Ruffino’s is quite unexpectedly tucked in a small strip-mall in Niagara-on-the-Lake – a spot that would make most second-guess themselves as to whether they’ve found the right place or not. But, rest assured, this is the home of one of Niagara’s newest restaurants which offers a menu committed to the slow food movement of Italy.
Owner and Executive Chef Ryan Crawford has been involved in the kitchen his entire life. He studied at the noted Stratford Chef School and then became an instructor there for four years. He has travelled extensively, staging at The French Laundry and Terra Grill in Napa Valley; l’Orangerie, Lucques and Patina in Los Angeles, and Jardinière in San Francisco. Closer to home, he has worked with Michael Stadtländer and Jamie Kennedy. He opened Backhouse and focused on Integrated Cool Climate Cuisine. Backhouse was a labour of love and helped solidify Ryan’s love of farming. Ever attend a wine event in the Niagara region that has catered food, or a pop-up food station? Usually, it’s something Ryan is behind in some way shape or form.
COVID put out the fires of Backhouse, but sparked the flame in Ryan’s soul to return to his original love…Italian Cooking. He and his partner Martha Brett are now found welcoming friends and family nightly at Ruffino’s Pasta Bar & Grill.
Once one enters Ruffino’s, the aroma of peach wood burning in the brick oven and glow of the wood-fired grill lets guests know they’re not out just for dinner, but are embarking on a culinary journey of somewhereness rooted in Italian cuisine. Their wines and beverages are locally focused set against a backdrop of fine Italian and international wines and spirits (check out the bottle shop and wine bar right next door, called BarBea – one of the largest bottle shops in the province!).
The restaurant sources ethically raised meat, does all of their butchery in-house, and cooks over an open fire. The sourdough breads are hand crafted and baked fresh in their wood-fired oven every day. Pastas are made daily and, of course, pizzas are wood-fired as well on a sourdough crust. Each day the team and Ruffino’s works together in writing the menu that tells the story of community through food and drink.