“Rustico is magical”: New owner discusses opening date in July

Jun 23, 2022

MATTAPOISETT – Here’s a slice of good news for pizza devotees in the Tri-Town: Rustico plans to return in July.

The business will reopen under new ownership, as Jessica Moore of New Bedford takes the reins.

Moore says that the previous owner, Al Menino, who she referred to as “the pizza master,” will still be very involved.

“He’ll still be with us all summer and making pizzas,” she said, adding that the reopening will just mean that the hours that people can get those pizzas will be extended to five days a week, a step beyond the previous two days that Menino was open for takeout during the pandemic before Rustico closed in December 2021.

Moore, 35, grew up on the West Coast, and went to college at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa before joining the Peace Corps, where she worked in South Africa.

While traveling abroad with the Peace Corps, Moore was able to explore her love of food internationally. Her face lit up when talking about one of her favorite international dishes from West Africa called “fufu.” Fufu is a ball of dough that can be torn apart with your hands and eaten with soup.

“It’s so flavorful,” she said.

Through the Peace Corps, Moore worked as an human resources specialist for the United States Department of Agriculture before she was called to the South Coast.

Her family reached out to her for help as they transitioned the ownership of Jonathan Sprouts in Rochester from her great aunt and uncle, Bob and Barbara Sanderson, to her aunt, Elizabeth Reilley, in 2020.

Moore brought her experience in human resources and wound up falling in love with the area. As soon as she realized this was where she wanted to put down roots, she bought her first house in New Bedford.

More started working in restaurants as a second job at age 14 and “always loved it.” So, it made sense for her to be drawn back to the industry.

In May 2021, she began to forge a path into the restaurant business, and purchased Pub 6T5 in New Bedford.

One year later, her broker reached out to inform her about a new place on the market that she might be interested in: Rustico in Mattapoisett.

“I said no at first,” she laughed, “I just bought a restaurant! But then I took a look and Rustico is magical.”

She couldn’t let the opportunity pass her by.

“Nowhere in Mattapoisett can you do what we can at Rustico,” she said, mentioning the large outdoor venue, where she could host lawn games and weddings. Moore is also speaking with the Select Board about getting an entertainment license for music.

“I won’t do anything this summer, but next summer it’d be nice to have some acoustic on the patio,” she said, adding that this wasn’t a “deal breaker” if it didn’t work out.

However, Moore finds it really important to preserve what people loved about Rustico. She says the restaurant will have seasonal menus with farm-to-table options, “sourcing local whenever we can.”

Moore’s experience traveling with the Peace Corps also influences her palate. She plans to have “flavors from all over the world” on the menu, mentioning a bánh mì sandwich, which is a Vietnamese dish, and Scallop Florentine.

She added that there will be no changes to the pizza, and she plans to keep “local favorites,” such as the quinoa bowl.

The kitchen will be led by Darrah Taylor, a chef who brings her experience from Tavern in the Square in Wrentham.

Moore said that Taylor has great ideas, such as a “chocolate fruit boat” that will be on the dessert menu.

So far, Moore has found the community in Mattapoisett to be really welcoming. “It’s a beautiful community and everyone I’ve spoken to has been really wonderful,” she said.

Moore said that she’ll be present at the restaurant as much as she can, and she’s excited to get to know the community and the regulars.

While no specific opening date has been announced, Moore is planning for July. She says their hours will be five days a week to start, Tuesday-Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 9 or 10 p.m. As she gets a “feel for the space,” she believes the hours could be subject to change depending on the community.

While their website goes through updates, Moore said that the best place to keep up with the opening date and “for pics of food” is Rustico’s social media on Facebook and Instagram.