Franchesco’s Ristorante: Taking the Culinary Show on the Road

Long known as a premier restaurant and wedding venue in Rockford, this beloved destination is expanding its presence to two other favorite local venues. The result is an elegant, and elevated experience in some high-demand outdoors locations.

(Photos provided)

Couples who are planning a luxurious wedding in the Rockford area want their ceremony and reception in a serene setting, often in a location where catering is provided by someone who speaks to that level of elegance.  

They don’t have to look far. Franchesco’s Ristorante, 7128 Spring Creek Road, in Rockford, long regarded as one of Rockford’s premier restaurants and wedding venues, has become the exclusive catering restaurant for both Anderson Japanese Gardens and Klehm Arboretum & Botanic Gardens, in Rockford. Couples who decide to tie the knot at either of these jaw-dropping locations can expect the same high-quality menu and service they would find on-site at Franchesco’s.  

“Franchesco’s has built a reputation for being the premier wedding destination location,” says Michelle LaMay, general manager of Franchesco’s and the daughter of restaurant owner Benny Salamone. “People from across the state-line area and the Chicago suburbs are coming to these premier and beautiful destinations for their weddings. We’re committed to doing everything possible to make their dreams come true.”  

Regardless of where they are, couples can expect a range of options to fulfill their personal wishes. 
“We strive to make Franchesco’s top of mind when couples think of planning a wedding,” LaMay says. “We love that we’ve partnered with two of the top venues in the area, and we feel so blessed to be a part of both locations.”

Part of what makes this relationship special is the manner in which Franchesco’s prepares its meals off-site. Unlike some catering services, which make everything ahead of time, Franchesco’s has a special setup on-site that guarantees every dish is fresh and piping hot when it reaches guests.  

“We have complete kitchen capabilities at the off-site venues, as well as a full catering staff,” LaMay says. “We handle full setups, teardowns, linens and plateware – and you get a wedding planner for the entire day. We adore our couples and will assist with whatever they need.”  

Franchesco’s hosts and caters more than 50 weddings a year between its restaurant and off-site venues, each of which can host 25 to 400 guests. The team additionally provides catering at many other area locations, so no dream is too challenging. They’ve made adjustments with COVID-19 and have the necessary equipment to make any event a success.

The Franchesco’s ballroom was recently renovated to include new and improved amenities with ample space for weddings of all sizes. The venue is complete with modern decor, top-of-the line audio and video equipment, and Chauvet lighting.  

For an alfresco wedding experience, Klehm Arboretum, 2715 S. Main St. in Rockford, features 155 acres of both woodlands and botanical gardens. It’s the largest public garden of its kind in Winnebago County.  

Anderson Japanese Gardens, 318 Spring Creek Road in Rockford, has been named one of the top Japanese gardens in the country. Its 12 acres provide a breathtaking and memorable place of reflection, serenity and peace – qualities that also make it a beloved backdrop for weddings.  

Those who get married at these venues can enjoy a private setting surrounded in picturesque beauty. 

“The demand for outdoor venues has dramatically increased recently, especially with the beautiful gardens and landscaping that they have in place,” Salamone says. 

The patio space is limited at Franchesco’s, so this combination wasn’t always an option. But, thanks to this partnership between venues, it’s becoming a reality for many couples. Besides, a venue with everything in one place is something more and more couples are requesting, LaMay says. 

“We can’t be everything at Franchesco’s, but when it comes to an outdoor feel, we’re able to offer so much more at these venues,” she says.   

No matter where couples get married, they can still expect the savory and elegant dishes that have made Franchesco’s a favorite for years. Top requests include the Chicken Madeira and Pistachio Salmon – a Scottish filet served with a pistachio crust and a side of carrot mousse, sauteed spinach and apples.

Filet Mignon remains a popular go-to, along with seafood risotto, which is served with shrimp, scallops and lobster tossed with Arborio rice.  

Space fills up quickly at these venues, and Salamone says he has weddings booked all the way into 2024.  

“Every couple has different expectations,” he says. “Typically, most brides will plan a year out, but if necessary, we can accommodate any timeline based on availability.”

The Franchesco’s staff strives to make the wedding process stress-free. Co-owner Kim Salamone has coordinated hundreds of weddings, and she applies her expertise and knowledge to ensure a couple’s day is filled with lasting memories. 

“That’s always her ultimate goal,” LaMay says.

While the venue selection is up to each couple, the team at Franchesco’s is prepared for every step of the way.

“I believe 99% of the time, we can secure a wedding if we have the opportunity to meet the newly engaged couple, because there’s something about our unique offerings that gives them confidence. They know that we’ll take care of everything and help to make a stress-free day,” LaMay says. “The biggest complements that we’ve received suggest that the entire process was perfect and easy.”
Those who’ve celebrated their weddings with the Franchesco’s team have good things to say about the experience.

“We were told in the beginning by Benny, Kim, and Michelle that they’d take care of everything that evening,” writes Lindsay C on The Knot, a wedding planning site. “That was an understatement. We didn’t hire a wedding coordinator, nor did we need one. They worked with the photographers and DJ to time the events of the evening perfectly. We can’t thank them enough for all that they did to make this wedding so unforgettable!”