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Aruffo’s Italian Cuisine is here to stay

by Kathryn Dunn | editor@claremont-courier.com

It was 36 years ago that a young couple set out to offer delicious Italian fare in a somewhat fine dining atmosphere. Tom and Valarie Aruffo and their restaurant—aptly name Aruffo’s—have become a mainstay in the Village for family celebrations and romantic date nights.

The Aruffos are private people. They tend to avoid attention in the press, which might be due to the long hours the couple work in their small, but bustling dining room.

It was a pleasant surprise when Ms. Aruffo agreed to sit down with the COURIER for an interview. But even she admits the couple has had an exceedingly noteworthy year.

“I don’t even know what to think anymore,” Ms. Arrufo confessed.

For Ms. Aruffo, 2019 began with a cancer diagnosis and double mastectomy—thankfully, she’s cancer free now. She worked throughout the ordeal, keeping the restaurant going alongside her husband Tom.

After decades of renting, the Aruffos were finally able to purchase the 1920 building last September. The couple was thrilled and couldn’t wait to start updating the space. Then, in 2020, coronavirus hit.

They boarded up the building in March after the first shut down with the belief it would be only a few weeks.

They planned to use the closure as an opportunity to update the restaurant and refurbish two apartments located upstairs in the former Claremont Books and Print space.

The remodel included new electrical panels, updating the restaurant’s kitchen and creating touch-free bathrooms, new HVAC and roofs. “Tom did most of the interior work himself,” Ms. Aruffo said. And finally, with approval by the county, they reopened June 9.

“We were seating at 50 percent and it was great,” Ms. Aruffo said, but the opening was short lived.

Like many restaurants, they’ve shaped and reshaped their service several times this year due to public health forced closings and openings.

So Aruffo’s went back to the take-out only model when they city came through with Al Fresco Claremont, which provided the Aruffos a chance to have outdoor sit-down dining.

They immediately jumped on it and reached out to neighboring businesses—all of which emphatically supported the restaurant by allowing tables outside their shops. Small dining tables now line Yale Avenue giving Aruffo’s a fighting chance.

“All of our customers have stood by us, which is really awesome,” Ms. Aruffo said. “And our neighbors have been very supportive."

Aruffo’s offers traditional Italian dishes like Spaghetti Ragu Bolognese (top sirloin simmered with Italian plum tomatoes, roasted garlic, fresh basil over spaghetti) and Bucatini Carbonara (classic custard cream sauce, pecorino, prosciutto, cracked peppercorns, fresh bucatini pasta). As a regular customer, I can say the freshly baked garlic bread is something to behold.

They’re happy to share that a commercial renter has been identified for the next-door space previously occupied by Podges—UbaTuba Acai has signed a lease. There’s no opening date yet, but Ms. Aruffo is thrilled and thinks they are a great fit for Claremont.

UbaTuba is a grab-and-go concept that offers acai fruit cups as well as Brazilian savory dishes like empanadas with chimichurri sauce.

With the upstairs apartments and next-door shop all occupied, the Aruffos look forward to their next project—creating outdoor dining on the back patio.

The patio is located off the parking lot behind the restaurant, and they hope to have it up and running by mid-August.

Although it’s been a wild ride, Ms. Aruffo feels optimistic. “We’ve had to reinvent things, but we’re going to make it,” she said.

Aruffo’s is located at 126 Yale Ave. in the Claremont Village. Outdoor dining hours are Sunday through Thursday, 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Friday and Saturday they’re open until 10 p.m. To order take-out, call (909) 624-9624. Delivery is offered through UberEats, Postmates, DoorDash and GrubHub.

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