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Mike back doing what he loves as Fallone’s Pizza and Gelato cater for first wedding in more than a year

Mike Fallone of Fallone's Pizza & Gelato.
Mike Fallone of Fallone's Pizza & Gelato.

As Mike Fallone of Fallone’s Pizza & Gelato served up his tasty pizzas at a wedding last Tuesday, he reflected on a year of change due to the coronavirus pandemic and realised he was back where he belonged.

Catering for his first wedding in more than a year, Mike Fallone was delighted to be back doing what he does best – cooking his wood-fired pizzas and serving gelato for hungry diners at a wedding.

When Covid-19 swept across the country in the early part of 2020, businesses that relied on events catering saw their markets disappear overnight.

It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t just going to be “for a few weeks” as many had believed, but that we were in this for the long haul.

Guest enjoy Fallone’s at a wedding pre-Covid.

There very quickly became a need for many businesses like Fallone’s Pizza & Gelato to diversify and find other revenue streams to keep them ticking over until things returned to some sort of normality.

Having done that, offering different ways for customers to buy his products over the last 14 months, Mike was delighted to see the green shoots of recovery peeking through as he catered a wedding last week.

Passionate artisan producer

With a bulging diary of bookings that covers almost all of this year, much of next year and stretches into 2023, the passionate artisan producer has real reason to be optimistic about the future.

“It was great to be back. That’s our core business really, the private hire and weddings. The pandemic cut that short,” said Mike, 52.

“When I started the focus was around street food and pop-ups, but we moved away from that quite quickly to event catering and our unique selling point was that we targeted larger weddings.

Mike at a recent pop-up at Balhungie Berry Farm.

“We have a big team of staff and processes that allow us to do the bigger weddings. It is a great idea, but of course that was one of the first things to be a casualty of the restrictions.

“We don’t do smaller events or weddings, we aren’t set up for that – ideally it’s 120 to 200 guest weddings. It’s been a while waiting for them to come back.

“We have 20 more in the diary between now and Christmas and I don’t see any reason why they can’t go ahead, even if they change slightly.”

Wood-fired pizza

When restrictions were brought in to help restrict the spread of Covid-19, Fallone’s Pizza & Gelato business all but disappeared overnight and Mike was forced to look at other avenues to keep things ticking over.

“We tried all sorts of things,” he added.

“Our main food is wood-fired pizza and we are quite foodie about it, so I didn’t want to compromise things too much.

“However, we did try doing part-fired home delivery pizzas for people to reheat at home. We did that for a while, although I can’t say I was hugely comfortable with it because it wasn’t the product that I was used to or wanted to produce.

“We also make our own gelato with tie-ins with a lot of the Angus farms and distilleries and things. That was a bit easier because that could be retailed directly to customers through the online shop and delivered that basically all around Tayside for a while.

“We also did pizza kits for a while which we tied in with Mezzaluna (fellow Italian caterer). There were varying degrees of success, but they kept things ticking over until we could get back on to the main business.”

An amazing wedding spread created for a celebration pre-Covid.

No pop-ups

Initially, he took the decision not to take part in any pop-ups as he was worried about the potential of large crowds forming and social distancing perhaps being compromised.

“Pop-ups weren’t really on the cards during the pandemic, particularly at the height of it,” Mike continued.

“It just didn’t seem sensible to have queues of people. We do have a big following and historically, we knew what it was like to have a lot of people at the van. We just didn’t go down that route at all.”

Mike’s set up for an evening celebration.

With restrictions now easing and things slowly returning to normality, Mike’s bookings are looking healthy.

“The diary is absolutely crazy – I am actually scared to look at it,” he revealed.

“Next year was already pretty much full. In fact, it was probably two-thirds full when the pandemic hit and then of course all the postponements from last year and this year have moved.

“We now have a lot of midweek weddings to deal with, as well as weekend weddings. It’s going to be pretty full on this year and next. It’s a great place to be. I will be very careful before taking any other bookings and we have already started taking wedding bookings for 2023.

It just didn’t seem sensible to have queues of people.”

Mike Fallone, Fallone’s Pizza and Gelato

“And what we are waiting on after this is the reopening of the big public events like Highland games, festivals and things like that. They’re a lot of fun. Because we are set up to do larger scale catering they work really well for us.”

Weddings and events return

While he isn’t able to operate completely as normal  just yet, with buffet being his preferred way of serving at events, he is happy to work around that until the time is right.

“We don’t serve directly from the van, we don’t believe that works. Although it takes 90 seconds to make a pizza, maybe a couple of minutes, if you have 100 guests then multiply that by two to three minutes that’s a lot of time,” Mike added.

Another amazing wedding spread.

“People aren’t there to queue at a pizza van they are there to enjoy themselves, so right from the outset we have always preferred to do it as a buffet.

“We have the van there all lit up, quite Instagrammable, and we have our four-and-a-half metre marquee set up with buffet tables. We have staff there taking the pizzas from the van and presenting them on the tables.”

Italian dining experience

It isn’t just pizzas that Fallone’s Pizza & Gelato offer. Mike explained that a complete Italian family and friends dining experience is available.

“What we are doing as well to discriminate ourselves from other food vendors is focus a little bit more on moving away from the evening catering style and more and more of our bookings are all-day weddings,” he continued.

Wedding guests enjoying pizza and gelato.

“We do table service with grazing platters, antipasti, canapes, side salads, pasta salads and all your pizzas. We do all the catering from the horsebox during the day and if they want us to we will stay on in the evening.

“And of course the big thing is the gelato. I come from an Italian family. Although it wasn’t part of my business plan originally it was a logical add on to do that.

“We imported all the equipment from Italy which allows us to do small batch and it was primarily to allow us to do a dessert option and that gives us the full rounded offering for weddings. Very Italian, social eating.

“For the wedding last week we did table service, but we are looking forward to getting back to a more social style of serving food.”

Read more about pop-ups…