This week on The Quest for New Inspiration, I am joined by Inez Ribustello, Author and Owner of On the Square and Tarboro Brewing Company. We discuss growing from dramatic loss, starting her restaurant, and the beauty in following your dreams.
Inez Ribustello got her start in the world of food and wine after moving to New York City from her home state of North Carolina. Though she grew up in the small town of Tarboro, and graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1998 with a degree in journalism and mass communications, her dream was to pursue a career in cooking. She chose New York’s Institute of Culinary Education to get her started. There, she began to learn about wine, which inspired her to take a job at Best Cellars, the groundbreaking, mid-priced wine store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side.
Her wine career took a huge leap forward when she became an Assistant Cellar Master at the renowned World Trade Center restaurant Windows on the World. In a very short time, she was promoted to Beverage Director, putting her in the position as wine buyer for the largest grossing restaurant in North America. It was here where she met her now-husband, Stephen.
The terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 impacted her both personally and professionally. Having lost friends, colleagues and her job in the bombing, she had to face her future. She chose to throw herself into her work and took the position of Beverage Director for Blue Fin Restaurant in the W Hotel-Times Square. At Blue Fin, she created a 500-label wine list, including more than 50 wines by the glass, and developed a cocktail list that received rave reviews from New York magazine.
Having conquered New York, her next move was to return to her hometown with her fiancé. Together they decided to open their own restaurant, wine bar and retail store called On the Square. The wine list at On the Square holds the prestigious Best of Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.
Inez’ next big venture was Tarboro Brewing Company, a microbrewery that started brewing in February of 2016. Almost a year later, she and her husband opened a satellite taproom serving tacos in the Rocky Mount Mills. Needless to say, creating businesses in eastern North Carolina keeps them very busy.
Stephen and Inez have two 2 children that they absolutely adore: a 17-year old daughter named Cynthia and a 14-year-old son named Stephen.
In 2009, Inez placed 2nd runner-up in the Best Sommelier in America competition held in New York City. She is a member of the Alumni Hall of Fame for the Institute of Culinary Education and a graduate of the Court of Master Sommelier’s Advanced Exam.
While wine, food & beer is a passion, Inez’ real love is for Edgecombe County Public Schools where she feels the most at home as that is her true alma mater. Having just retired as board chair for Teach for America in Eastern North Carolina’s region, Inez loves the children of her home county and works tirelessly to support the great growth happening right this minute in her community. She knows that part of that work comes in creating businesses that attract talented and loving teachers.
In September of 2021, Inez self-published her memoir Life After Windows, a book she wrote chronicling her journey from North Carolina to Manhattan where she ended up finding her dream job as Beverage Director at Windows on the World in 1 WTC. After the events of 9/11, Inez eventually found her way home to the town that raised her where she has started multiple businesses and a family. A staunch public school supporter, Inez works hard at keeping her businesses relevant and cash flow positive as well as being a part of systemic change in regards to racial equity.