Ray Ruffino, president of Knot of This World Pretzels hails from Whitestone, New York. He credits growing up “with a strong [connection to my] Italian heritage” for “my love for homemade cooking” and the fact that “large family gatherings continue to play an important role in my work.” Meet Ruffino at Dan’s Corona MonTaco Waterfront Fiesta hosted and DJ’d by Hannah Bronfman presented by Mohegan Sun on Saturday, August 4 at Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club. Be sure to try his Knot of This World Taco Bites, which are freshly baked, hand-twisted and filled with freshly grated cheddar cheese and seasoned with a taste of El Paso. As he says, “this is our first time showcasing our gourmet pretzels at a Dan’s Taste of Summer event. I look forward to meeting the friendly staff, mingling with new clientele and exceeding everyone’s expectations!”
What’s your earliest food memory?
The aroma of my grandmother grilling sliced Italian bread and fresh mozzarella sandwiches in a buttered cast iron skillet.
What’s the most dangerous dining experience you’ve survived?
A few years ago, I was sitting in a window seat at a bagel store eating lunch with a friend. He had an appointment and left. I lingered to make a call and I spilled my water on the table. As I got up to get some napkins I witnessed an old man pulling into a parking spot—he accelerated and crashed right into the window where I had been sitting.
How does the East End inform your culinary creativity?
Participating in the Montauk Farmers Market and serving a diversified clientele challenges my creativity in new and exciting ways.
What inspired your career the most?
Watching my father sell Old New York–style pretzels and candy apples from a wooden cart. At five years old I wanted to do the same—so he handed me a basketful, and I sold them all.
What’s the most unusual substitution you’ve ever been asked to make?
A potato pretzel —[it] just doesn’t seem appealing to me.
What’s your favorite dish to prepare?
I love to create new Italian-inspired stuffed pretzels such as my favorite, Soprasado & Mozzarella.
Do you ever eat at your own place?
This family pretzel business is operated out of a commissary located in the original building started by my father way back when. Over the years, I’ve learned it helps to come from behind the counter and observe the products, staff and environment from a different angle. Seeing what my customers see has driven me to make necessary changes needed to grow and improve my business.
What does the term “taste of summer” bring to mind for you?
Memories of childhood and carefree times. The sweet taste of freshly squeezed lemonade and savory BBQ’s with family and friends.
What piece of equipment do you covet?
A wood fired oven.
What’s an ingredient that you refuse to use?
Anything used as a preservative. It’s unnatural and distorts the wholesomeness of the product.
What’s the most important thing to teach the next generation of chefs?
No one is entitled. Love what you do—food brings people together. Be ready to sweat and work hard to overcome any obstacle. Be creative and invent. Be humble and give to others in need.
What else would you like our readers to know about dining, and drinking, on the East End this summer?
Explore the East End’s fine and casual dining and fun festivals, all in an exquisite backdrop of beauty. Warm sun, cool breeze, moonlight and stars all await your arrival—so come, eat, sip and enjoy!
Dan’s Corona MonTaco Waterfront Fiesta is Saturday, August 4 at Gurney’s Montauk Yacht Club. GA tickets are $125 for admission 7:30–10 p.m. Featuring celebrated chefs’ culinary twists on classic Mexican cuisine. VIP tickets are $199 and include After Party 10 p.m. to midnight. For info on all Dan’s Taste of Summer events, visit DansTasteofSummer.com. Patrons must be 21 or older to attend.