Kindergarten teacher-turned-culinary maven Erin Mooney is making delicious waves in Hoover, AL. Unsurprisingly, her roots in the area and the industry run pretty deep. Though Erin is originally from Selma, she grew up in the Birmingham area, where her mother’s Italian family ran a restaurant. She later spent time in Florida, where she met her husband, Chef Brian Mooney — but Alabama’s pull was strong.
They chose Hoover to raise their family, and Erin left a career in education to work for friends’ catering businesses. She fell in love and, in 2014, opened Tre Luna Catering with Chef Brian. By 2019, the duo’s catering had become so popular that they were able to open Tre Luna Bar & Kitchen. Today, the brand is making a name for itself, not just through its famous white chocolate bread pudding but also with a commitment to inclusivity. We caught up with Erin to hear more about that mission, her personal favorite Tre Luna order, and more!
Have you always had a passion for food and hospitality?
I have memories of being in middle school and having a pretend restaurant for my brother and his date for a homecoming dance and serving them dinner with a menu I made. Growing up and watching my aunt and uncle with their restaurant and coming from an Italian family, food and entertainment were always a constant in my life.
My dad loved to go to fine-dining restaurants and often took me with him as a child. He also had a love for music that inspired my love for using music in a restaurant to create ambiance. Through my career, I have found that my love language is to serve others, and I especially love making things look beautiful and entertaining.
From drinks to dessert, what is your ultimate order at Tre Luna Bar & Kitchen?
To start, I order a dirty martini with blue cheese olives, beef carpaccio, a dozen raw oysters, and our delicious focaccia bread. Brian and I love to eat with our friends, and we always end up sharing things! Our typical order after those appetizers is baked oysters, a medium rare cheeseburger, Brussels sprouts, and a chicken pesto or smoked salmon pizza.
We always order a glass of Veuve champagne with all of that and then cap the night off with an Erintini (our espresso martini) and the English toffee pudding!
And on the catering side, what would be on your dream menu if you were hiring Tre Luna to help host an event for your friends and family?
I would start with our walking raw oyster bar and passed hors d’oeuvres of tuna tartare on a mini rice cake, tempura veggies with sriracha aïoli, and forest mushroom flatbread. Then I would have baked brie with blueberries and walnuts served with our homemade focaccia from the restaurant, sliced beef tenderloin with horseradish cream, mini tomato pies, chicken biscuits with Alabama honey, and Asian pork steamed buns. Lastly, for dessert, I would have white chocolate bread pudding and mini tortes!
Tre Luna Catering was the first catering company in the nation to become Sensory Inclusive Certified. Can you tell us what that means for your team and why it’s important to you?
We are so honored and proud to be the first catering company to be sensory-inclusive. We have partnered with KultureCity for eight years and have been completely inspired and in awe of the magnitude of their dedicated work. It has inspired Tre Luna to employ special needs individuals who have brought such joy and purpose to our business. Our general manager, Sara Walker, has a background in working with individuals with disabilities and brings such grace to our mission to serve our community in this way.
Who or what is inspiring you at the moment?
I am inspired by music, fashion, podcasts, books, and people. I just lost my father, and lately, I have been inspired by his strong character. I also love memoirs and recently read Dave Grohl’s book and was inspired by his spirituality.
I love the goop podcasts and, in a recent episode, was inspired by the woman entrepreneur who started Stitch Fix and was the youngest woman to take a company public at age 34.
I am inspired by my friends and, most recently, Julian and Michele Maha and how they have grown KultureCity and the impact they have on the world with their work.
What are your favorite places to eat, shop, and explore in the Birmingham area?
What’s it like being in a business partnership with your husband? Are other family members involved in the business?
Brian is my best friend, and I am so blessed to be able to work with him every day. We definitely balance each other out. I am a get-things-done person with focused attention to detail. Brian is creative, patient, and relaxed. We talk on the phone probably 20 times a day. We bounce ideas, discuss business, children, and all the details in between. Both of our daughters help in serving at catering events, and our niece is our events coordinator at the catering company. On some of our big events, my brother, sister-in-law, and other niece and nephew serve with us, also!
What is the greatest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner?
Opening a restaurant was one of the biggest challenges we have faced. We opened nine months before COVID, and it was a challenge to switch gears and survive. Our hard work, grit, and determination helped us pull through many obstacles and come out stronger than ever before at both businesses.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Brian and I were given advice in our early years of marriage: to do what we love every day. At that time, we were both in jobs that were not a good fit for us, and we took a chance with the opportunity to start our own business.
And, our final lightning round of questions!
Last delicious local meal: Johnny’s catfish, mac and cheese, turnip greens, and cornbread
Book(s) on your bedside table: Right now, I am reading Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey, Thicker than Water by Kerry Washington, and Breathing Underwater by Father Richard Rohr.
Your go-to gift to give: I love to go to The Cottage Basket in Homewood. They have the best gifts and wrap them so cute for you!
Aside from faith, family, and friends, name three things you can’t live without: Music, dance, and I’m currently obsessed with LaCroix!
All photography courtesy of Sara Walker.
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