If the name Sclafani sounds familiar, it’s probably because of Sclafani’s, which was one of the most famous restaurants in the New Orleans area from its opening in 1945 to its closure 40 years later. The cooking bug passed from patriarch Peter Sclafani down to sons Frank (who served as the restaurant’s owner and executive chef for 27 years) and Peter II, and grandson Peter III, who’s currently executive chef and co-owner of Ruffino’s in Baton Rouge, La.
His restaurant carries on the "French-Creole-Meets-Italian" tradition of Sclafani’s, and he’s widely regarded as one of the state’s, if not the nation’s, top chefs (he was named Restaurateur of the Year by the Louisiana Restaurant Association for two years in a row). Last weekend, Sclafani and his Ruffino’s team, including co-owner Ruffin Rodrigue, flew up from the Gulf to New York’s James Beard House, and prepared a five-course meal, plus hors d’oeuvres, for an excited crowd.
The meal started with passed hors d’oeuvres including shrimp corn dogs, char-broiled oysters with Tasso ham garlic butter, grillades and grits, and a corn and crab soup that was a real standout. Once guests were seated, the menu featured crab cheesecake (a favorite from the Ruffino’s menu); heirloom tomatoes with foie gras-filled burrata and balsamic "caviar"; pork cheeks with bacon jam, butternut squash purée, and pork trotter-filled dumpling; and finally a coffee panna cotta with chocolate chip beignets.
"Cooking at the Beard House has been on my bucket list ever since I donned my first chef’s hat," Sclafani said in a release. "I am truly humbled that they have asked me to cook there, and I am exceedingly proud to represent Baton Rouge and Louisiana on the most prestigious stage in the American culinary landscape."
Judging by this meal, we’d recommend dropping by Ruffino’s next time you’re in Baton Rouge.