Local First Responder Delivers the Heat With His Award-Winning Chicken Wings

Have a hankering for hot and spicy chicken wings? The Killarney’s Irish Pub has the heat! For those who really crave super, hot wings, there’s the peppery Hebernaro sauce, one of six house-made sauces available. No need to call a first responder to put out that fire on your tongue. Owner/operator Mark Verespy also fills in as the Lieutenant of the Chester Fire Department.

When it comes to chicken wings Verespy is a self-taught expert. Chicken wings are one of his top selling dishes and his recipe is truly a winner. The Killarney Pub’s wings took first place six years running when the Hops in the Hills Beer and Food Festival’s Chicken Wing Championship was held at Okemo Mountain. Experience also played a role in Verespy’s super popular dish. In just one week during the busy ski season 1,200 pounds of crispy fried wings fly out of Killarney’s kitchen! “Our recipe is really no big secret at all,” said Verespy “We keep it simple.”  The pub’s most popular sauce is the traditional Buffalo sauce. The other flavors are BBQ, Teriyaki, Honey Dijon and the final winning competition sauce developed by his son Connor (27), who moonlights in the kitchen a few nights a week. The Comp Sauce is made by combining Frank’s Hot Sauce, BBQ sauce, butter, garlic, and maple syrup from local maker Brett Sanderson. The Killarney wings are hand-dredged in a mixture of flour, Old Bay seasoning, salt and pepper.

To keep up with the high demand during the busy ski season, Verespy pre-cooks the wings by flash frying them to near doneness, then when ordered the chicken wings are given a final flash fry then tossed in the favored sauce. Killarney Pub serves the wings with the traditional house-made made blue cheese dressing and celery sticks. “I lived in Buffalo for four years,” he explained. “I’m kind of a foodie guy and there are a lot of good wings in the area, so I got to know chicken wings pretty well.”

According to the National Chicken Council’s website, “…fried chicken wings have long been a staple of Southern cooking.  But the concept of cooking wings in peppery hot sauce was born in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York, when co-owner Teressa Bellissimo cooked leftover wings in hot sauce as a late-night snack for her son and his friends.  The guys liked them so much that the Bellissimos put them on the menu the next day.  Served with celery slices and bleu cheese sauce, ‘Buffalo Wings’ were an instant hit.”

Verespy said he has been in the restaurant business at some level ever since his first job as a teen in the dining room of a senior housing facility in Bridgeport, Connecticut. From there he transitioned to working in pubs as a bartender, server and advancing to management positions. Then, Verespy was hired as a sales representative for a beer company and finally by Seagram, which landed him in Buffalo. “While with Seagram I relocated to Wisconsin where two of my children were born,” said Verespy. “Then Seagram was sold and I moved back east to work for a beer company. I was still calling on restaurants. Then I had an epiphany: I was working on the wrong side of the table. Two years later I opened Killarney.”

Verespy explained further, the desire to own and operate a restaurant developed from his love for cooking and providing a comfortable, casual place where people could gather, socialize and enjoy good food and beverages. He was familiar with the Okemo Valley area because his family owned a vacation home there. Eventually he and his wife Judy purchased what was formerly known as Nikki’s and renovated the site to replicate an authentic Irish pub, embracing the well-known culture centered around a friendly, relaxed atmosphere and hearty food. In 2005 the Killarney Pub opened its doors. “We have a strong core of regulars,” he said. “It’s a friendly place where locals and visitors come together.”

Verespy says he strives to create a similar work environment, which has resulted in a long retention rate for his employees. His head chef, Jim Allen, has been with the Killarney for 18 years and some bartenders have been there ten plus years. Two of Verespy’s adult children are involved in the restaurant too, Connor and Molly works as a bartender and server. A third son, Shane worked at the pub through college.

Killarney Pub is a popular place to catch a favorite sports game with five large screen TVs, a full-service bar with 15 beers on tap including many local craft beers, and the area’s deepest collection of fine Scotch and Irish whiskeys. The approachable menu features popular tavern food and Irish dishes. The pub also offers fun theme nights. Monday is open mic night, Tuesday Trivia and on Thursdays it’s live music.

First responders have shown a fondness for Killarney too. “About 13 years ago a firefighter from Waterbury, Connecticut handed me a badge to display, That’s kind of cool, I said and tacked it on the wall behind the bar. Now there’s 2200 patches!” “Patrons bring in badges from all over the U.S. and they mail them in too,” said Verespy. “All badges are on loan.” Badge owners can request their return anytime. Verespy, a 12-year first responder is also a member of the Vermont’s Urban Search & Rescue (US&R) response team, which responds to both state and national disasters. Locally Verespy’s team was called into rescue action during the July 2023 flooding that impacted Ludlow and Chester. Although the Killarney Pub was not affected by the floodwaters, Verespy closed the pub for five days so as not to encourage people to come into the town while the emergency teams worked to clear the damage. For a short period of time The Killarney subbed as a temporary shelter for his employees whose homes were flooded taking Verespy’s family atmosphere to a whole other level.

Where else can you find chicken wings in Okemo Valley?

By Karen Hughes Irvine