Rania’s Catering Celebrates 35 Years in Pittsburgh and Two “Four Weddings” Wins
By Andrea Bosco
Photographs from Ann Louise Photography, by Michael Fornataro
Rania Harris has created a business synonymous with skillful cooking. The premier Pittsburgh caterer, who is a natural on camera, whips up delicious eats in the kitchen on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live every Wednesday. She’s feverishly grown her bustling business, Rania’s Catering, to be one of the area’s leading wedding caterers and added event planning to her résumé. Devoting herself to her couples’ big day, she is part of the planning process from start to finish. From selecting the menu and arranging rentals, to coordinating with the slew of vendors, Harris harmonizes the bride and groom’s timeline down to the second for a smooth and seamless operation. As a bride who’s currently working with her, I can attest to her dedication, organization, and speedy email replies — an added bonus! This fall marks the business’s 35th anniversary — a monumental, well-deserved milestone for Harris, whose swamped schedule steers her drive. “When I look at myself as a caterer, I can’t say that’s all I do anymore,” she says. “[Weddings] have become the exciting and interesting part of the business.”
Harris got her start with a small cookie business out of her home. She sold her pastries to Kaufmann’s Department Store Downtown, where she learned one of her most valuable life lessons. “I told the bakery manager, Mary Vincent, her first order is free and she said, ‘I’d like to make a suggestion: You never give anything away for free. You are worth something. Never undervalue your worth.’” Those powerful words stuck with Harris, who had entered into a completely male-dominated industry at the time. Before she knew it, she was catering dinner parties, mitzvahs, and weddings. In 1986, she was featured as Bon Appétit magazine’s Cooking School Teacher of the Month, the first person in Pennsylvania to have that distinction, in a 13-page spread. Writer [Dorothea] Zack Hanle dubs Harris as “a jumping jack of energy and enthusiasm, as she caters (for two or 200), teaches to sell-out classes, masterminds a takeout shop, and manages to feed her attorney husband and four young children daily meals that are every bit as exciting as those she makes for her clients.” Yup. That’s right. Add grandmother, local TV personality, wedding coordinator extraordinaire, and so on, to that ever-expanding list.
She begins her days with a brisk walk or short drive to her Mt. Lebanon shop on Central Square, a cozy brick road, just off Washington Road. Her sage-hued office is lined with back issues of her favorite magazines, cookbooks, and inspiration, as well as rentals and linens from close-knit vendors. Harris manages 11 full-time employees; a seasonal cooking class series; a to-go menu; catering services; weddings at exclusive and preferred venues, and 100 subcontractors; and writes scripts for her TV segment, “Cooking with Rania,” from said office.
Last year, Rania’s Catering was featured in two episodes of TLC’s Four Weddings, where each of her competing couples, including Elizabeth Clay and John Grooms at The Mattress Factory museum, took home wins! “It was pretty exciting for us,” says Harris. “The bottom line is…it was interesting,” she laughs. Not a huge fan of the show herself, she’s the first to admit it’s reality today. Unfortunately, there will always be guests who judge your wedding choices or openly critique. Gracefully, Harris explains her true feelings behind her passion by saying, “I look at a wedding as being a joyous occasion. Marriage is a sacrament. Sometimes I see my brides get so caught up in the planning that I have to rein them back in and tell them, ‘At the end of the day, this is about you marrying the man you want to spend the rest of your life with. Nothing else matters.’” So brides, let Rania give you a helping hand.
:: Rania’s Catering, 100 Central Square, Mt. Lebanon. 412.531.2222. rania.com.
Four Weddings winners Micah Graham and Andrew Southwood hosted a travel-themed celebration at The Pennsylvanian, catered (the cake, too!) and day-of coordinated by Rania Harris. Florals by Mt. Lebanon Floral. Dishware by All Occasions Party Rental. Linens by Lendable Linens.