An Oak Harbor caterer with a love of cooking for the masses has had to reinvent herself and her business as a result of COVID-19, taking to-go orders and cooking in smaller batches.
Jackie Huerta, or “Auntie Jackie,” as she is known in her community, wanted to find a new way to cook since many of her catering contracts for events during the spring and summer have been cancelled.
Then the idea hit her to bring traditional Sunday dinners to the homes of others.
“What do Italians do? We have Sunday dinners,” Huerta said. “We have one at my house every Sunday. Let’s share that love with the community.”
She created a new website for her heat-and-serve to-go orders, zaninistogo.com
The menu changes every week with two options available. So far she has had everything available from spaghetti and meatballs to chicken parmesan to lasagna.
Prices depend on the entree, but Huerta assured that portion sizes are always generous and able to be shared or eaten over multiple days.
She also makes lemon cake, Italian cookies and focaccia bread.
For the fifth week, she is planning on possibly doing lasagna or roasted rosemary garlic chicken as entrees.
Orders can be placed Monday through Thursday through the website and pick-up or delivery is available on Sundays.
Between 2 and 4 p.m., she and her family will be outside the Oak Harbor Elks Lodge, playing Italian music and the food will be ready to be taken home.
Delivery is also an option. Owner D’Arcy Morgan of Whidbey SeaTac Shuttle contacted Huerta about providing free delivery to the whole island.
“I think she’s on the right track to something,” Morgan said.
There has been a limited need for deliveries so far, but he is fully supportive of Huerta and any deliveries that may be required in the future.
“She’s just a good business partner to work with,” Morgan added.
Huerta said she has averaged about 24 orders each week, with some of those orders calling for multiple entrees.
Her eight-year-old granddaughter Naomi Jean will often help her roll meatballs, an activity Huerta remembers doing when she was that age.
The to-go orders are something she hopes to continue for forever.
“It’s really not just about the food. The food is wonderful and I’m blessed to be able to share that. What I want to happen is for people to have Sunday dinners again,” Huerta said.