Most Lenten fish fries are informal affairs. Dishes are homemade or cooked up in the church cafeteria, and the atmosphere is closer to a large community potluck. But at St. John Vianney in Mentor, the fish fry is run by professional caterers.
“It’s put out hot and fresh as we go,” says Glenn Liebhardt, chef of Cater To You, the company that caters the event and is part of the business group that owns Longo’s Pizza and Pastina Rustic Italian. “It’s not a warmer situation. Our food isn’t sitting in the roaster for six hours.”
When the St. John Vianney fish fry started more than 30 years ago, parishioners ran it, says Liebhardt. But then Cater To You took over in 2015 with a professional touch.
On the all-you-can-eat menu ($12) you can find a choice of baked haddock or beer-battered pollock. The fish is served with sides such as scratch-made clam chowder, American, Parmesan and provolone mac ‘n’ cheese, potato-and-cheese pierogies, french fries, a rotating vegetable dish, tossed salad or coleslaw. For dessert, Liebhardt and his crew serve pies, cookies, brownies and that mark of a true restaurant-style meal — cheesecake.
The dishes might be professionally prepared, but the welcoming church cafeteria atmosphere still brings up to 700 diners out on Friday evenings.
“We’re still 99 percent parishioners,” says Liebhardt. “We have a family atmosphere, quality food at a reasonable price, and a quantity of choices. If you leave here hungry, that’s your fault.” Fridays during Lent 5-7:30 p.m. 7575 Bellflower Road, Mentor, 440-255-0600, sjvmentor.org