become as important a trend in bridesmaid dresses as it is in wedding gowns. Variations on plum, from pale lilac to deepest eggplant, are both fashionable and very flattering. Bold hues, like bright blues, corals and red, are also trend-right and establish a high energy mood. The hints of metallic so prevalent in the runway collections have been translated into exceptionally elegant gowns in monochromatic charcoal, pewter and pale topaz. These neutrals and ebony make a decidedly sophisticated statement, especially in understated designs styled from softly draped fabrics like chiffon, matte jersey or sleek matte satins. A spirit of individuality is now also encouraged when selecting bridesmaid dresses. Since one style or color may not look equally flattering on all your bridesmaids, you can opt instead to allow them to select different styles in the same fabric and color, the same style in complementary variations of your chosen color – or for example, in a rainbow of pastels or gradations of neutrals – or even identical dresses accessorized with brightly colored footwear in the style each bridesmaid prefers. While never upstaging the bride, these creative concepts in bridesmaid dressing can add a sense of uniqueness, visual interest and a definite wow factor to the event.






Dessy Collection

Davids Bridal


Monique Lhuillier


Monique Lhuillier 60

Monique Lhuillier


Lela Rose

Monique Lhuillier


Monique Lhuillier

Monique Lhuillier

Monique Lhuillier


Dessy Collection


Monique Lhuillier


Dessy Collection

Dessy Collection

For more than a century, the tuxedo has reigned as the must-have look at all formal occasions. It’s undeniable – there’s something special about a man in a tuxedo. Invented as a “tailless” adaptation of the long tailcoat, the jacket came on the scene in 1886, debuting at the elite Tuxedo Club’s Autumn Ball in Tuxedo Park, New York. It was thought these modern, shorter dinner jackets with shawl collars like smoking jackets would be easier to sit in – and dance in. Thus, they were adopted immediately by club members and their popularity quickly spread. By the turn of the century, the tuxedo consisted of a black or very dark blue one-button single breasted jacket with peaked lapels and matching pants. Many styling variations fell in and out of favor since its inception; the now iconic stripe on the pants’ outseam didn’t become standard until the 30s, colors and notch lapels were trendy in the 60s, then black came back in the 80s. Jacket closures changed to two- or three-button a la business suits, then back again to a single button. Throughout all of these fashion cycles, one element remained constant: satin or grosgrain facings on the lapels and buttons. According to Alan Dessy, Chief Executive Officer of The Dessy Group, makers of After Six formalwear, the classic tuxedo is black, in woolen woven fabric, with notch or peak satin lapels and satin buttons. As he elaborates, “The classic black-tie look is all about minimalism, with a fundamental black-andwhite palette, and pattern limited to accessories. A subtly patterned bowtie can even be added to the ensemble. Subtlety is key, as the focal point of any refined attire is the gentleman’s face.” Dessy says the most formal dinner jacket is the single-breasted one-button model, which allows the front to be cut in a deep V shape. The ideal width of the jacket extends the natural shoulder line to balance with the hips. The notch R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 61


Ike Behar

After Six Troy 62

Dessy After Six

Calvin Klein


lapel, which he notes, “offers a flattering V shape which points inward where the collar and lapel meet the jacket,” has increasingly become the chosen look. The pants are high-waisted, with universally flattering single pleats that allow more room when seated and emphasize the leg line by extending the crease. In Dessy’s view, “The single-pleat pant with a tapered leg offers the ideal combination of style and comfort.” And, the waistband should be covered with a vest or cummerbund – yet another opportunity to highlight the wearer’s personal style via a subtle pattern or tasteful color. In keeping with the overall theme of understated sophistication, while either slip-ons or lace-up shoes are acceptable, the shoes paired with tuxedos should be black patent leather. Cufflinks and shirt studs, most commonly gold and onyx, should match. If the classic black-and-white tuxedo look is a bit more formal than you’d like, there are innumerable ways to enliven the statement, add uniqueness and make it a bit more casual. To change the look, substitute a skinny satin tie in black or a contrasting hue for the bowtie. Select a white tone on tone vest and patterned tie or bowtie instead of black. Choose a whimsical bowtie and matching pocket square. Or, choose matching vests and ties in patterns or solid shades such as silver, blue or plum, to coordinate with the bridesmaids’ dresses. Some interesting statistics, courtesy of After Six: 66% of grooms rent from a formalwear specialist; 96% of bridal parties include groomsmen; and the average wedding party has 5.5 groomsmen. 2

Nice Day for a By Jack Raplee

Considering the social media climate in which we live, out tweets, status updates and posts are more than simple, brief virtual communications between each of us and a few hundred of our closest friends. Our social media presence is a public portrayal of our lives that’s open to review and critique 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Become friends with someone on Facebook or follow them on Twitter, and a casual review of your profile reveals more information about you in the course of a few hours than would likely have attainable after 20 years of friendship in the past.

Amongst the first information friends and followers observe is one’s relationship status: Single, It’s Complicated, Engaged, Married, etc. While the “It’s Complicated” status carries with it a host of intentionally ambiguous possibilities, “Single,” “Engaged,” and “Married,” are unmistakably telling. Sure, it’s easy to change one’s relationship status by following instructions on how to edit a profile, but the reality (if an individual is being honest) behind the progression from “Single” to “Married,” is decidedly more complex. Planning a wedding in this environment, however, has become far more efficient, organized and interactive than anyone in previous generations might have imagined. Meeting/Marrying Online Most reliable sources agree that approximately 40 million Americans experimented with online dating. At the same time, roughly 17 percent of marriages in 2012 were between two people who met through a virtual dating service. What this suggests is that Americans are growing increasingly confident in using the In64


ternet to find a future husband or wife. Subsequently, once the proposal has been made and each individual changes his or her relationship status from “Single” to “Engaged,” this online confidence has been realized in the realm of wedding planning as well. Planning a wedding is not like planning a surprise birthday party at the office for your boss. This life event post people agree is the single most important in their lifetime and planning it takes great attention to detail and a great degree of organization. No, the two future mother-in-laws might not agree on the wording or the wedding vows, the color of the bridesmaids’ dresses or the choice of hors d’oeuvres. As long as humans continue to marry, friends and family “differences of opinion” will exist. There are no Web tools available to solve this problem. There are, however, wedding planning Internet resources that can reduce the stress of managing the expenses, venues, invitations, flowers, dresses, etc. by keeping the process centralized, efficient and clearly communicated.

Web Wedding Taming the Monster Wedding planning is a monster. In generations past, everything from floral arrangements to reception meals were handled and individual tasks brought together by a trained professional wedding planner who personally functioned as the information hub for participants, family and guests. It worked well, but was a daunting task for all involved. In recent years, however, Web tools like The Knot, Wedding Wire, eWedding, Wedding Window, and Wed Share have developed streamlined and sophisticated planning management significantly easing the pain of the monster’s bite. Given the broad scope of planning tools on these websites, an initial visit to the home page can be a bit daunting. It’s important to understand the best way to navigate them in order to benefit most from what they offer. One of the biggest stress factors when planning a wedding is the expense of it all. “I suggest setting a budget first,” says Kim Forrest, Editor at Wedding Wire. “We provide a budgeting tool on our site that can help people determine how to proceed in their wedding plans without getting in over their heads.” The budget tool allows users to categorize expenditures such as catering, a DJ or band, flowers, the cake, and so on. Payment schedules can be set up for each item and the tool automatically calculates payments that have been made and identifies available funds allocated for future payments. It can also generate payment reminders when bills come due.

With a budget set up, Forrest suggests using their checklist tool. The checklist identifies budgeted items and allows the user to set appointments, assign tasks to various individuals and keeps upto-date status reports so everything can be tracked and executed efficiently adding an element of peace of mind to the planning process. After tackling the budget and establishing a checklist, it’s time to set up a wedding website and Facebook app. “We provide a selection of website templates so couples can personalize it according to their own taste,” says Forrest. “The website functions essentially as the information hub for participants, friends, family and invited guests.” The wedding website is given its own unique URL with enough memory to allow uploads of photos, videos and music. It provides easy access to information, a means by which guests can RSVP and can even provide travel expense information to potential guests who may be coming to the wedding from out of town, out of state or out of the country. Facebook and Twitter are also helpful social media tools on their own according to Forrest. “Social media is a great way to generate excitement about your upcoming wedding R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 65

Web tools such as Wedding Wire and The Knot also feature a blog to communicate current wedding trends, creative ideas and helpful wedding planning advice. The Knot even has a section where other “Knotties” (couples who have used the web tool) share experiences from their own weddings in order to provide inspiration for those still in the planning stage. Each site also provides smartphone and tablet apps for Android and iOS platforms allowing mobile interactivity to participants and guests alike. There is even an app for iPad available from The Knot. Forrest’s enthusiasm for using Web tools for wedding planning are made not only from the perspective of an employee of a web planning web site. She used Wedding Wire herself when she got married last year. “It was wonderful to have a central point for keeping everything organized and on schedule,” she recalls. “We were able to manage our guest list, make venue reservations, floral arrangements and publicize everything right from our website. Being able to do all these things, kept the stress level down and things ran pretty smoothly.”

Vendors include florist services, clothiers, catering services, wedding chapels and banquet halls among many others. Getting started with wedding websites is usually as simple as registering your name, wedding date and geographical location and you set the gears are set in motion for a well planned day. In an age where more and more people began their relationships online, it only makes sense that tools incorporating the Internet, social media and smartphone apps would play such an important role in planning a wedding.

While the major wedding planning sites offer similar services, each has a few unique offerings. Though all its packages are reasonably priced for most budgets, the free package from eWedding is a great option because, although it has limited photo and file storage space, and smaller file transfer memory. Users still benefit from unlimited support and updates, password protection, background music, photo albums making it still possible to create a robust wedding website even if there is no money available in the budget to invest in their other packages. A fun feature available from Wedding Window is a tab on your wedding website with a bridal party page. This lets visitors and guests to get to know a little something about the bridesmaids and groomsmen. Bigger and Better Wedding planning websites have a far reach. Irrespective of your location, you can use these tools. Their vendors are connected to them all across the country removing the need to be locally specific in your choice of Web services.



Even when using one of these web tools, live human wedding planners are still available and can be helpful in bringing a personal, local aspect to your nuptials. Russo’s On The Bay’s wedding concierge, Lauren Taylor will work with you to ensure a uniquely stylized wedding for Russo’s On The Bay and New York Magazine has a helpful listing ( of other New York City area wedding planners who can work according to your budget, schedule and other wedding planning needs. After all, it can’t all be virtual. Ultimately, the guests will physically show up for the ceremony, the happy couple will actually kiss and share a first dance at the reception, and the “happily ever after,” part invariably involves a significant level of cohabitation. At the moment, there’s no virtual replacement for those things.

Out of Site Wedding Blogs While each of these web tools offers a blog feature, there’s no need to feel obligated to use their blogs exclusively. In fact, it’s always a good idea to try and take advantage of a variety of resources ranging from bridal magazines, to personal advice to other blogs. Because New Yorkers have eclectic tastes… at times, a bit edgy and creative, here is a sampling of a few wedding blogs we think might fit your taste. • Bitchless Bride ( Take your wedding advice from a foul-mouthed, in-your-face wedding planner with more than 20 years of experience in the industry. Her advice is honest, blunt and even abrasive at times. Despite that, a careful reading of her posts reveals that she has the best interests of the bride at heart.

• Brooklyn Bride ( Ok, the only thing “Brooklyn” about the blog is its name. Nonetheless, it’s a helpful, daily blog with updated information on wedding venues, fashion trends, wedding shows and shops, and much more. It’s thoroughly modern and blog entries are clearly categorized for easy navigation.

teresting features of this blog is “Fanspiration Friday,” an opportunity for users to submit their own ideas while other users vote on them. The winning idea is tagged on the first of the following month. This keeps the blog fun and interactive. • Merci New York ( Merci New York was founded by Jacqueline Weppner, a guru with an extensive background in the fashion industry. Her objective is to produce “chic style for the city bride.” While Merci itself is a wedding planning business, the blog provides a host of stylish wedding ideas and inspiration even for those opting not to use their services.

• Marry Me Metro ( The objective of Marry Me Metro is to provide brides-to-be with inspirational ideas that take full advantage of the city and/or metropolitan area in which they live. Posts here take into consideration that a couple’s relationship is an important an aspect of their wedding plans as their relationship to each other. There are many other great blogs available… too many to feature here. For more wedding blog links, visit: http://

• F* Yeah Wedding Ideas (http://fuckyeahweddingideas. Once you get past the “F-bomb” in the URL, this is an idea-generating tumblr blog site for brides-to-be, grooms-to-be, wedding planners, etc. One of the more inR U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 67

A virtuoso botanical bas relief of hand-crafted butterflies and blossoms – studded with Swarovski crystals – greets guests in Russo’s dramatically redesigned Entry Hall.

Russo’s brightened the Entry Hall for a more welcoming space, replacing dark wood with neutral tones, and adding a sweeping chandelier composed of Venetian glass globes and hand-blown beading.

The new Waterside Bridal Suite illustrates Russo’s sense of modern glamour with its mix of casual and more formal furnishings, creating a cool, calming space for friends and family.


ow does a legend build on 25 years of success? For Russo’s On The Bay, the answer to that question is a multi-million dollar makeover

focus on the building itself, taking a fresh look at every room, every feature and every fixture.”

that has enhanced nearly every feature of the

Two years in the making – and just unveiled this September

more memorable setting for once-in-a-lifetime family celebra-

total reimagining of what special event entertainment should

famed 30,000 square foot catering facility, creating an even tions.

“Being a leader in this field means always thinking ahead,

and – like any good host – always anticipating your guests’ needs,” explains Russo’s Frank Russo, Jr. “From the time we

first opened our doors, Russo’s has done just that, continu-

ally setting new standards for innovative cuisine, personalized service and uncompromising attention to detail. As we approached our 25th anniversary, we decided to put a new

– the resulting redesign is less an “update” of Russo’s than a look like today. “To borrow a phrase, this is not your father’s catering hall, or your grandfather’s, even though for many of

Russo’s clients, this is in fact where their parents and grandparents were wed,” says Bob Goldberg, ASID, of Creative De-

sign Force Interiors, who conceived and directed Russo’s im-

provements. “In keeping with Russo’s dedication to ‘modern traditions,’ we have made Russo’s new for a new generation, while preserving the best of what was already here.”

Complementing its panoramic views, the new Suite’s interior features eye-catching fixtures like the custom-designed chandelier, whose free-form geometric shape is echoed in an opalescent wall mosaic.

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 71

A vivid mix of bright colors, textured surfaces and sculptural lighting fixtures establishes a mod mood in the Crystal Lounge, a new multi-purpose space perfect for everything from pre-wedding buffets to private after-parties.

Russo’s renovations put a personal imprint on contemporary elegance, as demonstrated by the sophisticated mix of black and white patterns in one of two new sales suites.

The Bridal Sales Salon provides a luxe refuge for wedding planning, with custom-designed carpet, lighting and embroidered drapery whose free-form geometric patterns echo key elements of Russo’s overall redesign.

A custom-designed tiered crystal chandelier, Venetian glass pendant sconces and architectural fixtures create a play of light across the redesigned Upper Lobby.

nal geometric pattern granite slab and tile floor, and delicate


and refined, and really state-of-the-art for its day,” notes the

gold; shimmering abstract mosaics and extra-dimensional

This approach is evident from the moment a guest steps

through Russo’s front doors into a dramatically transformed entry hall. The previous décor – defined by dark, dignified

wood paneling – has given way to a lighter, brighter aesthetic, with off-white walls and tan furnishings, gold-toned textured wall coverings and a long, streamlined chandelier composed of hand-blown Venetian glass globes, along with the origi-

wrought-iron grill work. “Russo’s original design was rich designer during a walk-through of his work. “But our lives

have become less formal now, and ‘stately’ can look stiff and restrictive. We wanted to open up the space, making it warm-

er, more welcoming, and more playful.” Perfectly illustrating

the last point, Goldberg directs our attention to a spectacular specially-commissioned 3-D bas relief of vines and butterflies,

accented with Swarovski crystal. t is a bold, highly original work of art, but the same

spirit is expressed throughout the new Russo’s: there are free-form geometric chandeliers and nature-inspired sconces; custom-designed furnishings that trans-

late traditional sofas and chairs into over-sized over-stuffed

(and remarkably comfy) statement pieces that play neutral

shades off of bold shades of like surf blue, fuchsia and old wall papers studded with beads that catch and reflect the light. There’s a remarkable mix of patterns, tones and textures, but

thanks to a deft counterpoint between the classic and the novel, nothing seems forced or over-done. “Nothing at a Russo’s event is ‘cookie-cutter.’ Every detail is tailored to the event

and one-of-kind, and Mr. Russo wanted to make sure that we

An oversized ottoman and colorrich carpet provide focal points in Russo’s new Bridal Suite anteroom, which allows wedding parties to make a private entrance apart from other guests.

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 75

Russo’s Renaissance Lounge juxtaposes modern design accents – such as backlit textured columns – off of classically-inspired mosaics, whose vivid tones are complemented by upholstery in a rich palette of teal, taupe and gold.

A cascade of crystal chandeliers, three-dimensional artworks and over-scaled furnishings complement the monumental scale of the Renaissance Lounge.

The Renaissance Lounge enhances attention-getting design with personal comfort, establishing a series of intimate seating areas immediately adjacent to the main banquet halls.

captured that philosophy in the redesign,” explains Goldberg. “He told me, ‘make it personal,’ and I hope most of our guests


will agree we’ve achieved his goal.”

n keeping with this direction, the renovation went be-

yond decoration to create new, highly personalized spaces and customized features throughout Russo’s.

The waterfront side of the building was reconfigured

to form two deluxe hospitality suites large enough to enter-

tain the full bridal party and families before and after the ac-

“Lounge,” that can be used as a meet-and-greet space before the wedding, a “VIP” room during the event and/or an after-

party space. In the ballrooms, advanced LED equipment and

draping systems provide the ability to completely transform and customize the look and feel of an event. And Russo’s up-

dated sales suites now include an intimate salon for wedding

clients, to ensure a highly-individualized experience from the first moment that a bride-to-be starts to work with Russo’s team of event planners.

tual reception and banquet (“With so many family members

“People come to Russo’s for the most important days in their

Mr. Russo recognized the need to provide more private spaces

was to make sure that we provide an absolutely original, com-

traveling longer distances to take part in events these days,

for many of its clients,” notes Goldberg). A former banquet room has been repurposed and decked out with mod furnish-

ings in shades of fuchsia, white and grey for a multi-purpose

lives,” says Mr. Russo. “Our goal in undertaking this redesign pletely luxurious backdrop for a celebration that our guests will remember forever.”

Organic motifs unify Russo’s redesign, as seen in the Entry Hall’s intricately-forged floral grille, next to a mirror with free-form gold-leaf frame.

R U S S O ’ S M O D E R N T R A D I T I O N S 79


or Vetro Restaurant & Lounge, the Fall of 2012 began with a torrent of roiling water in the night, and concluded with a much happier wave of accolades and accomplishments. When Hurricane Sandy slammed into the New York coastline on the night of October 29th, 2012, it sent a storm surge speeding up Broad Channel with seismic force, with waves that reached the second floor of the restaurant. Even after the water receded, Vetro’s wine cellar remained flooded to the rafters with salt water and debris, the elevator broken beyond repair and the first floor dining rooms and kitchens rendered unusable and strewn with wreckage.

2012. First off, in the spring of 2013, Vetro learned that it had received the coveted Five Star Diamond Award for Fine Dining from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences. Only 43 restaurants in the entire country have earned five stars in 2013, which puts Vetro in the elite company of such world-renowned leaders as Bouley, Le Bernadin and David Burke Townhouse. Sandy’s impact also failed to prevent Vetro from continuing to be a favorite

“Of course, we considered ourselves fortunate, considering the even greater losses and damages suffered by so many of our neighbors, friends and customers,” recalls Vetro’s general manager and sommelier PJ Connolly. “Thanks to support from the community and a lot of hard work, we were able to repair most of the damage and reopen in less than two months” – just in time to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year, he adds. Since then, Vetro has experienced a critical resurgence that would have been hard to imagine at the end of October,

Five Star Diamond Award presentation 82


for Open Table’s discriminating customers, with top ten Diner’s Choice Awards for “Best Food,” “Best Overall” and “Best Ambiance.” Since winter, Vetro has expanded its special events program to include themed dinners such as Classic Italian Tuesdays; a sizzling assortment of salsa, rock and disco dance nights at Vetro’s Rooftop Lounge (now tented to keep the party going all winter long). And, of course, Wine Wednesdays, when diners can savor Vetro’s sensational food and incredible wine collection – while enjoying a 50 percent savings on every bottle on a wine list featuring more than 4,100 bottles and some 500 different wine selections from Italy, France, California and other prized producing regions from around the world. That list, not incidentally, earned fieldwide recognition in August, when Wine Spectator published its 2014 Wine Awards – and honored Vetro for the second year in a row with a “two glass”

Vetro’s wine cellar

Best of Award of Excellence. Only 850 restaurants in 50 states and 75 countries around the world – and Vetro was the first one in Queens – meet the standards for this special designation, which requires a wine list of 400 or more selections, along with superior presentation and a collection that boasts a depth of different vintages as well as breadth of offerings from different wine regions. Vetro’s citation mentioned the restaurant’s Italian holdings, which featuring selections from each of Italy’s 20 wine regions, including not only a great representation of prestigious vintages from well-known producers in Tuscany, the Veneto and Sicily, but also wonderful wines from Liguria, Lombardy, Campania and Piemonte – regions that are lesspublicized, but very much appreciated and sought after by wine connoisseurs.

Even with the storm, reports Connolly, “we were able to save a lot of the wine. Most of the more exclusive vintages were stored off-site at Russo’s before Sandy hit, and we were able to buy back a lot of the selections that were lost in the flood. “Since re-opening, he adds, “we’ve been able to completely rebuild the wine cellar to make it even better than it was before, and with much greater capacity as well.” In a few years, Connolly expects that the total wine list will surpass 1,500 different selections, making Vetro eligible for Wine Spectator’s Grand Award, currently held by only 82 restaurants globally. And when that time comes, one of the wines on Vetro’s list will bear the sommelier’s name: Vetro launched a new house wine offering under its own “Connolly Hill” label. RUSSO’S MODERN TRADITIONS 83


The Secret to Success Michael Arteca discusses his career, work/life balance, and the secrets to leading a fulfilling and inspired life Michael Arteca’s success could certainly be measured in income, awards, and acclaim; however, Arteca isn’t in the financial services business for those reasons. His motivation is to help his community and do something to make a difference in the lives of his clients. Arteca’s career started in accounting, but for him, accounting wasn’t the career he had dreamed of. He was licensed in 2002 to become a financial advisor and quickly began to spread his name throughout the community, starting his own financial group consisting of lawyers, mortgage brokers, and accountants. Arteca joined the Queens Rotary and Holy Name Society and began working diligently to reach out to establish a presence in the community. Not just any presence was good enough for Arteca, though. He learned from blue collar workers who toiled day after day, doing whatever they could to get by. It was important to him to maintain that integrity his Union worker father instilled in him. To Michael, no one was just a client and it was never about the “sale.” The people he worked with were his neighbors, members of his organizations, and people just like him or his parents. He was born in Howard Beach and received his degree from Queens College in Flushing - this was his community. The difference in his attitude toward financial services such as health insurance, life insurance, annuities, and pension funds quickly catapulted his career. His expertise, tenacity, and motivation truly made him unstoppable in his field. In 2005, Arteca was ranked in the top 10 financial advisors out of 100. In 2007, he earned the prestigious “Top of the Table” award; achieved by only 1% of industry professionals. Arteca qualified for membership in the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT) seven times. In 2011 and 2012, he won MDRT “Top of the Table” honors.

ADVERTISEMENT Arteca established Empire Financial in 2010. The company’s financial and insurance services encompass annuities, investments and financial planning, pensions, and other arrangements for retirement. Michael Arteca brings his background in insurance and annuities to the forefront, while other staff professionals counsel Empire Financial clients in the areas of retirement and financial planning. Arteca has licenses to sell life insurance in New York, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Maine, Texas, Florida, and New Mexico. Arteca’s drive and desire to succeed is contagious. In addition to Empire Financial Services, Michael is the owner of Pantano’s, a local restaurant, raises funds for community issues, and remains an active member of his community through volunteer efforts, charitable donations, and leisure activities. He is an ardent supporter of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital,, and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. What makes Arteca the happiest? He is driven by his balance. With all that he is involved in, he is still insistent on being home nights and weekends to spend time with his wife of eight years, Nicole, and their two children, Gianna (5) and Michael (2). Athletics are an important part of their daily lives with both children are involved in sports and Michael a member of aviator sports in Brooklyn. The family makes wellness and physical activities as much a tradition for them as Sunday dinners with his grandmother. It’s this balance that makes Arteca incredible at everything he does. Losing his father taught him that life is precious and fueled his desire to be involved in life insurance. To this day, Arteca supports his mother financially and takes care of her. “I feel from my heart, I wouldn’t be in this position if my father was alive. I succeed in this business because, when I speak to people, I’m being honest and sincere. This is what happens. You need to prepare yourself for family and for your children. That’s what led me to be very successful because of my father.”


Meet the Hottest Chef in Queens Rocco Sacramone’s Famous Astoria Restaurant, Trattoria L’incontro, is More Than Just Dining - It’s an Exquisite Culinary Experience Chef Rocco Sacramone is easily one of Astoria’s most well-known and loved chefs and restaurateurs. His restaurant has been rated in the highest esteem by Zagat. Chef Sacramone has been featured in several local newspapers, on television, and community events. His fame, though, is far from being top of mind for Sacramone. In fact, at his famous Ditmars’ establishment, Trattoria L’incontro, Rocco’s focus is providing consistent, incredible service with a combination of both traditional recipes and creative new dishes. In an interview with Brindiamo! host, Ornella Fado, explained the basis of the restaurant’s name, “L’incontro” which, in Italian means ‘to meet’ and as soon as you walk in, you can meet a great staff and feel a warm atmosphere.” It’s this exuberant passion for people that truly makes his restaurant (and career) unique. A Queens Tribune article by Michael Schenkler portrays the truly unique nature of the restaurant. He details a recent visit in which Rocco Sacramone “came over to greet us as soon as our party arrived and promised to send out a sampling of what he was brewing up in the kitchen - rigatoni with veal ragout, pancetta and mascarpone cheese - his interpretation of some of the best of the Abruzzo region of Italy.” While the restaurant is a frequent stop for politicians and celebrities, the two most important aspects will never waiver for Rocco – the food and the service. To Rocco, success is simply not something you take for granted and these two elements are the foundation of Trattoria L’inctonro’s success. His story speaks to many Italian immigrants who have grown up with the passion for cooking, food, and family in the home. Rocco Sacramone came to the United States in 1970 from Orsonga, a small town in Abruzzo, Italy. His mother was an excellent cook with a passion for food and Italian cuisine; teaching young Rocco the art of cooking. Thus, from an early age, his passion for the culinary field grew and, like a sponge, he found ways to learn every aspect of the restaurant business. When Sacramone opened Trattoria L’incontro in 1999, it seemed an obvious choice that Rocco’s mother, Tina, should be part of this new restaurant as her passion for food had inspired Rocco’s career and the restaurant. Tina quickly agreed to help with the kitchen staff and prep work, giving Rocco the opportunity to spend more time creating new dishes while still maintaining the traditional recipes that he knew and loved.


Sacramone expanded Trattoria L’incontro in 2007 to include Vino di Vino, an impressive wine bar with an even more impressive tapas menu. Local oenophiles were thrilled with the extensive list of vintages and varieties. With his partner, Jack Brucculeri, he opened an adjacent space next to Trattoria L’incontro as a place where local wine connoisseurs can savor their favorites and sample new ones. There is a collection of over 300 wines and, while 90% are from Italy, there is something for everyone in the collection. Vintage and variety as well as price are taken into account, with glasses and bottles available for every taste and budget. If his incredible success in business and his expertise in cuisine are not enough, Sacramone also stays heavily involved within his community. Sacramone is active in the Boys and Girls Club, donates to local churches, and makes an effort to help his community whenever he can. In 2010, he was honored at the United Community Civic Association (UCCA) holiday cocktail party and fundraiser. City Councilmember, Peter F. Vallone Jr., honored Rocco with a proclamation for his community activism. Sacramone was also honored with the UCCA’s Community Loyalist Award and a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition. In 2011, he supported the UCCA and Mount Sinai Queens in an educational heart health event; cooking for 183 people and teaching the audience about preparing hearty, hearthealthy dishes.

All Photos Courtesy of Official Trattoria L’Incontro Website at

Rocco’s passion for perfection in service and cuisine have catapulted his business to new heights. His endeavors and community efforts have strengthened the bonds of the community through ‘meeting’ at Trattoria L’incontro. Sacramone’s ventures have proven that food is still one of the greatest ways to bring people together.


About Trattoria L’incontro In 1999, under the direction of Chef Rocco Sacramone, Trattoria L’incontro opened its doors. Chef Sacramone’s goal was to provide his guests with the highest level of quality and service thus ensuring a unique dining experience. The restaurant features high ceilings, hand painted murals done by a local artist which reflect images of Rocco’s hometown, and an open, brick-oven in the dining room. The cuisine is a combination of traditional classics and state-of-the-art fare. All of the dishes are prepared with an emphasis on using on the freshest, prime ingredients; keeping the integrity of traditional dishes while incorporating a new style with the focus on taste. Private events and business meetings are accommodated in our private room for up to thirty-five people, our side room for up to sixty-five and next door at our wine bar, Vino di Vino, for up to one-hundred. At the wine bar, Vino di Vino, guests waiting to be seated can enjoy a glass of wine before dinner or can use the space to mingle after dinner. The wine bar welcomes both restaurant dining guests and guests who just want to relax with a glass of wine and dine on our tapas menu. Trattoria L’incontro 21-76 31 Street, Astoria, NY 11105 Phone: 718.721.3532 Email Inquiries: Website:









148-29 Cross Island Parkway, Whitestone, New York 11357 Tel.: (718) 746-7201 ˜ Fax: (718) 746-7203





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