The night was cold on March 19 with bitter winds and falling temperatures, but hearty diners weren’t deterred as they flocked to the welcoming awnings of Phil Stefani’s 437 Rush. Some settled in downstairs, but many, like me and my guest, headed up the stairs to the restaurant’s Newsroom where a display of wine bottles welcomed us to the evening’s Ruffino Wine Dinner.
The dinner was an elegant affair from the start with glasses of Ruffino Prosecco flowing freely at the bar and passed hors d’oeuvres like smoked salmon sandwiches, fresh mozzarella and pesto bruschetta, and mini mushroom puff pastry pizzas making their way around the room on the trays of friendly servers.
Diners arrived in groups of two or four; many seemed to know each other from previous events, setting the room abuzz with conversation. My guest and I took it all in: the smartly dressed gentlemen with their stylish female companions, the hubbub around the bar as cocktails were mixed and Prosecco poured, and the immaculately set tables, their surfaces filled with wine glass after wine glass, empty now but soon to be filled with the evening’s four featured wines.
Once everyone was corralled into the dining area, the tasting officially began with a short presentation by Daniel Burgio, a representative of the esteemed Ruffino Winery in Tuscany, who welcomed us all and told us a little about the wines we’d be sampling throughout the night. But so as not to keep us from our dinners, he kept his speech short, something that received a well-deserved round of applause.
And then it was time for the Antipasto course, a Tonno Crudo, a sushi grade ahi tuna with a citrus emulsion, radishes, oranges, avocado, and red watercress. It was a pretty dish to behold with little splashes of color scattered across the plate. Paired with a Ruffino Borgo Conventi Sauvignon Blanc (which happens to be this writer’s favorite variety of wine), the dish really took off with its light and refreshing flavors.
After a short breathing period, our Primo course appeared. An exquisitely plated Pappardelle al Ragù di Cinghiale (wide ribbon pasta, wild boar ragout, cocoa, juniper, oven-dried cherry tomatoes, and Taleggio fonduta) was served alongside a dry Ruffino “Modus.” My guest and I were admittedly a little unsure about the boar, but those worries were quickly put aside after our first bite of the pasta with its cheesy and rich flavors.
No sooner had our plates been swept away that the Secondo course materialized, a beautiful Filetto di Costata al Tartufo Invernale (roasted Rib Eye filet, brioche crouton, sun choke crema, braised Tuscan kale, and a winter truffle sauce). Accompanying this spectacular filet was a glass of Ruffino Lodola Nuova Riserva, a red wine with deep, earthy flavors that complimented the meat and the kale perfectly. It was a dish perfectly suited to the weather and garnered many oohs and ahhs from the table.
At this point it was almost impossible to consider a Dolce course with how stuffed we felt, but dessert arrived anyway and we couldn’t turn it down once it had been placed before us. The Raviolone di Pasta Frolla alle Albicocche (poached apricot filled sugar dough ravioli, vanilla sauce, wild blueberry compote, and apricot foam) was a lovely dish and the Ruffino Moscato D’Asti matched it in sweetness, which was a bit much for some diners, but not for your writer.
By this time, the conversation in the room had subsided as guests enjoyed coffee before the cold trek outdoors, which meant it was the perfect time to bring out the man of the hour: 437 Rush’s Executive Chef Christian Fantoni. Modestly he accepted a standing ovation before making his way back into the sanctuary of the kitchen. That was our cue to leave too. After goodbyes to tablemates and a few minutes spent replacing layers we’d shed upon our arrival, we made our way onto the cold city streets with happy hearts and full bellies.
© 2018 Phil Stefani Signature Restaurants
Photography by Nick Ulivieri