Blaine’s newest Italian restaurant serves up artisan pizzas featuring locally sourced ingredients.
The restaurant is jointly owned by Kristen and Gary Slavin. Gary is originally from Canada, where he managed a Greek and Italian restaurant years ago. After transitioning into a career in graphic design, he and Kristen moved to Blaine, where Kristen is from.
When COVID-19 hit, Gary decided he was ready to change directions. “Crazy enough, I said, ‘Let’s open a restaurant.’”
Last year, he connected with Mike Mulder, who owns various buildings around Blaine. In August, Mulder asked if Gary wanted to open an Italian restaurant in a building on Peace Portal Drive. What followed were massive renovations. In mid-December, the Rustic Fork opened for business.
“Right from day one we have been non-stop crazy busy,” Gary says.
Authentic Italian Recipes, Old-School Style
On the menu at The Rustic Fork you’ll find a variety of authentic Italian dishes, from pizzas and paninis to cannoli and lasagna.
All pizzas are 12” and feature a fire-baked thin crust, differentiating the Rustic Fork from other pizzerias in Blaine. Flavor options remain true to the classics. There’s no pineapple, for instance, but you will find options like the Gambino ($12. 95), featuring salami, mushrooms, and black olives, as well as the Molto Carne ($13.95), made with diced ham, Italian sausage, and pepperoni. Rest assured, everything is made fresh.
“All our sauces, all our pastas, are all made in-house. Our dough is made every day for the pizza from scratch,” Gary says.
If you’re not hungry enough for a whole pizza, try the Panzerottis ($8.95). These meat-and-cheese-filled mini calzones are made by hand every day, as are the Cheese Balls ($7.95) and all salad dressings.
When it comes to entrees, a customer favorite is the Chicken Parm Alfredo ($16.45). Panko-breaded chicken is deep-fried and then set onto a base of fettuccini alfredo noodles. The whole thing is topped with marinara and melted cheese, creating a winning two-sauce flavor dynamic.
Another go-to is the Pollo Penne alla Vodka ($15.45), made with a tomato and vodka-based sauce that’s creamy and rich. For a seafood twist, exchange the chicken for shrimp.
Last but not least are the desserts, which also remain true to traditional Italian recipes. The ‘Cosa’ Cannoli ($4.45) is made in-house and filled with ricotta, cinnamon, and mini chocolate chips. The Bambolinis ($4.75), an Italian donut, are piped full of limoncello cream, then topped with a lemon glaze and pistachios.
On the drink menu you’ll find a wide selection of wines, including bottles from Italy and the coastal U.S. The restaurant has nine beers on tap. Some are locally sourced from Bellingham, but much of the focus is on Oregon and California brews, so that Canadian customers (once they return) can sample creations from breweries across the Pacific Northwest.
If you’re looking for a quick lunch fix, The Rustic Fork has you covered. Choose from sandwiches, paninis, salads, and pasta dishes, or grab a slice of pizza for only $3.95.
Looking Ahead and Serving the Community
The Rustic Fork is an ideal location for comfortable outdoor dining, with a back patio that seats up to 38 people. All tables are covered, and three 10-foot industrial heaters keep temperatures cozy even at night. The sides are open, allowing for airflow. For uncovered seating, Gary plans to transform a grassy area into a beer garden with water views.
As restrictions lift, Gary looks forward to welcoming Canadian customers back onto this side of the border line. For now, he’s happy with the number of visitors traveling from other parts of the state.
“We’ve had huge support, actually, all over. People from Lynden, Ferndale, Bellingham…some people from Everett.”
To give back to the community, The Rustic Fork has begun 10% Tuesdays, a sponsorship program that supports local youth athletics. Every Tuesday, if you dine at the restaurant and mention you’re there to support a sports program, you’ll get 5% off your meal. Another 5% will go to a local sports team. 442 Peace Portal Dr., Blaine, 360.332.4346, therusticforkeatery.com
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