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How to Host an Hors d’oeuvres-Only Menu for Your Next New Orleans Catered Event

Oftentimes the hors d’oeuvres are guest’s favorite part of an event.  So, why not make them the star?  Make your next event a cocktail hour that doesn’t end.  Forget the full meal, serve a large variety of hors d’oeuvres for your event.  This allows guests to mix, mingle, eat and drink; all without the formality of a seated meal.  What’s more chic than that?  Rather than committing to a specific meal, this format allows guests to be a bit more adventurous and to sample a larger variety of foods.

When did hors d’oeuvres or appetizers stop being a starter?  Hors d’oeuvres-only events have been a trend in catering, and for good reason.  These types of events can be affordable, stylish, exciting, and beautifully presented.  Cocktail party style, appetizer-only events allow for more mingling, interaction and movement. Messina’s Catering and Events shares tips on how to throw a successful hors d’oeuvres-only event.

Hors d’oeuvres vs appetizers

Although used interchangeably, did you know that technically there is a difference between hors d’oeuvres and appetizers? Bite sized foods served before a meal that are hot or cold are considered hors d’oeuvres. They are to be eaten before dinner, not filling to interfere enjoying the meal, and tend to be savory. Think nuts, crudité, fruits and cheeses. Alternatively, appetizers are supposed to be served at the table before the meal as a starter. Although small portion sizes, they are meant to be complimentary to the meal like salads and soups. But in today’s world, all that goes out the window. Call them hors d’oeuvres or call them appetizers, just consider letting them stand on their own at your next New Orleans catered event.

Fruit and cheese tray

Variety is the spice of life

Think of your hors d’oeuvres selections as a five-course meal, without all the fuss but with all of the fun. Include equal protein heavy options, along with starches, veggies and fruits along with hot and cold items. Hors d’oeuvres options are essentially limitless, so make your selections based on criteria such as time of day, theme, budget, headcount, and style to determine your selections. Messina’s Catering & Events can help narrow the options based on these parameters.

Passed hors d’oeuvres

What’s more chic than bringing the food to your guests vs them going to get it.  Passed hors d’oeuvres tend to add a certain elegance to any event.  It allows guests to focus on socializing vs standing in line.  Be sure servers are uniformed to ensure they can be easily spotted.  Also think beyond just the serving tray.  Passed hors d’oeuvres should be a feast for the eyes as well as the palette, therefore unique serving devices can add flair beyond the standard serving tray.

Be sure passed hors d’oeuvres are easy for guests to remove from the serving device and eat.  Miniaturized versions of most any meal favorite can be deconstructed and delivered up in bite-sized tributes to their origins. These include soup shooters, antipasto skewers, shrimp cocktail, oysters and bacon wrapped scallops. Selections like Messina’s Mini Beef Wellington Bites, Warm Miniature Muffuletta Sandwiches, Duck on Endive and Salmon Mousse Deviled Eggs are perfect heartier and substantial options. End with desserts like mini crème brûlée and assorted dessert shooters.

Passed appetizer display

Displayed options

Presentation displays of food and drink throughout the venue are a feast for the eyes and the taste buds.  Food should be as pretty as it is tasty.  Guests like to congregate around them, and they become the focal point of the room.  For brunch, think about donuts displayed hanging on a wall.  Or salad served….wait for it….on a stick.  Or maybe alligator sausage served alongside the alligator head!

Caprese appetizer

Appetizers stations

Chef-attended action stations and make-your-own stations have been a trend that many love and that works beautifully in an appetizer-only event. Guests can watch the chef make their dish, such as a live oyster-shucking station, or guests can personalize their dish at a nacho bar.  Moving away from stagnant displays, or old-fashioned buffets, these more dynamic stations provide a fun, visual component to the all-appetizer party as well. Whether the final plating of a dish or actively flambéing a dessert, a chef attendant enhances the overall excitement.

Shucking oysters


Give careful consideration to the vessel your appetizers will be served in.  Add some creativity to your event with unique items to serve food in.  From shot glass shooters, to small boats, to ceramic spoons and skewers, options for food vessels are limitless.  And don’t forget edible vessels!  Think phyllo dough cups, stuffed zucchini, and gourmet cones and edible spoons.


A quality New Orleans caterer like Messina’s can help you determine the right amount so you’ll have enough, with little waste.  A good rule of thumb for 10 – 12 guests is to serve a minimum of 5 different selections.  For 25 guests, a minimum of 8 selections should suffice. ( And for 50 guests, a minimum of 13 selections is a good idea.  Timing is key as well. For an event that takes place during mealtime, plan on 12-15 total pieces per guest so that their appetite is satisfied. If the event occurs between standard mealtimes, allocate 8 – 10 pieces per person for nibbling. Finally, for longer parties lasting longer than 4 hours, allocate 2 additional pieces per person, per hour.


It’s important to predetermine what the flow of the room will be prior to setting up food and drink stations. In addition to accounting for guest flow, the caterer must also have plenty of space and equipment for prepping and heating.   Use the space at hand to place stations and bars in different areas so that guests can make their way from one end to another. This will keep your guests moving, tasting, and enjoying themselves.

Make sure your event is sufficiently sized for an appetizer-only event.  Messina’s has several locations from which we regularly host appetizer-only events.  Those include Batture Bistro + Bar at ONE11 Hotel,  Messina’s at the Terminal, and The Rooftop on Basin.

Appetizer-only events can create lasting impressions

New Orleans caterers like Messina’s Catering and Events are experts in preparing and displaying visually stunning dishes. We can also help with venue selection and best places within those venues for best flow as well as optimal natural light and ambiance. We have six decades of experience in preparing and presenting food both visually and culinarily appealing.  For the past three years, Messina’s Catering & Events has been recognized as #1 Caterer in New Orleans by CityBusiness as well as received the 2020 Best of Weddings Award from The Knot.

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