Rufus J. Ventura, Jr., known to his friends as "Nini" is a well-known restaurateur in Utica, NY. His devotion to his business has consumed his entire lifetime making Ventura's Restaurant the success it is today. Beginning as a teenager helping out in the kitchen, he learned the business from the ground up.
Upon graduating from Thomas R. Proctor High School, he entered the family business on a full-time basis. He progressed to the position of restaurant manager when he was 20 years old.
Ventura's Restaurant was founded in 1943 by his parents Rufus and Marie Ventura. Not only is it recognized for its tremendous cuisine, it has been a bastion for lovers of the New York Yankees since its opening. Many famous NY Yankees passed through the doors of Ventura's on more than one occasion such as; Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra, Phil Rizzuto, Whitey Ford, Bobby Mercer, "The Stick" Gene Michaels, Mike Torrez, Jimmy Key and many more sports legends.
Nini took over full operation in 1992. Since then, he has worked tirelessly to maintain the high standards of quality food, excellent service and comfortable atmosphere set by his parents. His main goal has always been customer satisfaction and he instills this into his children, Rufus J. III and daughter Nina who intend to carry on the traditions imposed on them. He is noted for saying "treat every customer that walks through that door like a member of your family, they are a guest in your home."
Nini is a firm believer in giving back to the community that helped make his business a success. To honor his parents, in 2003 he brought back the famous Ventura Family Golf Classic started by his father in 1970 through 1975. The golf tournament has become an annual event with four successful years. Each year there are celebrities in attendance and the proceeds benefit different organizations such as CURE, Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy in memory of Christopher Donalty, a local young man who died from having a seizure. Also proceeds benefit the local Dollars for Scholars Fund in memory of Christine Madia as well as the local division of Upstate Cerebral Palsy and Pathfinder Village.
In addition to bringing back the Ventura Family Golf Classic, Nini began the recognition of individuals from the local community whose achievements reflected well on the Utica area by presenting the "Ventura Pride of Utica Award." Recipients have included Anthony Filipelli an Olympic boxing referee, Richard Benedetto, a nationally recognized political correspondent for USA Today and Gannet News Service. Jeanne and Barry Donalty for their tireless efforts with CURE and Robert Esche, goalie for the Philadelphia Flyers, Olympian, and founder of the Save of the Day Foundation.