Rino’s Kitchen is by far our favourite respite in the heart of Downtown Windsor – a cozy hideaway from the bustle of busy life and a place where everyone knows your name. Seven years ago, together with Shane Potvin and Tom Lucier, City Councillor Rino Bortolin took over the lease of the 100-year-old house to realize his concept for a farm-to-table restaurant that also acted as a business incubator. Eventually, becoming a busy councillor became Bortolin’s focus, causing a changing of the guards and sous chef Josh Fraser (who was instrumental in making Rino‘s what it is today) to step up and take over the restaurant full-time. Josh’s vision is simple and rings true to the late Anthony Bourdain’s guiding principle, “you have three or four good ingredients, and the most important thing is to just not screw them up. Treat them with a little respect.”
When you walk into Rino’s it’s as if you’re arriving at a friend’s dinner party. The eclectic mix of books and local art amidst the smiling faces and casual atmosphere reminds us this was once a family home. Josh and his staff have a way of encouraging a clientele of ‘regulars’ – they’ve even been know to carry a certain special customer’s favourite drink. Their menu is creative yet uncomplicated and relies heavily on local produce, meats, herbs (from their own garden) and locally produced beer and wine. Staples such as the burger, watermelon salad and minted cocktails are simple and fresh, perfect for enjoying in their one-of-a-kind, green space patio area.
But Rino’s is more than a secret oasis, their upstairs (which used to be guest rooms at the former bed and breakfast) is now affordable office spaces that have been used as a launching pad for many of Windsor’s great businesses – creative agency Spotvin (now Tango), Levigator Press print studio in Walkerville, and the Hackforge tech hub to name a few. Currently, Rose City Politics (a great current events podcast) broadcasts from their attic. Needless to say, there’s always something going on behind the scenes. They’ve also been known to host intimate weddings and rent the space as a venue for other events of up to 150 guests.
Their location on the corner of Elliot and Pelissier has seen a change in climate over the years but according to Josh, they aren’t prepared to go anywhere. Rino’s Kitchen has proven to be a shining beacon of light, a community hub and example of what can be done with a bit of effort. The Rino’s family believes the only way to tackle the downtown issues is to encourage the right people to move into town, those who see the benefits of restoring older properties and positively contribute to what’s going on around them.
This location is permanently closed but will be home to a new restaurant in the future.