Text by Sue Burns | Photos by Megan Welker and Lauren Westra

It’s no secret that Visalia and the surrounding communities have a variety of locations where brides and grooms can create just the right ambience to say their “I dos” and celebrate with family and friends.

Religious and nondenominational venues for ceremonies and receptions range from churches and temples to community halls and parks, restaurants and settings designed specifically with weddings in mind.

Restaurateur Mike Fligor and his family of Fugazzis establishments have created a niche in the market with full-service, on-site events as well as off-site catering at any location, based on the wedding dreams of each couple they work with.

Victorian Garden by Fugazzis is widely respected as one of the area’s most beautiful venues. With a historic Victorian home decorated with beautiful glass and chandeliers surrounded by pristine grass and towering oak trees, it offers a classically elegant outdoor English garden setting in Visalia. For brides and grooms looking for a more traditional setting in which to make their commitment among family and friends, Victorian Garden provides the blend of Old World charm and solemnity that the occasion demands.

For a wedding design with a less traditional feel that nods to Tulare County’s agriculture-heavy roots, Westwood Barns will satisfy any couple’s desire for a fun and upscale celebration. The Tulare facility, now also by Fugazzis, has been closed but is reopening in 2019 with weddings already scheduled. The newest property in the Fligor Hospitality Group offers multiple options for ceremony sites, including open farmland as well as an oak garden, a naturally shaded reception lawn, two authentic barns and an iconic lighted LOVE marquee. Westwood Barns is a unique marriage of rustic, country charm and upscale elegance with its two authentic barns, reclaimed wood bridge and canopy of oaks, flowing canal, twinkling bistro lights, premium harvester wood chairs and full-length table linens.

Everyone agrees that the reception menu is one of the most important details of the day. Guests often remember details about the food after details about the ceremony. Fugazzis caters all weddings at the venues, ensuring a divine dining experience for everyone in attendance. Silvia Diaz, catering and event coordinator, works with couples to determine their needs and wants to make their day as memorable as possible. She works with brides from the first phone call until the cake is cut at the reception.

Catering and Events by Fugazzis at the venues tries to relieve all of the stress that brides face; they try to include everything in wedding packages. Silviais the liaison with the chefs at the restaurants to find the menus that are just right for their special day, from appetizers to main entrées, from desserts to Fugazzis’ famous tacos as a late-night surprise.

In addition to Westwood Barns and Victorian Garden, Fugazzis caters weddings (and special events) at many locations throughout the county and beyond. Any given weekend will see Fugazzis catering weddings at both venues as well as a few special events off-site.

Both facilities can provide everything needed for beautiful weddings such as chairs, tables, linens, china, flatware and such, although couples have the option to rent their own. There’s no doubt that the wedding business is saturated with vendors.

Fugazzis works with photographers, florists and disc jockeys to provide a consistent experience for all couples who celebrate their nuptials at its venues. Making an effort to be very competitive with pricing that provides maximum value and benefits is a top priority.

So many venues, so many vendors, so many choices for brides and grooms! What is it that sets Fugazzis apart? Here’s the scoop: While some venues can give the feeling that you’re lucky

to be having your event at their facility as they dictate the details to you, the aura at Fugazzis is the exact opposite.

Fugazzis is different from other restaurants and event sites because it places the emphasis on the people who make it run, from delivery people to the servers to management. Owner Mike Fligor goes to great lengths to make sure that his staff is well cared for and, as a result, many people have been with the company for more than 20 years. Having just celebrated his 47th year of marriage, Fligor firmly believes that his relationships, marriage and all that he has learned equips him for how to love, treat and live life with his management and employees.

Fligor is committed to providing opportunities for growth and development to all staff who want them. “Mike works with every employee to determine their needs to support themselves and their families and to set goals and compensation that allows them to do that without having to take on multiple jobs,” says Kendel Rodriguez of q|r media company. It makes perfect sense that dedicated staff members who are fulfilled in their careers ensure that brides, grooms, families and guests are taken care of like part of the family as well.

What started as a little pizza shop where Fligor bought in as a part owner turned into ownership of a couple more locations, which led to expansion of the properties into full-fledged restaurants. Fligor’s passion continues to be all about finding new things to do, things that will enhance not only his success but that of his employees, facilities and the community at large: “We only do the right things to make the right things happen.”

And on that note, Fligor is excited to share that there are several expansion plans in the works for 2019 and beyond.

FHG has taken over the former Cafe Tommy site off of Shirk Road, planning an eatery that will feel familiar to loyal Cafe Tommy patrons, with an anticipated opening in February. Fugazzis will also open a new location in Porterville in 2019 AND look forward to a classic Fugazzis Steakhouse along the lines of the Hanford restaurant. Yet another new location will be coming in mid- to late 2019 in Woodlake, the result of an opportunity for Fligor to create

an upscale, fast-casual environment. Lastly, FHG just struck a deal with local property development company 7 Ten Properties to create a new Fugazzis concept restaurant in the planned rebuild of the historic Mt. Whitney Power building on Main Street in Visalia – with a planned opening date closer to 2020.

Fugazzis has been dishing up fabulous fare for 21 years, but talking to him one feels Mike’s passion as intensely as if he had just opened it. With the new locations coming, he moves closer to his goal of placing Fugazzis within easy reach of most cities in the area. As important as the food and events, he wants his company to be a part of the whole community, and having the restaurants allows him to do that.

Key to being involved in the community is Fligor’s philosophy: “People matter: Giving is a given.” Each Fugazzis location chooses a local mission that it supports, resulting in food donations to five groups and feeding more than 500 people every week. The restaurants have fed more than 125,000 in the last five years.

Fligor’s commitment to the whole picture is what makes Fugazzis different and special. It takes more than a beautiful venue and good food to make a memorable wedding day.

“I see a correlation with the amount Mike gives to the community, his thankfulness and the success of the businesses,” says Rodriguez. There is indeed a definite and tangible connection, and even with all that is already on the horizon, Fligor is still looking forward with enthusiasm to the next project – rather than ever resting on his laurels, his mantra is always “We’re just getting started.”