Local, Seasonal, American-Style Cuisine Served at Chef Jason at 1275 Restaurant
CHEF JASON’S TEAM: “We offer fresh, high quality food,” says Chef Jason Dilts, co-owner of Chef Jason at 1275 restaurant in Cranbury. “We want people to come and enjoy a delicious and relaxed dining experience.” He is shown with his staff, from left: Anthony Olvera, Sam Keating, Jason Dilts, “Broccoli” Rob Reddington, and George Gochuico.
By Jean Stratton
Chef Jason Dilts may only be 28 years old, but his knowledge of the restaurant business and his ability in the kitchen belie his years.
Co-owner and chef of Chef Jason at 1275 restaurant, located at 1275 South River Road in Cranbury, he is excited to take on the challenge of this new opportunity. It is the culmination of his years of restaurant experience, and he is optimistic, even while COVID-19 uncertainties linger.
“I started working in DiMattia’s restaurant in Allentown when I was 14,” he recalls. “First, I bussed tables and then the chef let me help him. I knew right away that this was what I wanted to do.”
He loved the creativity of creating dishes and the chance to use the freshest, high quality local and seasonal ingredients.
After graduating from college with a degree in business, he worked at Lola Restaurant in Robbinsville, and then as head chef at Zinna’s Bistro, and most recently as head chef at The Revere Restaurant in Ewing.
When the building in Cranbury (formerly the location of Zinna’s Bistro) became available, he took the opportunity to open his own establishment.
“It had to be completely renovated,” he reports. “And we have tried to make it a very attractive and comfortable place for people to relax and enjoy their meal. The main indoor dining room can seat 100, and we have purposely arranged the tables to be nicely separated so there is no feeling of being crowded. We have a variety of seating arrangements, including one long ‘family’ table, if people want to be together.”
There is also a small dining room for private parties, and, in addition, two very inviting outdoor patios which can seat 60 and 40. One features a grapevine, which is very popular with customers, as they may even sample the available grapes.
“The patios are favorites for alfresco dining and also for parties,” says Chef Jason. “In nice weather, they are a perfect place to enjoy a leisurely meal or a party.”
When the restaurant first opened in October of 2020, it was takeout only due to the pandemic. “We did well — takeout was very strong, and it still is,” he points out. “In February this year, we were able to open for indoor dining at 50 percent capacity, and now we are full capacity. And the tables are so nicely situated that people feel comfortable and not too close to each other. Of course, we follow all the state rules and include the safety precautions.”
“I was lucky to have a strong following from my previous restaurants,” he continues, “and they have supported me. They really got me through the first six months.
“I also have a great co-owner, Todd Devin, who is in the restaurant equipment business, and is very knowledgeable.”
Opening his own restaurant has given Chef Jason the chance to create a variety of seasonal, locally sourced meals for customers, and he sees it as an opportunity to bring families together over food.
“Our mission is to help redefine family life; to help them find joy from cuisine and eating together, not being in such a hurry. One thing that COVID did was to show us the importance of this.
“In addition, we want to offer a variety of options so people can enjoy a different taste each time they come in. The way I envision it, people can come in five days a week, and have different choices every day. One night, they can get Italian, another time, breaded short ribs, or a salad for lunch. There is a lot of variety, and since the focus is seasonal, the menu changes often. And we get as much as possible locally.”
The restaurant is open for lunch and dinner, and there are definitely choices for every taste.
Soup of the Day
For lunch, customers can start with a soup of the day, and starters such as Arcadia field greens salad; roasted Brussels sprouts; or Sacchetoni (with pear-ricotta filling, cranberries, rosemary cream, and walnut crumble), among others.
Favorite salads include Grilled Chicken Caesar; and Taco Salad with tortilla bowl, romaine hearts, blackened chicken, fire roasted corn, shredded cheese, tomato, red onion, and chipotle ranch dressing.
Pastas feature 1275’s short ribs mac-blended cheeses, shells, with signature sauce; and Aunt Madeline’s gnocchi, Chef Jason’s Aunt Madeline’s own recipe, with brown butter, toasted sage, parmesan, and sweet potato puree. Linguine Fra Diablo (“colossal” crabmeat. shrimp, chilis, pomodoro) is another favorite.
Main dishes include beef tenderloin sandwich; grilled chicken sandwich; sweet and sour shrimp; and chicken piccata, among many other choices.
For dinner, popular appetizers are the Cherry Pepper Glazed Calamari; Cranberry Meatballs (with spinach and dried tomato in parmesan broth); and Watermelon Salad.
Main dishes include the very popular Steak Don (16-ounce NY strip steak with mushrooms, red wine cream, and red bliss potatoes). “This is named in memory of my grandfather,” says Chef Jason,” and it is our own special recipe.
Other main dishes in demand include the French Cut Pork Chop with cherry pepper glaze,, Chicken Milanese, and Lobster Ravioli, just to mention a few of the specialties.
In addition, vegetarian dishes are available, and customers’ dietary needs are always taken into consideration.
Chef Jason does not forget desserts, all of which are prepared on site. Among the most popular are bread pudding, cheesecake, tiramisu, and zabaglione.
A variety of teas and coffee are all available, including espresso and cappuccino, among others.
Chef Jason emphasizes the high quality of his food, and prices include sandwiches from $13, appetizers from $8, salads from $15, and pastas from $12. Dinner main dishes start at $18 for pasta, and $24 for Chicken Milanese.
Takeout remains very popular, especially the Family Meals to Go. “These include a lunch or dinner for four people, with five different choices,” explains Chef Jason. They often have a theme, such as the Soul Food package, featuring southern-style BBQ, or the Little Italy package, among others.
Chef Jason notes that he has special relationships with a number of farms and markets in the area, and is able to get the freshest items available. These include Drake Farm in Skillman, Windmilll Greenhouse Farm & Market in Robbinsville, and William Perrine Produce, also in Robbinsville.
Private parties, including bridal showers, birthdays, etc., at the restaurant are popular, and full service catering is also offered for all types and sizes of events.
Customers are coming from all over the area, he reports, including Princeton. “We are having great word-of-mouth, and not only do we have a lot of repeats, we are getting new people all the time.”
That includes Carol and Dave Bicho from Millstone, who recently had lunch at the restaurant for the first time. “We saw the menu online, and the food is delicious. We will definitely be back.”
With reviews like that, Chef Jason is very encouraged. Even with the challenges facing restaurant owners today — rising food prices, uncertainty over COVID-19, and the need for additional staff — he is very optimistic. “We are adaptable and work hard to meet every situation,” he says.
“Of course, I feel really good when people say how much they enjoyed their meal. Then I feel I have been successful. This is what I have always wanted to do: to offer something special for people.
“And I am so fortunate to have a great staff. We are really a family, and we’re a family for our customers too. We want our guests to experience a new variety of dining services and cuisines curated from only the freshest quality ingredients, and enjoy the true fulfillment of food in a unifying and welcoming atmosphere. This is a happy place!”
The restaurant is open seven days, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Lunch is served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner from 4 to 11 p.m. Reservations are recommended. (609) 606-1275. Website: chefjason1275.com.