The Literate Chef

Chicken Scarpiello; Everybody Makes it Differently!

In General Articles on June 18, 2011 at 10:46 AM

One of the interesting things that I have discovered about Italian cooking is that unlike French cooking, and notwithstanding the opus of Pellegrino Artusi, The Science of Cooking and the Art of Eating Well, there does not appear to be a codification of recipes for Italian cuisine. This is explained very succinctly by Anna Marie Volpi on her website.

The first time I had Chicken Scarpiello was at a now defunct neighborhood restaurant on Allerton Avenue and Boston Post Road in the Bronx. During the 1970s and 80s, we used to visit Gino’s regularly, it had good food, a decent wine list, reasonable prices, a lively crowd and valet parking. What more could one ask for? Maybe the food wasn’t particularly adventurous and perhaps the chef wasn’t a celebrity, but the place was reliable. I never had a bad meal at Gino’s, R.I.P.!

Their Chicken Scarpiello was served, with its skin, on the bone, making it very moist, but difficult to eat and a bit too greasy for my arteries. But they served it with sausage and that, in my opinion made it special…as a matter of fact, anything with sausage is special (be sure to check out my Orecchiette with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage.)

The next time I saw Chicken Scarpiello on a menu, I ordered it fully expecting to see it come out like Gino’s. This time there was no sausage, and I, in my naiveté, inquired of the waiter as to what happened to the sausage. His haughtily delivered reply was that Chicken Scarpiello was NEVER served with sausage; my first lesson in the vagaries of Italian cucina.

After several more restaurant disappointments with Chicken Scarpiello, I developed my own recipe, Chicken Scarpiello alla Chef Scar,and now I will share it here. This recipe went through several iterations with the chicken, as I struggled to find the right combination. I started with chicken breasts and wanting to reduce the grease level, I first removed the skin and quartered the breasts, but that still left the little bone particles. Next I tried skinless, boneless, chicken breasts, also known as chicken cutlets, but upon cooking they dried out too soon. Realizing that chicken thighs might retain their moisture longer, I substituted skinless thighs in the next development stage. This was a great improvement and since the thighs only had a large bone, this solved the splintered bone issue. Then I discovered skinless, boneless, chick thighs and found the right combination.

What’s next you ask, how about some more pork. After all, it is ‘the other white meat’. Check it out at: Midnight (and Calvados) in Paris

  1. everyone spells it differently too. at rocco’s it was “scarpariello.” is that a type-o or just a dialect thing?

  2. Everyone makes it differently and spells it differently! I just chalk it up to typical Italian anarchy! I just Googled it, even the Food Network spells it both ways.

  3. Either way you spell it, it sounds delicious…you are your mother’s son!!!!

  4. Your advice to use boneless chicken goes against a ground rule of italian cooking.

    Never remove the bones from the meat.
    If you would like to try true Chicken Scarapello, pick up the recipe in David Ruggerio’s Little Italy cookbook.

    You’d swear you were at Laico’s in Jersey City. Perhaps you are not familiar with it, sort of a well kept secret. While you are there don’t forget to try the baked clams. 🙂

    • Thanks for your comment! I know that is how most restaurants prepare it, I just don’t like picking little bone chunks out of my mouth, as is particularly the case when chicken breasts are served hacked in smaller pieces. But anyway it is prepared, it is still delicious.

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