Allen Cerinetti will never forget the day he came home from school at age 12 to find his mother Ruby sitting and crying at the kitchen table in their home in Patterson, New Jersey.
When Cerinetti asked his mother what was wrong, she explained that her rheumatoid arthritis had gotten so bad that she could no longer cut up the fresh vegetables she needed to cook with. From then on Cerinetti began to cook and learn from his mother, as her pain grew, until he eventually he was cooking for the entire family at age 13.
More than 40 years later, Cerinetti has finally fulfilled his lifelong dream of opening his own restaurant in Dawson County, naming the restaurant Ruby’s Recipes, in honor of his mother, and preserving the recipes she taught him so long ago.
“I cook like how my mom cooked,” Allen said. “Everything is made fresh, and it may take a little bit longer than a fast food restaurant but you can taste that it was made with love.”
Cerinetti and his wife Jul said that one of the goals of the restaurant is to help bring back the family-style meal, in a world where families are constantly busy.
“As we were talking about it and discerning what we would like to do for the community, we found that a lot of people are so busy all the time,” Jul Cerinetti said. “They just don’t have time to sit down with their families, so in opening this up and having it pretty much focused on family dinners, we can do the cooking and you can take it home and have that family dinner.”
“Because there’s just something sacred about sitting around the table and eating and sharing that time together,” she added.
The restaurant is Italian at its roots, but won’t be limited to just one type of cuisine.
“Allen can cook anything,” Jul said. “Hispanic cuisine, Polish, Thai, Greek — he looks at a recipe, tweaks it and makes it even better than the original.”
The aim moving forward is to incorporate specials and new menu items once the restaurant is fully opened. Currently, they are working with a limited menu due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allen and Jul explained that opening the restaurant has been a huge leap of faith for both of them.
“I worked in construction and for a long time this was just an idea or a dream that I wanted to do someday,” Allen said. “I was looking to do catering or a food truck, so I put out a post on Facebook asking if anybody had a commissary kitchen for rent or something like that. And somebody replied saying the kitchen here and the room next to it were both for rent.”
Still unsure whether or not opening a full restaurant was the right decision or not, Allen and Jul Cerinetti drove out to look at the available space.
“And when we were turning onto the street, Jul turned to me and said, ‘Allen, did you see what road we just turned on?’,” Allen said. “And she told me, ‘It’s down Allen Street and off of Memory Lane — and what you’ve wanted to do is Allen’s memory of his mom’s cooking.’ And at that point, I knew that was where God wanted me to be.”
In opening the restaurant, Allen wanted it to be more than just a business, but a ministry as well.
“I’m honoring my mother, keeping my childhood memories alive and following where God wants me to be,” Allen said. “So I knew the Holy Spirit was telling me this was the right decision.”
Jul Cerinetti trains horses and Allen Cerinetti has always been supportive to her in her passion, so she has been supportive to him in his dream throughout the whole process.
“I’m the baker, so I’m going to be making desserts and breads here,” Jul Cerinetti said. “And my family owns a restaurant and olive grove in Italy, so we’re hoping that once the virus is gone we can start importing their olives to use here.”
The restaurant is truly a family affair, with Allen and Jul working together along with their children. Allen’s son Frankie, his daughter, Farah Grubbs, and Jul’s daughter, Amanda Byrne. One of Jul’s barrel racing students, Selah Seibel, works at the restaurant too, and Jul jokes that Selah is like her “adopted daughter”, an honorary part of the family.
The couple has lived in Dawson County for more than eight years, and one of the things Cerinetti is most excited about is getting to know his customers personally, as they keep coming back to his restaurant.
“When I was growing up, it was a small community where everyone knew everyone else,” Cerinetti said. “You’d go in a store and the owner would know what you wanted to buy before you even said anything, and that’s how I want it to be here too. This is our community, our neighbors, the people we go to school, church or work with — and I want to know every customer who comes in and what they like to order.”