The Literate Chef

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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.

Chicken Campagna

In Chicken, Meat, Recipes on January 15, 2012 at 5:34 PM

Chicken Campagna

(Preparation 15 minutes; active cooking 30 minutes. Serves 4, or serves 2 with leftovers)


1/3 cup of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tbsps. of coarsely chopped garlic, about 7 large cloves
2 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 tbsps. flour
Freshly ground black pepper and Kosher salt to taste
1 cup of sliced onion; slice medium onion in half from top to root end and then thinly slice each half
4 sliced Cherry Peppers, stems removed and discarded
2 cups of sliced Campari Tomatoes® or Cherry Tomatoes, about 10 oz.
½ cup red wine
2 tbsps. of chopped sage
1 tbsp. beef demi-glace


1.    Add the flour to a shallow bowl and mix in the salt and pepper. Dredge the chicken thighs and set aside.
2.    In a stainless steel sauté pan, heat the olive oil on medium. When shimmering, add the garlic and stir.
3.    When garlic is translucent add the chicken thighs and brown for 8 minutes in total. Turn after 2 minutes and brown for 2 minutes on the other side. Repeat – 2 minutes on each side.
4.    Remove the thighs and keep warm. Lower the heat and de-glaze the pan by first adding the onions, then the cherry peppers and tomatoes. Mix well with the onions, scraping up the pan, let cook for 2 or 3 minutes. Then add the wine and bring to a boil.
5.    Return the browned chicken to the pan, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook for 12 minutes, turning the chicken pieces once, after 6 minutes.
6.    Add the sage and cook 2 minutes more, uncovered.
7.    Remove the chicken to a warmed serving platter and cover with aluminum foil to keep warm. Raise heat to high, add the demi-glace and mix well, stir until the sauce reaches the desired thickness.
8.    Pour the sauce over the chicken and serve immediately.

Serve with Broccoli Rabe Sauteed in Garlic and Olive Oil  and Crusty Italian Bread with which to sop up the delicious sauce.

Please see The Best Italian Restaurant

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