Dig Baton Rouge

Chef Peter Sclafani’s Recent Moves, Explained

Peter Sclafani, long-time chef and partner of Ruffino’s, has made a few odd moves in the past 6 months, but they’re not as bizarre as you might think. Here’s a timeline:

● October 2018 – Sclafani parts ways with Ruffino’s after 10 years, citing vision differences.
● January 2019 – Sclafani joins T.J. Ribs – yes, the BBQ joint.
● March 2019 – Sclafani joins Phil’s Oyster Bar as Executive Chef and partner.

My first thought was that these moves were unexplainable, but it turns out, there are fully explainable.

When Sclafani came to Baton Rouge, he worked at a restaurant owned by T.J. Moran, of T.J. Ribs. That restaurant later became Ruffino’s and was purchased by Sclafani and partner Ruffin Rodrigue. So, hopping on the T.J. Ribs train after parting ways was actually just re-entering a long-time relationship. While there, he allegedly made some menu changes and improvements, none of which I can vouch for – it’s been a while since I’ve visited.

In the process, Sclafani considered restaurant consulting as his next move and began doing so with Phil’s Oyster Bar. During that work, he decided to stick around, invest and take over as Executive Chef. For backstory, Phil’s was a Government Street staple in Baton Rouge before Government Street was the growing food hub we see today. It closed when it’s original owner fell ill and just reopened on Perkins Road in 2017. After working to establish a place like Ruffino’s as a Baton Rouge staple, I could easily see the appeal of reviving a past one.

Phil’s menu consists mostly of your traditional Louisiana staples – gumbo, oysters and all of your fried seafood fare. My trips to the new Phil’s so far have been hit or miss – often having great southern classics, often just okay. However, the service and energy were always fantastic so there is promise for something wonderful.

The menu is nothing too out of the ordinary, but when done right, classics make for a wildly satisfying meal and something you can wow visitors with. Phil’s also has a rotation of specials that step a little outside of the classic zone.In regards to Phil’s, Scalfani told the Business Report “You can serve things at a lower price point without white table cloths,” he says. “But you don’t have to sacrifice the quality or the culture.” There’s something we can all get behind! I have high hopes that Sclafani can bringPhil’s to its former standing as a Baton Rouge favorite by giving these classic dishes the precision they need and refining the specials menu.

There are plans to expand the Phil’s brand and open new concepts. We’ll keep you posted, and we’ll certainly be around to taste the progress. We love to see classic Baton Rouge restaurants like Ruffino’s, T.J. Ribs and Phil’s stick around, but even more so, we love to see them be able to adapt and grow!

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