Downtown Asheville Has a New Event Space & Catering Biz to Enjoy!
…and wow, did I ever enjoy it!
I’m very happy to report that my friends Mike and Jon from Manicomio Pizza have added a new facet to their game: A catering business and event space called “Aunt Mary’s.” (When I asked Mike where the name came from, he said, “My Aunt Mary.”) Readers and eaters who have been paying attention will already knowhow much I love the pizza at Manicomio. I’ve given them two Stoobie Awards, and have raved in more than one write-up about their large, flat NYC style pies, with zesty sauce and aged mozzarella. They’re gorgeous! I also enjoy their meatball sub very much, as well as the various pasta dishes I’ve tried here and there from their menu. The Italian-American fare offered by Mike, Jon and crew is top-notch, big city goodness that I can not recommend highly enough.
All photos by Stu Helm
I was invited, along with friends and media folks to come try the food and sit in the space at Aunt Mary’s — which is located right behind Manicomio — and boy howdy, the food was killer. Like, really fucking good. Like, awesome, solid, no nonsense, Italian Food, with a capital “F.” And, as should always be the case with a Italian fare, there was a shit-ton of it! An enormous, beautiful Antipasto (above), a giant muhfuckin’ tray of the best veggie lasagna I think I’ve ever had, a perfectly cooked Penne alla Vodka, and some really really tasty Chicken Franchaise. All cooked just right. I loaded up my plate, ate the fuck out of all of it. and went back for seconds, which was the theme of the night for all of my friends as well.
Jon was nervous about the vegetarian lasagna, because they don’t generally offer a veggie option of that particular dish on their Manicomio menu, only the meaty version, and this was the debut of Jon’s own vegetarian recipe. Jon and Mike both know that operating a catering business here in Asheville means actually catering to people’s many, various dietary restrictions and preferences, with veg options being in very high demand in a town that was colonized by hippies, and still tries to eat right whenever we can, while of course stuffing our faces with yoms at all times.
As I often remind my readers and tour patrons, I was a vegetarian for 10 years,and I really enjoyed the lifestyle and health benefits very much. During that period of my life, I ate a lotta fuckin’ veg lasagna, and I have experienced everything from good, to great, to complete bullshit when it comes to flavor, texture, and satisfaction quotient. Jon, if you’re reading this, be nervous no longer, my friend! You fucking NAILED IT.
I am a huge fan of Penne alla Vodka… now. I mean, I’d had it and enjoyed it many times in the past, but could kinda take it or leave it. Ever since i devoured two servings of the penne alla vodka at Aunt Mary’s, I have been craving it big-time. The things that can sometimes go astray with this dish — dry, bland, tough or squishy noodles — were decidedly not the case here. Opposite. The perfectly cooked pasta was served hot & steamy, and was both flavorful and saucy. I’m not kidding. I have been craving it ever since. Like, right now! Want.
Just looking at my own crappy picture of the wonderful tray of yum above is making my mouth and stomach angry at my hands and brain for not shoveling serving spoons of it into my face hole right now. Those soft white rolls in the picture above were also tasty as fuck, and my stomach wants those very much too. Soon, my body part friends, soon!
In general, I must admit that chicken Franchaise is one of those dishes I associate with things like bar-mitzvahs, weddings, and lunch time at the nursing home, so as you can tell, it doesn’t usually excite me very much. I do like chicken a lot, though, and at this point, I trust Mike and Jon to make killer fucking food no matter what, so I was excited to be excited about this chicken, and yerp. It was super exciting. I fucking loved it. Like both the penne & lasagna above, I am craving it again right now,
My hands, mouth, brain, and stomach all agreed that Aunt Mary’s chicken Franchaise is the titty-ass bomb of all bombs, and my long time readers will recognize that as the absolute highest praise I can give any dish. In fact. Fuck it. I’m giving this entire meal and experience a TABOAB rating. Every bite of every dish was satisfying as fuck and had me, and everyone else, rolling our eyes in pleasure, and filling our bodies to the point of misery.
The dishes listed above come with my thumbs-up, I recommend each of them specifically, but after eating this preview meal I feel really secure in saying that you could order anything off their menu (below) and it’s gonna be fucking killer. Mike, Jon, and the entire crew at Manicomio and Aunt Mary’s work their asses off, and they make hella good food, Yo. In fact they make a salad so beautiful, I took three extra picture of it. And I don’t usually even like salad, It didn’t hurt that this one had, like, 300 kinds of meat on it.
So yeah, call Aunt Mary’s Catering Kitchen the very next time you need some nice big trays of delicious, hearty, expertly made food for an event! They do on-or-off-site catering, so if you need a space for your event, the room at Aunt Mary’s is great! Located right downtown, it seats 40 inside, with 20 more covered seats outside, and any portion of the patio can be sectioned off for larger parties interested in outdoor seating. Brand new renovations and build-outs have made this one of Downtown’s nicer indoor/outdoor spots.
Long-time locals will remember the space as Hannah Flanagan’s from back in the day, which eventually devolved into a nightmare and closed. The building remained empty for years, further falling into serious disrepair, eventually degrading to verge of becoming a true shit hole / tear-down. Then Mike and Jon moved to town about three or four years ago, renovated the space for something like 18 months, and started slingin’ the best pizza in town out of the front while continuing to work on the back. They straight-up saved that entire space from ruin, and for that alone, I am grateful to these two food makers.
I have no end of respect and admiration for what they have done, and continue to do, for the eaters of this town, and I’m super-stoked about this great new aspect to their business. I really am still craving all of the food pictured above. I want some right now!
Aunt Mary’s Catering Kitchen
“Full Service Catering Venue. Full Spirits Bar. Outdoor Patio Seating. Catering To You.”
Address: 27 Biltmore Ave, Asheville, NC 28801
Phone: (828) 505-4578
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Stu Helm is an artist, writer, and podcaster living in Asheville, NC, and a frequent diner at local restaurants, cafes, food trucks, and the like. His tastes run from hot dogs and mac ‘n’ cheese, to haute cuisine, and his opinions are based on a lifetime of eating out. He began writing about food strictly to amuse his friends on Facebook.