From the moment you walk into Harrisburg’s first authentic Puerto Rican restaurant, you are greeted by warmth. The bright yellow interior, lively music and traditional food that is obviously cooked with love all help to convey the feeling that Anastacia’s is a vibrant place.
Owner, Ricardo Suarez, opened the restaurant on 6th Street on August 1, 2008 as a tribute to his dearly departed mother, Anastacia, who had lived in Harrisburg.
“We came from Puerto Rico and I lived in New Jersey. When I would come to Harrisburg to visit my mother, I was looking for my tradition, looking for any Spanish restaurants and I didn’t find any that I liked. So I said ‘one day, I’m going to make a Puerto Rican restaurant’,” recalls Suarez.
After he retired from Continental Airlines, he chose to make that goal a reality. “I came here and I bought this restaurant and I made this in the memory of my mother…For me, it’s very special because this is my retirement and this is what I’m going to do.”
Anastacia’s is truly a family affair, from a picture of the eponymous matriarch next to the door, to Ricardo’s daughter Johann Suarez acting as the restaurant’s manager.
Anastacia’s menu is built around the daily lunch specials, which vary from day to day. Depending on what day of the week it happens to be, patrons can choose between vaguely familiar items such as chicken, steak, spare ribs, and beef stew, or they can choose the not-often-found-in-Harrisburg options of goat, oxtail, pig feet or fried pork skins (yummy!). All lunch meals come with a choice of white rice, vegetable rice or yellow rice with pigeon peas, which are difficult to explain, but delicious nonetheless. There’s also a variety of desserts, family combo meals (giving you the options of chicken, ribs and quail), breakfast foods and delicious appetizers (most of which feature plantains).
So what would Ricardo recommend? “My favourite item on the menu is the mofongo, one of the appetizers. I would recommend that to anybody! That’s my special.”
While it’s not his mother’s recipe, it’s a traditional Puerto Rican dish that consists of a casing of mashed plantains holding in peppers, onions and a choice of chicken or shrimp.
Bottom line: if you’re looking to try some uniquely new dishes in a welcoming atmosphere, look no further then Anastacia’s.