By Dana MacDonald
Known for their woodfired pizzas, RustiCo. has been providing downtown Fredericton with flavorful Mediterranean-inspired dishes and ice-cold local brews since 2018. Flash forward two years and one global health crisis, and RustiCo. is still doing what they do best, but with a few key changes to reflect the needs of a post-COVID-19 consumer base.
When health regulations put a hold on dine-in restaurant business, General Manager Stephanie Bartlett says, it was clear that adaptations were necessary if RustiCo. was to stay afloat. Bartlett explains, “We realized that our mains weren’t very accommodating to takeout…they just didn’t travel well,”. This, combined with a lack of burger options in the downtown core, instigated an overhaul of the restaurants’ menu.
Moving away from their entrée-centered selection, Bartlett and the RustiCo. staff devised a menu packed with takeaway-friendly options. While still remaining true to their artisanal approach to cooking, RustiCo. now offers an exceptional variety of beef, chicken, vegetarian, fish, and lamb burgers. Every burger comes packed with fresh produce, homemade sauces, and a juicy patty, gathered up in a towering sandwich that’ll have you planning your next visit before you’ve even cleaned the plate.
Adjusting to COVID-19 was a challenge, Bartlett says, but was mostly a matter of “getting into new habits” and rebuilding the restaurants’ operations to fit amped-up hygiene measures. “We had to make sure we were doing things properly behind the scenes too. The first month was tricky, but it got easier with practice and now it’s second nature…we have a plan in place for if we get shut down again,” she says.
The pandemic has had a lasting impact on the commerce community, but even so, local business owners have shown great determination to make things work. Bartlett recalls times during the early stages of the epidemic when restaurants would supply ingredients to each other when resources were low. With this communal approach in mind, part of RustiCo.’s role in fostering local business has been continuing to frequent local suppliers as much as possible. Bartlett explains that while the new menu has helped to lower some food costs, they don’t plan on cutting corners when it comes to taste and quality, with The Donut Bar, The Happy Baker, and Veg Out keeping RustiCo.’s kitchens stocked with local fresh produce and baked goods.