By CHRIS EBERHART
A 20-year friendship between a banquet director and chief executive officer of a limousine company spawned Lake Isle Country Club’s newest caterer.
Lou Gigante, who became the CEO of his father’s limousine service, Capricorn Luxury Travel in New York City, and runs the family-owned restaurant Mulino’s on Court Street in White Plains, and Gieto Nicaj, who now owns his own New York City catering company, Masterpiece Caterers, said they wanted to go into business together in Westchester County. Gigante said, they were looking for an opportunity in which they could capitalize on their respective backgrounds in restaurants and catering.
After five years of searching for “the perfect place,” Gigante said, they received a request soliciting proposals from the Town of Eastchester to take over the catering hall at Lake Isle, which they responded to and, ultimately, won.
That was the birth of West-chester-based catering company Eastchester Events, Inc.
Eastchester Events was officially named Lake Isle’s new caterer during the Feb. 11 Eastchester Town Council meeting after the board passed a resolution by a 4-1 vote to hire the new Westchester caterer to take over at Lake Isle Country Club, located at 660 White Plains Road, for the next 10 years. The previous caterer had been Carf Caterers.
“We’ve been waiting for the right opportunity, and everything fell perfectly,” Gigante said of the Lake Isle job. “We have a lot of history in Eastchester. With me growing up in Eastchester and living in Scarsdale and Gieto [Nicaj] living in Tuckahoe, it’s almost like a home coming.”
Gigante said he and Nicaj are currently working with design and architecture teams in developing their $1.5 million renovation project for the hall.
“We’re giving the place a major overhaul and a facelift but, because we’re in the design stages still, we can’t give away too much,” Gigante said. “We’re going to make a major splash, and we’re going to create a New York City feeling in a Westchester County catering hall…It’s going to be a feeling you haven’t experienced in Westchester.”
Although he didn’t have a concrete timeline as to when the project will be done, Gigante said he wants to start work right away and hopes to be done “as soon as possible.”
The friendship between Gigante and Nicaj goes back to the late 1980s, when Gigante’s father, Louis Sr., developed a working relationship with Nicaj while Nicaj served as the banquet manager at the Loew’s Regency Hotel on Park Avenue in Manhattan, which is where Gigante Sr.’s limousine service began.
“I first met Lou’s father when I was working at the Regency Hotel and our paths would cross every now and then,” Nicaj said. “But that was it. Then, when I was living in White Plains about 20 years ago, I stumbled across Mulino’s and got to know [the Gigantes] a little more.”
Gigante Jr. said, he and Nicaj developed their business relationship while Nicaj worked at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, which developed into a friendship by the time Nicaj took over as the director of operations at the Plaza Hotel in New York City in 2008.
“We continued to develop a friendship because banquets and cars worked hand-in-hand, so we’d send him business and he’d send us business,” Gigante Jr. said. “And he’d have dinner in our restaurant and our friendship developed from there.”
It was in Mulino’s, Nicaj said, when the idea for a Westchester-based business first came about.
“His restaurant was always busy, and I said to him, if I we had a ballroom, we could put a lot of business in there,” Nicaj said. “And we threw around the idea of going into business together in Westchester, and the idea became a reality with [Lake Isle’s catering hall].
Now the friends will operate Lake Isle Country Club’s catering hall, which Gigante said “will not only be the premier catering spot in Eastchester, but in all of Westchester.”
Nicaj added, “People are going to be blown away by this project once we’re done, and the town will be proud of the work we put in.”
Looking ahead, Gigante said the focus for the next several years will be on Lake Isle, but he hopes Eastchester Events will undergo more Westchester projects in the future.