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Since 1979 • April-May 2024 • Circulation 5000

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Rob’s Famous Fried Chicken

A new venture for the owners of Panini’s.

Rob’s Famous Fried Chicken. Paula E. Kirman

A takeout and catering outlet that opened on March 1st is the third component of the Caruso family’s thriving restaurant business. It joins the two Panini’s restaurants: one next door on Jasper Avenue and 85th Street and another in Sherwood Park.

Co-owner Tony Caruso says his brother Rob, the head chef for the company, was often frying chicken at home for family gatherings. “This is so good,” people said, nicknaming it “Rob’s famous fried chicken.” They teased him, saying, “Why don’t you serve this at Panini’s?” (They know that the Panini’s menu is firmly focused on pizza, pasta, and - of course - paninis.)

Then one day the Edgewater building’s landlord told Tony and Rob that a space was available next door to the Jasper Avenue Panini’s and asked if they wanted to expand. There was a need for storage and a cooler, so a deal was made. 

As things progressed, it became apparent that the front part of the newly acquired area was unused. “The rest is history,” Tony says. The added space is too small for a sit-down restaurant, but it works fine for takeout, and there is room for what Tony calls a “mighty kitchen.”

Rob’s father, who was a tile contractor and home builder, took over the construction job. The Carusos have high standards. For example, there are checkerboard tile floors and a custom railing for customer line-ups. So Tony ended up helping a lot, which meant extremely long days as he has many other duties in the business.

Tony says takeout only has proven to be a profitable business model, as “many people prefer to stay home.” The Carusos have also found that weddings currently include a late lunch featuring foods like pizza and even donairs. So why not fried chicken? Rob’s Famous Fried Chicken also plans to cater to company parties and events. 

The manager of this new venture, Reid Wald, has worked at Panini’s for the past two years. “Reid has mastered every single station,” Tony says. “It is great to have someone so responsible and talented to take over.”

Anita Jenkins is a retired writer and editor who lives in Boyle Street.

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