Cody Castiglia thoughtfully, seasonally sources as much as he can, about 75 percent, from local farmers, like good friend James Berntson over at Radicle Roots Farm.
Beef enrobed in the season’s bounty, that’s the Della Terra style.
If you haven’t yet signed up for a French-inspired, Bon Vivant, farm-to-table feast and cooking class, you’re missing out. The exclusive U.S. distributor of Lacanche French ranges, Art Culinaire puts on these cooking classes to bring people together.
Every day is different, that’s what I love about what I do.
“The nice thing about being in downtown Snohomish is we’re surrounded by amazing, organic local farms: James is a mile and a half from here, we work with him a lot, Caruso Farms, a bigger farm, also in Snohomish, also organic. Skylight Farms has not only produce, but also, amazing eggs, which we use for our fresh pasta dough, and a Snohomish vendor we work with, Puget Sound Food Hub, gives us all a one-stop shop for all kinds of local farms — some in Snohomish, some all the way to Bellingham, but still pretty local — for mushrooms, grains, pantry items.”
425 Business sang his praises, as a part of the “2018 class of 30 Under 30.” 425 Magazine wrote him up in the Nov. 14, 2017 issue, four months after he opened his own catering business, Della Terra (“Of the Earth” in Italian) in downtown Snohomish. Washington North Coast Magazine and HeraldNet gave him some love, too. He’s even filmed a video segment coaching D.K. Metcalf of the Seattle Seahawks on the fine art of tossing pasta, for Derek Jeter’s new multi-media platform, Players’ Tribune showcase.
His food is on another level: red wine-braised beef short ribs, farro risotto, fresh and foraged mushroom crostini with Cherry Valley Dairy Fromage Blanc, butternut squash ravioli, the Della Terra salad, featuring local greens picked that day, “with a nice tarragon dressing, some feta, some maple-candied pepitas. It’s like all these textures and flavors.”
WELCOME Magazine sat down with Della Terra caterer, Cody Castiglia, to find out what drives him to live and breathe the “Farm-to-Table” movement, currently catching fire in Snohomish County. The third-generation cook and business owner has a lot to say about the movement, and his own experience growing up in Buffalo, NY, surrounded by avid foodies, with an appreciation for the home-grown, Italian way of honoring regional, seasonal ingredients.
A typical day in the life of a farm-to-table caterer?
I don’t know that there is such a thing! Every day is so different. It’s definitely never boring.
We offer a range of service styles and cuisines, from intimate, custom-plated, five-course wine pairing dinners, to comfort food buffets, to Italian-inspired sandwiches and boxed lunches, to passed appetizers for 800 guests, and everything in between.
While no two events are identical, they always feature the seasonal best of the Northwest, such as local, organic produce, sustainable seafood, non-GMO produce and meat, and handmade pasta and gnocchi made from local ingredients. Always sourced and created with care and served with warm, authentic hospitality.
As the chef and business owner of Della Terra, I wear a lot of different hats, many times in the same day. Any given day can entail: food preparation, packing equipment and food for off-site events, doing a walk-through of an event space, picking up produce from local farms, responding to client inquiries, coordinating details with local venues, planners, and vendors, menu and recipe development, cleaning and maintenance duties, and putting on a tasting for a wedding couple or client. I really enjoy preparing the tastings, especially getting to know my couples and clients, and putting together a package that fits their vision, budget, and tastes for their big day.
What does providing farm-to-table to the community mean to you? Why is living farm-to-table so important?
To me, providing farm-to-table dining to the community means a lot. It just seems natural to merge the incredible local farms and producers of our region with the amazing people of our community. It’s an honor to be providing food that is not only better for the earth and better for the local economy, but also better for our guests and better tasting.
How many in your staff total, and when did you start your catering company in Snohomish?
We are blessed with an amazing team of culinary and service professionals. We have a long list of folks for the peak spring and summer season (12-15), while during the “off-season,” we typically just have two to five on staff every week.
Our three main “front of the house”/service gals have 20+ years experience in the Food & Beverage/catering industry.
We started in July 2017.
Describe this “Slow Food Movement” in Italy, and how you’ve tried to bring this approach to your catering.
Basically, it’s the opposite of fast food. Slow Food started in Torino, Italy as an alternative to the mass-produced, rushed nature of fast food. Slow Food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine, advocating for the farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of local ecosystems.
We are deeply rooted in this concept and strive to foster opportunities for our guests to slow down, and take time to enjoy real food, made from scratch with the local bounty among family and friends.
What’s the reception been like in Snohomish to your catering?
The Snohomish community has been amazing.
They love the fact that we are using ingredients from within the community. Countless times at events, our guests have told us that they are friends or neighbors with the farmers growing the ingredients that they are eating. Or that one of their family traditions is picking apples or touring the pumpkin patch at a farm we’re sourcing from.
We have especially enjoyed collaborating with other local Snohomish businesses, such as Uptown Wine & Beer, Dan Manning Photography, Looking Glass Coffee, Kasia Winery, and Sprig Flower Co. This has been a great opportunity for shared exposure and knowledge.
I recently saw one of the families in town who have booked us for catering on a few occasions. They introduced me as “their chef” to their friends, which was one of the coolest and most touching things I’ve heard.
What’s been the best part of catering so far?
Working with the incredible local ingredients, learning about them and having the opportunity to be creative with them. We are truly spoiled here. It’s a chef’s playground, for sure. Being located in historic downtown Snohomish, we’re surrounded by outstanding organic produce farms that are located right down the road. Not to mention the pristine seafood available locally (we source ours from Lummi Island) and incredible local grains from the Skagit Valley.
Another part that I love is the connection with our guests, whether they are wedding couples, corporate or family clients.
We love being a part of a wedding couple’s big day and customizing our menus to fit their unique vision for the reception. We’ve collaborated with couples to design menus that share important parts of their lives with family and friends, including menus that highlight the regions of the country (and world) they have fallen in love with together, from Umbria to the southwestern U.S., menus that can be served in their homes for truly personal receptions, and meals that featured produce from the couple’s own farm.
We have had the opportunity to cater weddings/special events for friends and also gained friends/repeat guests while catering their wedding/special event.
What have been some challenges in starting up a catering company here?
I moved here in early 2017, not knowing anyone except for my wife and her family. Developing that crucial “word of mouth” that businesses need to thrive definitely took some time. The local Snohomish community, as well as partnering with local Snohomish County businesses on events, helped us develop a bit of a following. Also, we were featured by a few local magazines, which helped us gain some traction.
What is Della Terra‘s specialty dish?
Our mushroom crostini is very popular for appetizer receptions and cocktail hours. It’s a great example of simple, local, seasonal ingredients combining to create something outstanding. We toast slices of Snohomish Bakery baguette with garlic confit, EVOO, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper. We then spread the crostini with Cherry Valley Dairy (Duvall, WA) Fromage Blanc — a soft, spreadable, creamy fresh cheese with a similar texture and tang to goat cheese. We then top the crostini with a mix of roasted mushrooms (typically oyster, crimini, and shiitake). We then top the crostini with sliced fresh chives for a fresh, allium note to the dish. We garnish with truffle-infused, crunchy finishing salt from SaltWorks Inc. in Woodinville.
How much of your Italian/NY upbringing has influenced your cooking and farm-to-table philosophy?
The main influence my Italian heritage has influenced my cooking with is the respect for high-quality, regional ingredients, and the will to treat them respectfully and simply.
Italians know which ingredients are the gems of their region and they don’t deviate much from them. They know what grows best in their climate and that’s what is featured on menus.
This is why we know the terms, “Parmigiano Reggiano,” “Balsamico di Modena,” “San Marzano” tomatoes, etc. So much so that these ingredients named for the reasons in which they derive have become famous.
Italians “live off the land” — utilizing the best of what is available from markets or their own harvest, and have a lot of pride in meal preparation and sharing meals with loved ones or around the table.
Growing up in Buffalo, New York was great for my growth as a chef and business owner. New York is very fast-paced and competitive, with lots of amazing mom and pop restaurants with families putting their heart and soul into it.
I definitely grew up in a “foodie” family. Conversation around the dinner table typically revolved around the next meal that we were going to prepare and enjoy. I am a third-generation cook and business owner. My dad has a catering business, as well, and my grandparents owned a small Italian restaurant. I still have a copy of their menu (average price for an entrée — 15 cents).
They taught me a love for cooking, especially Italian-influenced cuisine. Our home was always filled with the delicious aroma of onions and garlic sauteing in olive oil.
Working at Craving Restaurant in Buffalo, NY was what fueled my love and passion for farm-to-table cooking. Chef Adam would change the menu everyday, based on whatever came in that day from local farms. The restaurant was a constant “Iron Chef” challenge, if you will.
We made everything from scratch, including breads, charcuterie, pantry items such as pickles, chutneys, mostardas. With the short growing seasons in our frigid climate, preserving was the key to staying truly “local” year ‘round. Chef Adam’s farm-to-table philosophy gained us an invitation to cook at the prestigious James Beard House in New York City, which was an amazing experience. At Craving, I learned what makes “farm to table” so great — tasted a simple roasted carrot and was blown away. I didn’t realize that a carrot could be so sweet and delicious. I had become accustomed to the type you find in a grocery store, which proved lackluster compared to the freshly harvested, local version.
What have been your favorite catering events? What makes up the bulk of the kinds of events you cater? (You mentioned catering Radicle Roots’ James and Sydney’s wedding at their farm.)
Our bread and butter is weddings, which make up the bulk of the events that we cater during the summer. We catered 20 weddings in 2019; we are hoping to double that amount in 2020.
We’re in the Snohomish Wedding Guild, which is a great resource for anyone planning a wedding or special event. Weddings are a major industry in Snohomish. There are so many amazing wedding venues in our area, ranging from rustic barns to refined ballrooms.
In the spring and throughout the rest of the year, we cater things like corporate events, fundraisers, big birthday parties, employee or client appreciation parties, family gatherings, wine-pairing events, graduations, holiday parties, appetizer receptions, employee outings, seminars, and networking soirees. These keep us afloat during the “shoulder season.”
We love our corporate clients! I love the opportunity to take some pressure off them and help make them “look good” for their employees or clients. We have had the honor of catering for groups with big names like Amazon, BECU, Microsoft, and many others, as well as small local Snohomish businesses.
What brought you to Snohomish as a farm-to-table caterer?
Like any good story, it’s about a lady. I moved to the area for my wife, Lia.
We were long-distance dating for years through school and studying abroad, only seeing each other on summer and holiday breaks, so we were thankful to finally find a home to call home. Early in 2017, I quit my job, drove out from N.Y. to meet her in Arizona for her best friends’ wedding, then got engaged at Disney in California, moved out to this area and got married. I started Della Terra right around the same time we were married.
Snohomish was an absolute dream town to land in, and has been a joy to work and live in. We love the vintage character, quaint historic homes, lush country landscape, and of course, the abundance of local, organic farms. Snohomish was a great location to start our business, because we can easily access towns in Snohomish County as well as the Eastside and beyond.
Snohomish has a lot of dedicated farmers in the region. How would you describe the farming community here and the relationships you’ve forged with the farmers? Who are some of those farmers and what kinds of produce do you like to get from them in the spring and summer?
It really does! The farming community is wonderful here. We work with James Berntson at Radicle Roots Farm quite a bit, as well as Caruso Farms. Skylight Farm has amazing produce and we love using their eggs for our fresh pasta dishes. Eric from Chinook Farms in Snohomish has delicious grass-fed beef, as well. Those are the main hyper-local, Snohomish farms that come to mind. Through the Puget Sound Food Hub, we’re able to order from dozens of other local farms, from Snohomish to Bellingham.
What do you most look forward to during the warmer seasons?
In the spring— the return of the fresh, bright, green things! We can only make celery root sexy for so long. We love all the different varieties of radishes that start to spring up. Nettles are a fun, local specialty. They are great in a springy risotto with some local foraged mushrooms and lots of butter and cheese.
In the summer— I love to see heirloom tomatoes at the markets, different varieties of squash and stone fruit.
What would surprise people about being a farm-to-table caterer…maybe the moments when it feels rewarding, when you look out at people enjoying themselves, or responding in kind to your farm-to-table food.
One of the most rewarding things about being a farm-to-table caterer is the repeat guests. It’s really cool to get to serve people on the biggest day of their lives and then again for another event. This last summer, we were able to cater baby showers for two of our first wedding couples. It’s an honor to be part of different life stages for our clients.
How would you describe Della Terra dining to those who’ve yet to experience it, and are curious?
I think when a lot of people hear “farm to table,” their mind goes to kale salads and boring health food, and they are instantly turned off. In reality, most of our menu items are very approachable, crowd-pleasers that will appeal to the meat-and-potatoes crowd, as well as the foodies.
The ingredients really speak for themselves. When you source the finest, freshest local ingredients, you don’t need to do much to them. They’re already delicious. The freshness and flavor of trying something that was just harvested from a local farm will blow your mind. Most of us are accustomed to food that is grown across the country or world and travels on trucks or sits in warehouses for extended periods of time.
A Della Terra dining experience is a bit hard to define. You will have to try it for yourself! Let’s chat. To book your event, visit dellaterra425.com/contact and fill out the short contact form. This helps us gather more info, so we can best meet your needs for your event.