Closing Time: Where Sean Ward goes on his nights off
When Sean Ward isn't tending bar at Giuseppe's Ritrovo, he's exploring some of the city's best neighborhood spots.
Visit Giuseppe's Ritrovo, and chances are you'll see the dapper Sean Ward behind the bar. But it's not uncommon also to see Ward sitting at the bar. The 36-year-old beverage manager prides himself on creating the best experience for both the staff and restaurant guests, often enjoying a drink and chat with Giuseppe's patrons after work hours.
"People come to a restaurant, and it's probably the best part of their day," Ward says. "We're responsible for ensuring that happens. I love that interaction with people on a day-to-day basis."
Ward's been a staple at the Bexley Italian restaurant since 2008, but he's been in the food and hospitality industry since age 16. He graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in financial services, but decided to stick with bartending and serving after graduation.
"The opportunity came up for me to be the bar manager [at Giuseppe's], and I took it," Ward says. "I do the full development of our cocktail program and beer program. That includes training and education of all our servers, wine education and spirit knowledge. I'm overseeing the entire experience."
The secret to Ward's cocktail menu? He starts backward, first creating the name of each cocktail before crafting the drink. For example, the phrase Fall Classic inspired Ward to use cranberries and apple brandy in a recent cocktail.
"It takes a little bit more time," Ward says. "But people come here and think great Italian food and great wine, so you have to get their attention. We're not the best cocktail bar in the city, and we're not supposed to be. For people to even come in once a month and say something to me about the experience, that's enough to keep going."
What's your favorite drink? Our old-fashioned or Vieux Carre (a cocktail invented in New Orleans around the '30s). The presentation [of the Vieux Carre] is that it's served in a flask. Most people who have had it will get one for their friend and tell them they have to try it. For the old-fashioned, we're making a clean, bourbon cocktail.
What's your favorite dish? We do a lot of amazing things. I'm a big seafood person, and we do a nice Frutti di Mare. We're one of the only places left in town doing a beef tenderloin carpaccio, and it's worth it. To get things started, I like the antipasto. It's one of the most beautiful plates in the city.
If you're recommending a food and drink pairing, what do you suggest? Our beef short ribs. I suggest that with our cabernet and sangiovese blend. For a cocktail, the Vieux Carre would be a nice pairing. At a nice Italian restaurant, I always suggest getting things started with a negroni.
Do you have a favorite neighborhood spot? My girlfriend and I go to breakfast a lot at Zoe Cafe (in Bexley). I'll go into The Top Steak House to grab a drink or a small bite at the bar.
Where do you head for date night? We go to The Rossi a lot. We sit at the bar; it has to be a cozy environment. I've always been impressed with the food at The Rossi. The Sycamore is a good spot, too. You don't have to commit to a $30 steak if you just want a sandwich.
Are there any other local restaurants you admire? On the casual side, I had a nice experience at Local Cantina in Clintonville. It was a nice, friendly environment, the decor was great and they had good beer. I also admire [chef Magdiale Wolmark], who has the deli Izzy & Mo's and Till. I like what they're doing.
Where do you go for brunch? The Pearl does a good brunch. I love their bloody mary presentation. And when you get the itch, going out to Starliner Diner is a nice change of pace. Grill & Skillet is a secret little space on Main Street. It's an old diner with good country-style food.
Sean Ward, 36
Lives In: Eastmoor
Occupation: Beverage director, Giuseppe's Ritrovo
2268 E. Main St., Bexley, 614-235-4300, giuseppesritrovo.com
Where Sean Ward goes for something specific
Local Cantina. I get the barbacoa tacos. I also go to Cuco's Taqueria on Henderson Road. I'm a soccer player, so I go in there and watch soccer and eat tacos a lot.
If I had to pick one, I like Tacoriendo, which is usually over on Cassady Avenue.
Brown Bag Deli in German Village. I like their tuna salad. They have a Cuban that's nice as well.
M is great for happy hour. Their sushi is discounted. And Monday night oyster night at Rigsby's is great.
I go to Bexley Village Coffee Shop. I take my coffee black.