On a bright Monday in April, Chef Jasper J. Mirabile, Jr. walks over to the shelf behind his brother Leonard’s desk in the office that sits next to Jasper’s Restaurant (1201 W 103rd Street) — the family business that is celebrating its 60th anniversary all month-long.
“This is the Bible,” Mirabile, Jr. says, picking up a creased blue binder bulging with recipes written in his father Jasper Mirabile Sr.’s elegant cursive.
He flips casually through the papers — notes written on stationary from the Waldorf Astoria — and pages of dish descriptions from meals eaten more than 40 years ago. The sauce and coffee stained notes are the living history of Jasper’s — representing a life’s work of refining dishes in search of that one plate that will keep people coming back.
As part of the anniversary festivities at the restaurant, the son has revived the dinners of the father. And two dishes, the baked clams and Fettucine Pope John XXIII, have been the biggest crowd-pleasers this month.
“We brought back a lot of the old-school, back-in-the-day recipes,” Mirabile says of the anniversary menu. “People ask when we’re going to do foams and emulsions and we don’t do that here. People come here for comfort food. One of our most popular items is lasagna.”
Mirabile says the clams have only been outsold by the shrimp livornese (a recipe that he’s keeping in the family). The baked clams is a take on a common East Coast dish with stuffing made from roasted peppers, pimento, tabasco, salt, pepper, white wine and Lea & Perrins.
“The baked clams were on the menu at the old Jasper’s,” Mirabile says. “Somehow they got lost. The recipe didn’t get lost, but they got lost.”
The fettucine, which family lore attributes to a dish that was a favorite of the actual Pope John XXIII, is a variation on a typical carbonara made with heavy cream, butter, proscuitto de parma, peas, egg yolk, black pepper and grated pecorino romano.
“The carbonara dish has branches, this is one of four or five dishes that branch off it,” Mirabile says. The recipe, which substitutes parmigiano-reggiano for pecorino (Mirabile says you can use either) is below.
“We have 90 items available, it’s such a big menu,” Mirabile says. “But just because something has gone off the menu, that doesn’t mean you can’t order it. Our cooks have been here a long time, they know how to make everything.”
Tonight, Jasper’s is holding a cookbook-signing party from 5 to 7 p.m. with some small bites and a 60th Anniversary Cello Cocktail. Tickets are $30 and come with a signed copy of Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook.