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Astoria Chef Cooks Up 'Traveling Feast' With Popular Restaurant Owners

ASTORIA — They'll bring the feast to you.

The owners of two popular Queens restaurants have teamed up with a local celebrity chef to launch a new culinary venture, giving residents a chance to bring their farm-to-table flavors home.

Van Alst Kitchen, a new catering company and "traveling feast," is a labor of love from Leo Sacco, Giuseppe Falco, and Michelle Vido — who own Astoria restaurants Vesta Trattoria and Pachanga Patterson — and neighborhood chef and Cooking Channel host Tamara Reynolds.

The four friends are stepping out of their standard kitchens, crafting menus for private dinner parties, weddings and other events, large or small.

"We are curious cooks, we love what we do and we're doing it because we love it," Reynolds said. "We're always hungry, and we never met a party we didn’t like."

The group — named after 21st Street's old moniker, Van Alst Avenue — plans to create customized menus depending on the individual party or event, though they offer a number of standardized party menus, including full lamb, pig or goat roasts.

Other sample menus include "We Wish Were at Mardi Gras" — a lineup of shrimp remoulade, chicken and sausage gumbo, beignets and other New Orleans-inspired cuisine — or the "Low Country Oyster Roast" that features deviled eggs, grilled east coast oysters and grilled Loukaniko sausage with fennel and red wine.

"We can kind of do it all," Reynolds said. "We have a huge wealth of experience to draw on."

Reynolds' own experience started "a million years ago," as she describes it, when she was a "bored Navy wife," living with her first husband in in Washington, D.C., where he was stationed. 

Her then-husband tended to do all the cooking, she said, but her boredom drove her to take up the hobby.

"I didn’t have any friends because I'd just moved from Phoenix, and I got tired of washing dishes," she recalled, saying she taught herself how to cook from the pages of Gourmet magazine.

Reynolds eventually moved to New York to pursue a career as an opera singer, but fell into the culinary track instead.

In addition to her Cooking Channel stints, she's authored a cookbook and has run an "underground supper club" called The Sunday Night Dinner in Astoria from her own home for the last ten years.

She met Sacco, Falco, and Vido when she moved next door to Vesta, at 21-02 30th Ave. off of 21st Street, shortly after the restaurant opened there in 2008.

"I started going as a customer, and a neighbor...we became friends," she said.

"Van Alst is what 21st Street used to be called in the old days of Queens, and that’s where we met," she said.

Vesta is known for its Italian and Mediterranean inspired dishes and its always changing farm-to-table menu, something Van Alst Kitchen plans to replicate — any produce on the menu this summer will come locally, from either Brooklyn Grange or the Queens Country Farm Museum, Reynolds said.

Pachanga Patterson, which opened two years ago at 33-17 31st Ave., serves upscale Mexican-inspired dishes.

Reynolds said some prep-work will be done at both restaurants but nearly all of the cooking will be done on-site, to ensure the food is fresh. 

"We want to bring to restaurant experience to you," she said.