Friday, February 12, 2010

Ruffolo International Foods - Kenosha, Wisconsin

I met Lisa, the owner of Ruffolo International Foods, when I went to get homemade meat ravioli on Wednesday.  I was craving them.  I haven't had them in a while, but they are so good and they save me the cooking for the night.

I asked Lisa if she minded me posting a review on my blog.  She said she knows people have already done it, and she appreciates it.  She even said I could take a picture, but I forgot my camera that day.  I'll get one and post it here later.

While I was there, Lisa told me the story of how she started her business.  Ruffolo's is a cash-only business.  It's an old garage building in Kenosha on Sheridan Road.  She bought it when she was 20 with the help of her parents.  She said that she went to beauty school and decided she didn't want to do that at the time.  She was very good at making ravioli with her family recipe and friends and family requested them all the time.  She got tired of making them for gifts and favors, so she decided to go into business making them and selling them.  The rest is history and she's been doing it for 25 years, with a little help from her dad and mom and brother, but she mostly does all the work and makes everything by hand from scratch.

Her ravioli are delicious.  They are slightly larger than most store-bought ravioli, and moon shaped.  She sells them with or without sauce, but I love buying them in sauce because her sauce is good and generous, so there is plenty to dip my Italian bread in as I eat, and then I don't have to make sauce or use jar sauce.  The pasta is an egg pasta, I'm guessing, and you can taste the natural ingredients in it.  It's light, yet flavorful and has a wonderful texture without being doughy or tough.  They are like your grandma made them.  The filling is finely minced meat mixture, and I'm not sure what she mixes in, but it's good.  I'm guessing it's a beef, veal or beef, pork mixture.  It's flavorful and filling, and it's complimented well by the sauce. 

Her red sauce is similar to my home made sauce, which I learned to make from Kenosha Italian women whose roots are from Calabria in Cosenza, Italy.  It's tasty, slightly sweet, and you can taste basil in it.  It is not chunky, but a fine puree of sauce without being runny or watery.  It adheres to the pasta well, coating it easily.  It's deep red and it tastes great with or without a cheese dusting.

Lisa also makes cheese ravioli.  She sells ravioli without sauce or with sauce, in 12 or 4 ravioli packs.  They are pre-frozen and you just put the whole bag in boiling water for about 15-20 minutes until heated through, then cut the boiling bag open and dump the entire thing into a serving dish.

On her menu, she also has pasties, lasagna, Italian beef, gnocchi, Italian sausage in sauce and you can buy homemade pasta from her, frozen in bags.  I have tried her spaghetti before.  I'm sure I'm missing some of what she offers.

It is a hole in the wall, dive where you walk in and pay cash for a bag of frozen dinner that is delicious.  If you didn't know it was there, you wouldn't know it was there.  Now that I shop there, my mom said, "We used to buy stuff from her when you were little, I just forgot she was there!"

The best part of talking with Lisa were two stories she told me.  She said lots of college kids ask their mothers for her food when they come home to Kenosha on break.  The mothers come in sulking, feeling awful that their kids didn't request a dish of theirs, but instead they want Lisa's ravs.  Lisa comforts them saying, "Well, now you get to relax and enjoy your child instead of slaving over a hot stove all day."  :)

The day I bought my ravioli this week, she had just received a call from a businessman who was staying on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago and had been told to go to Kenosha and buy some ravioli from her.  It snowed 14" that day, so he couldn't make the drive, but he called her to ask if she could ship him some ravioli.  She said she hasn't done that before, but she sure as heck replied she would love to do that for him.

I didn't mention that when I walked in it smelled heavenly in the place.  She was cooking in the back. 

If you live local and you get a chance, or if you are in Chicago and you have some time to drive north, go to visit Lisa and tell her I sent you.  She is located at Sheridan Road (Hwy 32) and 44th, at 4420 Sheridan Road.  You will miss it if you aren't paying attention, because it's just a little cinder block converted garage that is now a small store with a kitchen in back.  She literally has an old cash register with cash-only, and some deep freezers, and that's about it out front. 

You'll notice the Open sign in the front and I believe they're open M-F and part of Saturday.

Don't expect hot food when you order.  It's all take and heat food to prepare at home, but it's all ready.  All you have to do is boil the bag and cut it open and serve.  I recommend it and it's certainly a local, off the beaten path place.  Guy Fieri would approve.


Mike Starr said...

I've been past there any number of times and for whatever reason assumed it was a catering business. I'll have to stop in there one of these days and check them out. I was somewhat disappointed that I wasn't able to find a website (I'd be happy to help out with that).

Maggie Plath said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cheryl said...

I love Ruffalos! My parents used to bring me care packages of their frozen ravioli and pasties when I was in college. I was just looking up their phone number to make sure they were open today when I found your blog post.