ROXBURY, NJ – Holding the title of chief operations manager, Lisa Palanchi has clout at both The Windlass and its sister establishment, Alice’s.
However, when it comes to the two Lake Hopatcong restaurants’ participation in the upcoming Taste of Roxbury event, Palanchi’s clout has limits.
Asked to describe the type of food Alice’s and The Windlass plan to display at the May 16 event, Palanchi had no answer. She wasn’t being coy. She just isn’t being told.
“To be very honest, the chefs won’t even tell me what they are bringing,” said Palanchi, the sister of Roxbury Police Chief Marc Palanchi.
The fact that the chefs at The Windlass and Alice’s are maintaining Top Secret status about their planned contributions to the event reveals how important Taste of Roxbury has become in the eyes of some local restaurants. Taste of Roxbury, sponsored by the Roxbury Area Chamber of Commerce, is a casual showcase for Roxbury area culinary art, but Palanchi’s chefs are taking it pretty seriously.
“They don’t want anybody to hear what they might be bringing,” she said. “They’re very competitive.”
There's danger in spilling the beans, so to speak, about a restaurant's planned offerings in the days before a food tasting. Palanchi said her chefs announced their menu prior to one recent event and were miffed when another restaurant showed up with its version of the same dishes.
No such fear of mimicry exists at Roxbury Diner. As it does every year, the landmark Succasunna eatery will arrive at Taste of Roxbury armed with its “famous cheesecake,” said diner manager Angeliki Dontas.
The Diner plans to serve nine flavors of cheesecake, each one based on a “secret recipe” crafted by co-owner George Dontas. The flavors will include cherry, cappuccino, smores, oreo, strawberry and red velvet.
“Everybody that comes in here usually knows George’s cheesecake,” said Dontas. “It’s a secret recipe that nobody knows but George and it comes out just amazing every time he does it. Every holiday, he gets a crazy amount of orders for the cheesecakes.”
Getting exposure is the goal for restaurants bringing food to the affair – this year is the tenth one. Dontas said it works. “We’ve had a couple people come in after they had the cheesecake and tell us they tasted it at Taste of Roxbury,” said Dontas.
The Chamber of Commerce expects up to 400 people at the event, conducted in the Roxbury High School cafeteria from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tickets, which cost $25 per person, will not be available at the door. They can be purchased online or at the Fulton Bank or the Roxbury Recreation Office.
“We just want to get out in front of the public and give them a sample of what we have to offer,” said Palanchi, noting it will be the first Taste of Roxbury appearance for The Windlass and Alice’s. “To me, it’s kind of like advertising but in true life with real food. Even though we’re kind of close to Roxbury, you’d be very surprised how many people don’t even know we are here.”
Although the list of participating restaurants is changing, the Chamber of Commerce said it includes The Asian Diner, The Bistro at Courtyard by Marriott, The Chocolate Finish, The Clay Oven, Cliff's Homemade Ice Cream, Giancarlo’s Bakery, Irpinia Italian Deli, Istanbul Turkish Mediterranean Cuisine, La Gratella, Patrick's Pub, Pavinci Italian Grill, Philly Pretzel Factory, Sandwiches Unlimited, Texas Smoke BBQ and The Wingman.
Proceeds from the event help the Chamber of Commerce give grants to many clubs and organizations in Roxbury.