Montclair is reeling from the news that Ruthie’s Bar-B-Q & Pizza had its last night on Saturday. An announcement on the restaurant’s social media came as a shock to many, but it’s something owners Eric Kaplan and Ruth Perretti had been planning for some time.
“There’s no easy way to do this,” said Perretti on Sunday, adding that the couple had decided to sell the mixed-use commercial building that houses Ruthie’s and wanted to go out on their own terms. Both Kaplan and Perretti hope to have some kind of final event before it changes hands.
Perretti and Kaplan said the spirit of Ruthie’s, beloved not only for its thin crust pizza and BBQ, but as a live music destination, is something they want to bring west to Warren County. There, they have another labor of love, as the owners of Marksboro Mills. Perretti and Kaplan have become part of the regional grains movement, teaming up with River Valley Community Grains.
An interest in sustainable food movement stemmed from Perretti’s family. She grew up in Montclair, but her family owned property — a house and farm — in Warren County. Her father had a vision of the farm growing food for restaurants in New York City. In 2016, when Perretti left a career in fashion, she turned her focus to the farm and started growing vegetables incorporated by Kaplan into the menu at Ruthie’s.
Kaplan, seeing a farmer growing rye, had the idea that the couple should start growing grains and make their own flour from wheat. They ultimately purchased a warehouse and converted it into a grain mill, now Marksboro Mills. The bigger location allows for events, including live music, something Kaplan, a musician, is passionate about, as well as offering additional space for craftsman and creatives.
As excited as they are about their next chapter in Marksboro, Kaplan said he is sad and emotionally exhausted, adding it will be hard to cancel musicians he had booked through August. However, both say it was time.
The threat of a storm ruining their final night of alfresco food and music didn’t happen. Instead, Ruthie’s was rewarded with a rainbow, something Perretti took as a sign they were leaving on a good note.
The corner of Chestnut and Forest has a long history as a food destination. Growing up in Montclair, Perretti remembers when it was a deli run by the Calabrese family. People would come in and remember their meatballs, says Perretti. She and Kaplan were thankful they had a chance to continue in that tradition and create something memorable in the community.
“Ruthie’s lives on in hearts and minds. We are very hopeful the next owners and caretakers of this corner do it justice,” she said.