Already a local favorite, Claire’s Corner Copia has now been recognized nationally by the animal rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Named a restaurant of the month for September by PETA, Claire’s, located at the corner of College and Chapel streets for the last 30 years, was selected for being “veg-friendly,” PETA spokesperson Tal Ronnen said.

“We’ve been hearing about this one for quite a while,” he said. “Apparently they have really good soy chicken.”

Actually, the press release said, “the Soy Chicken Provencal has to be tasted to be believed.”

Research for the award is conducted by PETA members from all over the country, who, if they find a restaurant with good food and plenty of vegetarian choices, recommend it for restaurant of the month. Ronnen said approximately five restaurants are recommended every month.

“It’s important to show that there’s a demand … that vegetarian food is available in the mainstream,” he said.

Claire Criscuolo, who co-owns the restaurant with her husband Frank, said she attributes the restaurant’s success to the care put into the food.

“We just make good homemade food, like you’d make for someone you care about,” Claire Criscuolo said.

Although it is now a local vegetarian institution, Claire’s started out in 1975 with a different focus. “We called it Italian Catholic Friday Food,” Criscuolo said. “We had smoking and meat. But then after two or three weeks, we decided that it wasn’t something we wanted to do. People were just eating too much meat.”

She said that she initially faced some difficulties trying to get her customers to accept a radically changed menu.

“My mother would trick me into eating things I didn’t want,” she said. “I had to do that with adults … The restaurant only had ‘vegetarian’ put on it about 15 years ago.”

Claire’s also contributes to the community by donating 10 percent of its profits to a variety of different charities.

“It’s your responsibility,” Criuscolo said matter-of-factly.

Alyssa Jethani ’09 said although she has only been at Yale a few weeks, she has already found an appreciation for Claire’s cake.

“We have the chocolate and carrot cake at our field hockey tailgate, and they are so good,” she said. “And I’m an expert on chocolate.”

In the restaurant, Southern Connecticut State University professor Polly Beals stressed the importance of Claire’s to New Haven.

“It’s a great location, but she’s also part of our community,” Beals said.

Criuscolo said the restaurant experiments with new dishes every day, and, even after 30 years, she still relishes her work.

“With cooking, it always works out for the best,” she said.

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