Photos & Story by Dusten Rader
An extensive menu featuring homemade marinara sauce, pasta, bread, dough, authentic lasagna, and meatballs inspired by mama, with a fireplace-warmed tap and tavern, Ruggiero’s is a modern take on a traditional trattoria.
“That’s what trattoria means,” explained co-owner Sharon Dunphy. “It’s a small, family-owned restaurant serving homemade food.”
Sharon owns and operates Ruggiero’s Trattoria with her partner Richard Ruggiero. Although Sharon can typically be found running the front end of the operation and Ruggiero is usually in the kitchen, together the duo has created one of the most popular restaurants in Little Falls.
Todd Harper of Little Falls stopped in on a cold, snowy winter evening to pick up a stuffed pizza and commented that it doesn’t matter what you order off the menu or on special, “Anything is great,” he said.
That’s the mentality most customers take with them when they head to Ruggiero’s Trattoria. You never know what you might order, but it’s sure to be good and large enough to save leftovers for tomorrow – especially if you order the daily special.
“You can get a really nice meal with large portions at an affordable price,” Sharon said. “You can get high-end dinners or a slice of pizza. It’s very family-oriented and we have very little turnover with our staff. Probably every kid in Little Falls has worked with us at one point. We will do anything to please our customers.”
Sharon dares her customers to test that theory by ordering something that’s not on the menu, you might be surprised at just how good it turns out, she said.
With a menu that includes everything from Regional favorites such as greens and chicken riggies, to staples like chicken and eggplant parm, seafood for the adventurous, hand-cut Delmonico or house favorite Steak Sinatra for the ritzy, and the quintessential The Trattoria hot sub that features all the Italian fixings; Sharon said it’s designed based on customer favorites.
Ruggiero also paid homage to one of his favorite local pizzas from his childhood in Little Falls by putting the toppings under the sauce, it’s a fresh take on a Sicilian-style slice that’s worth trying. Some might call it tomato pie, but they’d be wrong.
For those who want to get a quick introduction to what Ruggiero’s Trattoria is all about, Sharon recommends stopping in for lunch to try the $10 Burger and a Brew in-tavern special every day from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with a choice from a dozen beers on tap. Domestic bottles are also $2.50 during the special.
Night owls can also take advantage of the Tuesday and Wednesday Happy Hour specials from 4-6 p.m. Seasonal signature drinks are also available at the bar, including holiday favorites such as a chocolate beer, peppermint martini, and boozy butterscotch coffee.
In addition to being a restaurant and bar, Ruggiero’s Trattoria caters parties, hosts events, parties, live music, and is starting a new trivia night.
Every Tuesday beginning Jan. 7 from 6-8 p.m. in the Lounge guests can partake in Trivia with Sam, featuring prizes for winners.
Live music by local musician Ody can also be heard in the Lounge Wednesdays from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
On the weekends from Friday through Sunday, the main attraction is the food, with dinner and drink specials so delicious that it might be a good idea to make a reservation – especially if you want to sit in the exclusive “Sinatra or Princess booth.” Dinner specials include Friday, fresh haddock; Saturday, slow-roasted prime rib au jus; and Sunday, a homemade country-style buffet.
Sunday’s 1-6 p.m. all-you-can-eat buffet is something to behold. In addition to including the daily fully-stocked salad bar, guests enjoy everything from homemade soup, chicken and biscuits, pot roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, cannolis, cream puffs, homemade rice pudding, and more.
If that wasn’t enough to make you loosen your belt in anticipation, Sharon said the trattoria’s most popular events are the holiday buffets held on Easter, Mother’s Day, and Thanksgiving. Definitely make a reservation because they always sell out.
Known for creating the original Italian Feast pizzeria on Ward Street in 1979, Ruggiero has for 40 years dedicated his life to feeding his friends and family in the community he loves. A native of Little Falls, Ruggiero loves the city and wants to see it prosper.
After outgrowing several locations in Little Falls, Dolgeville and Herkimer, Ruggiero and Sharon made their way back to Little Falls to purchase the East End Steakhouse. Finding success with the steakhouse – serving more than 900 people at parties and employing more than 50 people – they sold the restaurant and went back to remodeling other buildings to start businesses and apartments such as the railroad station, the new Italian Feast, and finally the location they are in now. The corner of Main and Second streets was originally Kandyland, which is immortalized with a black and white photo from 1935 near the pizza case.
“We’ve totally remodeled and saved this whole corner I believe,” Sharon said.
Find out more about Ruggiero’s Trattoria & Italian Steakhouse at 546 E. Main St. by calling 315-823-1414 or visiting www.ruggierostrattoria.com