Bunky's Catering: Melds Innovation with Tradition to Deliver Delectable Mediterranean and Italian Food

catering items
Photo by Eric Tadsen

If you’ve recently driven past the former Bunky’s Cafe on Atwood Avenue in Madison and noticed the lights on and a lot of people milling about, you’d be right to think you’re missing something. The location, with its eclectic décor, is now the quaint event venue for Bunky’s Catering. Those nostalgic to recapture the ambience or once again enjoy the delicious Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and decadent desserts can cater their dinner party or special event in the former café.

Before closing, Bunky’s Cafe had continued the family restaurant tradition started in the 1930s by Teresa Pullar-Ouabel’s great-grandparents, Vito “Bunky” and Ninfa Capadona. They founded Bunky’s Italian Restaurant at Spaghetti Corners in the largely Italian Greenbush neighborhood roughly bordered by Park Street, Regent Street, and West Washington Avenue in Madison. They closed in the 1970s, and, later in the decade, built a new Bunky’s nightclub, renowned for good live music. The family’s legacy was honored by Teresa in 2004, when she and Rachid Ouabel opened Bunky’s Cafe.

When Teresa and Rachid metamorphosed the café in April 2016 to focus on Bunky’s Catering and wholesaling favorites to local grocery stores, it became a positive occasion for growth. The already well-established catering business had full attention and was ready to carry on the couple’s dream to bring the Mediterranean and Italian cuisine to Greater Madison, this time without the daily demands of operating a restaurant. With the catering business elements already in place, everything was poised for a seamless transition.

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

Bunky’s brand recognition, achieved from operating the café for more than a decade, provided an immediate boost to the catering venture. The menu was already established with food their clientele loved, utilizing delicious recipes that were tried and true. Even though food-service help is hard to find and keep in the Madison market, Bunky’s doesn’t have to worry about this struggle. “We have loyal staff that we’ve worked with for years,” says Teresa. “We are like family and work together like a well-oiled machine.”

Bunky’s Catering continues the traditions of Bunky’s Cafe by specializing in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine that unites the heritage of the couple, who together own and operate the business. Rachid is a native of Morocco and the source of many of the authentic Moroccan recipes that are characterized by traditional ingredients. The true essence of Italy that is representative of Teresa’s heritage rounds out the menu. For those with special dietary needs and preferences, it’s significant to note that the catering menu continues to include gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan selections.

The innovative menu reveals pizazz and exceptional food quality, which sets it apart from the pack. The couple are talented in recipe development and have drawn on their extensive culinary knowledge and skill set to create recipes with a point of difference. The food’s flavor profile is accentuated by cooking from scratch using the freshest locally sourced ingredients. Dishes are made to order and created around seasonally available food.

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

You may want to eat dessert first when you check out the sinfully delicious creations baked by Rachid, like Bavaria chocolate cake and his renowned carrot cake. The decadent tiramisu, made with mascarpone, Belgian chocolate, and espresso-dipped ladyfingers, is to die for.

Choosing great food with a standout dessert is key to creating a memorable event. Success also hinges on attention to even the small details that give the event that extra special something. Bunky’s Catering not only offers a delicious array of foods to choose from, they also provide full-service catering and consulting to create a menu specific to each event and budget, no matter how large or small.

Teresa has an exceptionally creative mind, thinking outside of the box to customize and incorporate details of significance to design a more personal and meaningful event. “For a traditional Indian wedding, we helped string spring-fresh marigolds,” she says. “Once, we even baked a traditional German wedding cake with the groom’s mother. It was special in so many ways.”

The old adage that we eat with our eyes underscores the significance of great food presentation. Bunky’s Catering not only provides tasty and beautiful food, they also design the table scape to achieve the desired theme and ambience. Orchestrating all of these details makes your carefully selected food the star and more enjoyable to eat.

Photograph by Eric Tadsen

There are separate menus for breakfast, lunch, and dinner buffets; party platters; box lunches; and appetizers. Catered food or party trays can be ordered for pickup or delivery for your private party, special event, or wedding reception. You’ll find that Bunky’s Catering is an approved caterer at more than 20 traditional and fun locations in Madison and surrounding communities. Future plans are to buy 40 acres in the country for an outdoor wedding venue that will provide yet another interesting location.

Bunky’s Catering has also entered the wholesale niche, which is one of the newest ways for food entrepreneurs to diversify. Look for hummus, baba ghanouj, falafel tahini, grape leaves, baklava, gluten-free carrot cake, gluten-free Belgium chocolate cake, and their famous lentil soup at one of the major grocery stores across the city. Bunky’s Catering plans to add a couple of new items each year, as it’s a long process to actually get a product onto a store shelf.

More than 90 years after great-grandfather Bunky’s name became synonymous with great Italian food on the Madison culinary scene, Bunky’s has been carried into the popular catering and wholesale business niche and beyond the walls of a single restaurant space for more to enjoy. With the couple’s abundance of creative energy, innovation, and extraordinary delectable food, Bunky’s name will endure for a long time to come.

For menus, venues, wholesale locations, and more, please see bunkyscatering.com .

Lauri Lee is a culinary herb guru and food writer living in Madison, Wisconsin.