When ICE alum Inez Ribustello left her small hometown in North Carolina to move to New York City, she never imagined that she would return. Yet when her illustrious career as a sommelier and beverage director at New York’s famed Windows on the World came to a halt in the aftermath of 9/11, Inez found new opportunities back home. Today, as the co-owner of wine-driven restaurant On the Square, Inez is among an influential contingent of culinary entrepreneurs—including fellow ICE alum and host of A Chef’s Life, Vivian Howard—who are revitalizing local communities in small, economically challenged towns outside of Raleigh.
It goes without saying that the success of a high-end restaurant in an impoverished community is nothing short of miraculous. Yet Inez and her husband, Stephen, have found incredible success through their passion for wine. “When we work with vintners to put on a wine dinner, they’re always impressed that we can really create a menu that highlights their bottles. It sets us apart and means that we have very special relationships with producers.”
Read on to learn more about Inez's path from culinary student to wine connoisseur.