For almost 40 years, Rania’s Catering has been a Washington Road staple.
Rania Harris, of Washington Road, who is also the host of Cooking With Rania, a weekly segment on KDKA-TV’s Pittsburgh Today Live, began baking out of her home in 1979, traveling store to store offering sample pastries in the hopes of generating interest and orders, all with her youngest child in tow. The home bakery grew into a catering business and, in 1984, a lunch spot in Central Square called Rania’s To Go.
Earlier this year, Harris sold the business to longtime employee Aaron Hoover.
“I feel like I sold my business to my son,” said Harris, who went on to say that she would have closed the doors before selling to someone who she didn’t trust. “Aaron is dedicated, hardworking, courteous, kind and service-oriented. The employees adore him.”
Hoover, of Whitehall, initially studied computer science. “I was programming since I was 5,” he said. But when considering job prospects, he decided programming wasn’t the right fit. He attended culinary school in the late 1990s, and subsequently “played the starving artist bit,” working at celebrated Pittsburgh eateries including Top of the Triangle, where he met his wife, Melanie; Wild Rosemary and Cafe Allegro, until a fateful Craigslist ad for a chef crossed his wife’s computer screen. Hoover recognized the contact information on the ad as Harris’s, who had been a frequent customer of Cafe Allegro along with her husband for years. “The first time we talked, it was for over an hour. That was 15 years ago,” said Hoover. “It’s been fun reintroducing myself as the owner [of Rania’s Catering].”
Rania’s Catering’s primary business includes catering services in a variety of cuisines for weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and corporate events, as well as to-go meal offerings for holidays as well as smaller dinners. Customers can expect catering offerings to largely remain the same, according to Hoover.
The lunch café closed due to COVID in early 2020, reopening for a short time in November 2020, but closed again due to reduced foot traffic on Washington Road. The café remains closed, and Hoover is uncertain whether it will reopen.
The transition of ownership was a smooth one, as the two had been discussing it for several years, according to Hoover. A year prior to the change, Harris began to formally introduce customers to Hoover and hand off communications.
Customers can contact Rania’s Catering for catering services and to-go meals through the website at www.rania.com or by calling 412-531-2222. Customers can also sign up to receive emails with the latest news and seasonal offerings.
What’s next for Harris? She hopes to continue hosting Cooking With Rania and is considering creating cooking videos for YouTube. She’s also interested in pursuing Master Gardener certification, traveling, spending time with her family, and cooking for friends.