Chef John Martunas spices up the menu at Cathy O’Clarkes Irish Pub & Grille

John Martunas loves playing with food. He loves selecting the freshest herbs, produce and other ingredients to create dishes that will put a smile on even the toughest critic’s face.

Martunas has recently stepped into Cathy O’Clarkes Irish Pub & Grille to revolutionize their menu. He can be found in the kitchen every day for lunch and dinner preparing his creations and handing out orders to his kitchen staff. One of his first moves was to get rid of any pre-packaged ingredients, and supply fresh ingredients daily.

He is working with Mel and Cathy Slawik to keep some of the basic, Irish comfort food, recipes but to also spice up the rest of the menu with dishes from many regions.

“You can do a meld of food and flavors and create something really great,” Martunas says.

Looking at the menu, patrons will notice right away that things have changed a bit. There are a variety of seafood specialties, like the stuffed sole, a fresh piece of sole stuffed with blue crab stuffing and topped with a lobster citrus sauce and served with wild rice.

Below the seafood specialties on the menu is a section that Martunas calls “Little Italy.”

Here you find recipes that flourish not only because of Martunas’s many decades as a chef, but also because of his heritage. He hails from Boston, but was raised by his Italian grandparents.

“My family is Calabrese, I was raised by my grandparents and everyone spoke Italian,” Martunas says.

In authentic Italian cooking fresh ingredients, including fresh herbs, are imperative. When reading the Italian portion of the menu costumers are greeted with mouth-watering recipes. The pasta cinque includes baby spinach, sun tan peppers, garlic, fennel, wild mushrooms, artichoke hearts and tomatoes tossed with Perlini mozzarella and penne pasta with a fresh herb Italian wine sauce.

Martunas says that one of his secrets to success is having a menu that changes with the season, not only to suit the change in weather, but the change in customers.

“You have to learn the geographic region and the people’s eating habits,” Martunas says. “Going into July there are a lot of Europeans coming in, they are eating more of the upscale menu, but we also just started having a lot of families come in, people on vacation. Their kids are having chicken fingers and the parents are having corned beef.”

Martunas is used to adapting to the needs of his customers. His primary career role throughout the years was to go into places and fix them. He updates menus, cleans out stale recipes, ingredients, staff and antiquated systems. Then he is back to doing what he loves best, playing with food.

“I care about the food and the ownership,” Martunas says. “When you have a bad economy, when you are stuck in the past of what you are doing before, you have to change, you have to expand your horizon.”

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