The Literate Chef

The Best Italian Restaurant

In General Articles on January 21, 2012 at 3:13 PM

Inspired by a dish that she had on our most recent visit to Roberto restaurant in the Belmont neighborhood of the Bronx, my wife suggested the ingredients for Chicken Campagna. That is not the name that Roberto applied to one of the ‘specials’ that he offered that evening. We thought of the name because the dish that we developed in a failed attempt to replicate Roberto’s reminded us of a rustic Italian chicken preparation, one that you would find in a country restaurant practically anywhere in Italy. Campagna translates to countryside. Despite the fact that it is not à la Roberto, Chicken Campagna is delicious in its own right.

Roberto Paciullo, who with his brother opened his original restaurant in this Little Italy of the Bronx more than 20 years ago, is an incredibly superb chef. The current restaurant located on Crescent Avenue, around the corner from the well-known Arthur Avenue, is one block west of where the original was situated at the intersection of E. 186th St., Crescent and Belmont Avenues. For those of you unfamiliar with New York and especially with the Bronx, that is the same Belmont Avenue that gave rise to Dion and The Belmonts.

While the printed menu at Roberto contains plenty of excellent and creative dishes, the ‘specials’ offered on the blackboard each evening are replete with imaginative surprises. For his legions of fans, they are the only way to order. From the very beginning, Roberto’s cooking has been an inspiration to me as well as to many others.

His dishes are filled with ingredients and that are common to la cucina italiana, but are combined in inventive ways that are vastly different than the standard Italian restaurant fare. In my opinion, there is no equal, and I agree with John Mariani, the writer and columnist for Esquire and Bloomberg News, Roberto is ‘The Best Italian Restaurant in America’.

Thanks Roberto, for many years of good eating and inspiration. I can’t wait to return to see what you have developed next.

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