When someone suggests dinner out at a restaurant known for white-linen elegance with waterfront dining, the first thing that crosses any parent’s mind is, “Let me see if I can find a baby sitter.” But one local restaurant is making fine dining a little more family friendly. Ruffino’s on the River wants to help families enjoy a night out together.

Kids dine at the pizza bar while parents enjoy
white tablecloth dining.

The steak, seafood and Italian cuisine restaurant features a pizza bar where kids can sit by themselves under supervision from Ruffino’s staff while parents dine nearby. The young diners help create their own pizza and watch their art be transformed into dinner in the wood-fire pizza oven. Kids are entertained by a pizzaioli (a “man who makes pizzas” in Italian) who entertains the pizza bar guests, including handing out chef hats.

“So many of our guests tell me how much they love the place, and that if it weren’t for having to find a baby sitter, they would come every night,” says co-owner Ruffin Rodrigue. “I always respond by telling them about our pizza bar. Kids have an absolute ball making their own pizzas and wearing chef hats.”

Pizza bar offerings start at $10.95 and include service from restaurant staff, such as helping with pizza making and refilling drinks — not too many baby sitters work for that price. As far as age is concerned, Rodrigue has seen children as young as 2 dine at the bar, but it’s around age 5 that kids really enjoy the experience.

Young "chefs" design custom pizzas
at Ruffino's on the River.

INDfamily believes the pizza bar is also a great way to introduce children to upscale dining and etiquette when eating out.

Consider sitting down with your younger children beforehand and discussing concepts like placing napkins in the lap, chewing with mouths closed and always saying “please” and “thank you” to wait staff.

For tweenage children not quite old enough to venture out without parents, the pizza bar can be an opportunity to bring a friend along and feel special dining on their own, but with adult supervision. Reservations can be made in advance or parents can notify hostesses on arrival of children wanting to dine at the pizza bar.

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