SOUTHINGTON — Owners of Anthony Jack’s Wood Fired Grill are marking 20 years of the restaurant’s signature dish as well as more than two decades in business.
Cheryl Moran and Barry DePaolo celebrate 22 years in business for their downtown restaurant next month. Among their signature dishes, and a crowd favorite, is cranberry chicken.
In 2003, an assistant chef, Rich Rydingsward, suggested the dish to DePaolo, who is the restaurant’s executive chef as well as an owner.
“It was a takeoff on our popular garlic-crusted Tilapia menu item,” Moran said. “Rich's idea was to substitute a chicken breast for the fish, add dried cranberries to the breading and then top it with a lemon caper butter sauce.”
DePaolo thought it was “just OK,” a verdict that makes Moran laugh now, but he gave Rydingsward approval to put it on the menu.
Cranberry chicken was a hit “right out of the gate,” Moran said. “Customers kept requesting it and we eventually made the decision to put it on both the lunch and dinner menus permanently.”
DePaolo said, "We never could have imagined the overwhelming popularity that would completely evolve around cranberry chicken.”
During the pandemic shutdown when the restaurant wasn’t allowed to have indoor dining, DePaolo decided to sell family-style meals for four as a curbside pickup item.
“Cranberry chicken was, of course, our first choice and continues to be our highest selling item by far both for dining in and take-out,” Moran said. “We sell approximately 500 cranberry chicken entrees a week, and this does not even count the hundreds and hundreds of additional pieces we sell as curbside pickup and catering. It's truly amazing.”
For the 20th anniversary of the dish, Anthony Jack’s owners are offering special pricing for cranberry chicken meals this week.
For dining-in customers, cranberry chicken lunches will be $10 and dinners were $18 on today and Thursday. Moran suggested customers make reservations for either meal at 860-426-1487.
Anthony Jack’s is located at 30 Center St.
Carrie Bruno, a Southington resident, said she started getting the restaurant’s family meals during the pandemic. They’ve now become a staple in her home.
“My family is very picky when it comes to chicken — they usually won’t eat it at all, actually — but this is one dish that we all loved and can enjoy together as a family. It’s flavorful, moist, and holds up well with reheating for leftovers,” she said. “The portion sizes are big and usually gets us a few days worth of meals.”
Another Anthony Jack’s customer and Southington resident, Christine DelCervo, said the cranberry chicken is among her favorites.
“The blend of sweet and citrus with the sauce along with the texture is what makes it my favorite,” she said. “Not too sweet, not too tangy. It’s a unique combination that keeps me coming back for more.”