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The Alleged Chicago Origins of "Chicken Vesuvio"

The Alleged Chicago Origins of "Chicken Vesuvio"
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  • Post #31 - April 16th, 2005, 7:41 pm
    Post #31 - April 16th, 2005, 7:41 pm Post #31 - April 16th, 2005, 7:41 pm
    Choey wrote: Time to feed my inner Logical Positivist.


    My proposal is that you let that logical positivist starve to death, Choey. Language, and most importantly language regarding the key elements of human survival such as food, is not to be constrained by the limits of logic. And that about which we cannot speak, thereof we must remain silent.
  • Post #32 - April 17th, 2005, 6:20 pm
    Post #32 - April 17th, 2005, 6:20 pm Post #32 - April 17th, 2005, 6:20 pm
    JimInLoganSquare wrote: With that, Gary, I think I am not alone in anxiously imploring you to publish your findings and opinions on the matter.

    Jim,

    Soon, soon, but, in the meantime, to further complicate matters, as if they were not confusing enough, here is a picture of Gene and Georgetti's very good Chicken V. Crisp potatoes cut in a large dice, no peas and very crisp chicken cut in small(ish) pieces.

    Image

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #33 - April 17th, 2005, 6:24 pm
    Post #33 - April 17th, 2005, 6:24 pm Post #33 - April 17th, 2005, 6:24 pm
    OK, OK, though I admit my inner LP is deader than Moritz Schlick (beware of grad students bearing arms, eh), life's just a listless parade of defunct philosophers for us, isn't it? A few dull minutes of Ayer, a frisson with Grice, a bad long term relationship with Davidson, arguments with Kripke that turn inexplicably violent.... Yet I still can't shake the view that there's nothing essentially wrong with having pasta with every meal. Maybe I'm a slave to Aristotle after all, but I'm throwing in with Antonius on the Chicken Vesuvio contretemps. But, full disclosure here, I was with Gassendi against Descartes, too.
  • Post #34 - April 17th, 2005, 6:26 pm
    Post #34 - April 17th, 2005, 6:26 pm Post #34 - April 17th, 2005, 6:26 pm
    G Wiv wrote:
    JimInLoganSquare wrote: With that, Gary, I think I am not alone in anxiously imploring you to publish your findings and opinions on the matter.

    Jim,

    Soon, soon, but, in the meantime, to further complicate matters, as if they were not confusing enough, here is a picture of Gene and Georgetti's very good Chicken V.

    Enjoy,
    Gary


    One comment on the Chicken V at G & G's Friday is that the white meat or at least the parts at our end of the table were rather dry. The piece of thigh I was served was nice and moist.
    Bruce
    Plenipotentiary
    bruce@bdbbq.com

    Raw meat should NOT have an ingredients list!!
  • Post #35 - April 17th, 2005, 11:20 pm
    Post #35 - April 17th, 2005, 11:20 pm Post #35 - April 17th, 2005, 11:20 pm
    Antonius wrote:Some notes in response to specific posts in the thread [written a couple of days ago, before a link to ReneG’s CH post was provided]:

    MikeG wrote:The interesting deduction I make from Antonius' claims is, if it was so well known in Jersey as well as in the Italian Navy, how did such a dish come to be uncommon enough in Chicago that someone could get away with naming it themselves and passing it off as a new dish?


    Mike, you make an eminently reasonable point but I think a reasonable (if not detailed and specific) answer can be proffered in response to the question raised.

    I wish I could find ReneG’s post on the name of the dish but I believe he had evidence that tied the name to a restaurant in the Loop and, not surprisingly, a Neapolitan run restaurant, if I remember well. In any event, it seems hardly difficult to imagine that a restaurateur might have given this dish a nice, poetic sort of a name for his menu and that the name stuck. Especially if the restaurant were in an area where lots of non-Italians would come across it (such as the Loop), the name could quite naturally have become productive and taken up by competitors of the original restaurant, as well as finding its way into the vocabulary of the original restaurant’s patrons and ultimately those of the restaurants who borrowed the name. Let’s face it, it’s a great name. And I don’t think the naming was a conscious attempt to pass off the dish as an new invention; it was probably just the owner or cook having a little poetic fun, though one must wonder if the heat element of red pepper in the original was not the impetus to give it a special name, as suggested by jbw above.

    If I understand this curious circumlocution, you couldn't find Rene G's material and wrote, but did not post, some off-the-cuff commentary based on your recollection of it, and then, once I had provided the link, you nevertheless posted those remarks without revising them to accord with what Rene G actually wrote. That hardly seems consistent with being "maximally precise," but never mind. What remains is that you assert that The Vesuvio restaurant was Neapolitan-run, when nothing in Rene G's post says so. (It's a good guess, given the name, but no more likely than a restaurant named "Szechwan Whatever" having Szechuanese ownership.) Nor is there anything in Rene G's post to support red pepper in the original dish, despite jbw's latter-day experience.

    Anyway, as I wrote above, there's nothing other than speculation about the similarity in names to tie chicken Vesuvio to The Vesuvio restaurant. Until someone turns up a menu or a contemporary account of dining there, we simply won't know. And even that wouldn't settle the question -- for all we know, the restaurant could have been named for the dish.

    Antonius wrote:Leah:

    This sort of comment that addresses an ethnic group as a whole but contains no content about food is a little troubling. Perhaps you should say explicitly what you mean to add to the discussion with this seemingly condescending remark, lest we misunderstand your intention – as it is, the only reasonable way to interpret it is that you think that with regard to inventiveness, Italians have nought to be proud of but something for which an Italian wrongly received credit. Or was the writing just sloppy?

    On second thought though, perhaps you should save any further comment and simply refrain from such ethnically oriented remarks altogether. Surely, you have enough to say just sticking to the food-related issues.

    By the way, yesterday was Leonardo Da Vinci’s birthday.

    Antonious, I'm deeply troubled by your insinuation of bigotry. Your spin on my words is entirely unjustified. (Would it relieve your mind if I were to say that some my best friends.... I thought not.) Either my writing or your reading was sloppy. I cast no aspersions on Italians but only provided a precise example of something arguably more important to the world than the birthplace of a chicken dish, and considerably better documented, which shows that the creation and credit for anything is complex and open to dispute. Further, by "the Italians," I referred to the country of Italy, a geopolitical unit, not an ethnic group. No one disagrees about the ethnic Italian origins of Vesuvio; our discussion has clearly focused on whether the ethnic Italians in question lived in Italy or Chicago.

    (For that matter, ethnically, Marconi was as much Celtic as Italian. His mother was Irish and the granddaughter of a Scot: John Jameson, who immigrated to Dublin in 1870 and founded the Jameson Irish Whiskey Distillery, to give you a culinary reference.)

    I could have used the instance of the origins of spaghetti, but that would have been a much vaguer, if foodier, example.

    Antonius wrote:What is called “chicken Vesuvio” is a family of recipes for roasted chicken pieces with potatoes, often with peas as well, cooked with olive oil, garlic, wine and/or lemon juice and herbs. And who with any direct or deep knowledge of Italian cuisine would possibly want to claim that that is a distinctively Chicago invention?

    Since anyone who does so -- from Phil Vettel to Chef Don Sexaur (from North Carolina) to Cook's Illustrated to other posters on this board -- must, according to you, be guilty of "silly boosterism," judged "surely not very knowledgeable with regard to Southern Italian cookery," and, here, subjected to a barrage of obscurantism, who would?

    And just about every dish invented before the standardization of written recipes -- and a great many created thereafter -- has a "family of recipes." Name any two restaurants not part of a chain where the same dishes are identical. Cooking is an art form, not rocket science. Here's another Vesuvio variation. This one has cheese in it, which I don't think I've seen before, but no peas.

    Tony Nitti: A Taste of Chicago.....Italian Style!
  • Post #36 - April 18th, 2005, 1:40 pm
    Post #36 - April 18th, 2005, 1:40 pm Post #36 - April 18th, 2005, 1:40 pm
    We interrupt this Internet for some actual information from something called a book...

    Image

    Image

    This is from the following book, published 1931:

    Image

    And no, it does not say the words "Chicken Vesuvio" anywhere. But still, it adds to the circumstantial evidence. The Vesuvio was apparently pretty well known and admired, as this extended writeup appears in a section at the front devoted to the top restaurants in town. [NOTE: Now that I actually have a copy of it, I see that my memory played me false on that detail; it is not in the front section of most notable restaurants. However, it gets a full writeup instead of the brief capsule one which, for instance, the Berghoff gets.]

    Now what's interesting about that to me is that it's more evidence for the idea that they called their house dish "Chicken Vesuvio." On what do I base this claim? Well, the very fact that The Vesuvio seems to have been quite famous makes it unlikely that someone else would have slapped the name "Vesuvio" on a dish of theirs. Imagine a smaller, less famous Italian restaurant today. Would they name a dish "Chicken Spiaggia"? "Chicken Scoozi?" "Chicken Buca di Beppo"? It seems likely to me that the only place that would have named something Vesuvio would have been... The Vesuvio.* (The exception to this, I suppose, might have been after The Vesuvio was closed-- I have no information as to when that was-- someone seeking to evoke fond memories of it might have resurrected one of its famous dishes and used the name. But then it's still named for The Vesuvio, and originates there, to the extent that it's original.)

    * Now, you could argue that some restaurant names that derive from places are common enough that they wouldn't automatically evoke another restaurant. For instance, one could imagine a dish called "Chicken Tuscany" that didn't automatically conjure up the restaurant Tuscany. True enough, but on the other hand, the Italian Vesuvio is also the less common form of that placename, which is generally known in America by the Latin Vesuvius, so even if the natural way for Italian-Americans to refer to it was Vesuvio, they probably would have been aware that their non-Italian patrons would be likely to be unnecessarily reminded of that famous place where Jack Dempsey and Jackie Coogan (who was, by the way, a teenager when that was written!) hang out.

    All this also probably goes some ways toward explaining the odd fact, as many of the above posts have noted, that there's really nothing fixed about the recipe for "Chicken Vesuvio"-- not even the chicken. After all, if you're serving another restaurant's namesake dish, you probably have the urge to make it your own in some little way, not slavishly copy them.

    Anyway, that's my reckless conjecture based on thin, but real, evidence for the day....

    PS. This book says "15 E. Wacker" but Drury's guide to the Century of Progress Exposition a couple of years later says "51 E. Wacker." I assume the latter is merely a typo, rather than evidence of a move.
    Last edited by Mike G on April 21st, 2005, 4:49 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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  • Post #37 - April 18th, 2005, 3:05 pm
    Post #37 - April 18th, 2005, 3:05 pm Post #37 - April 18th, 2005, 3:05 pm
    sundevilpeg wrote:Here is an interesting take on Chicken Vesuvio, from Giada di Laurentiis,
    <snip>
    Chicken Vesuvio, Courtesy of Little Big Head and Food TV

    Peg,

    I saw the episode in question, Giada (~sigh~) clearly states the dish is called Vesuvio because when wine is added the pot steams like Mount Vesuvio. That's good enough for me.

    Done and Done.

    :lol: :roll: :lol:

    Enjoy,
    Gary
    One minute to Wapner.
    Raymond Babbitt

    Low & Slow
  • Post #38 - April 18th, 2005, 3:31 pm
    Post #38 - April 18th, 2005, 3:31 pm Post #38 - April 18th, 2005, 3:31 pm
    MikeG:

    Nice bit of research. As you say, this evidence –– though not conclusive –– is very suggestive. The whole scenario of how a simple basic dish of roasted chicken with potatoes could pick up a new name in one particular locale makes a lot of sense when seen in this perspective: A restaurant, quite possibly “the Vesuvio,” serves chicken in the way familiar to the owner or chef from home and gives this poetic name to the dish rather than just calling it by the more descriptive but rather prosaic “roasted chicken (pieces) with potatoes.” But, as I’ve argued elsewhere, the innovation is just in the name: no particular “Vesuvio” recipe spread from restaurant to restaurant or home to home; rather, Italian cooks, be it professional or private, seem to have just continued to make the dish of roasted chicken pieces with potatoes according to their own family’s or personal preference, though over time, the colourful and handy new sobriquet caught on.

    I find it interesting to see that one of the proprietors of “The Vesuvio” was from Torino; too bad no further information is given about the background of the other proprietor or about the menu. Surely there was some manner of connexion beyond the name and decor to Naples and Campania, especially with regard to the food offerings (which would of course be expected for the time period in question when to Americans “Italian food” was in reality primarily Neapolitan food).

    Incidentally, I have come to realise that the Neapolitan presence in Chicago, though perhaps not so dominant among the Italian community as a whole as it was in New Jersey/New York, was quite substantial and it's rôle in many discussions of the Italian community of Chicago has been underestimated. Choey can perhaps address this issue with more direct knowledge but the more I explore the history of Taylor Street, the more it seems to me that Neapolitans were the main group in this area (there were, of course, other Italian communities, esp. Sicilian neighbourhoods, around town).

    ***

    Rob:

    I think you have one basic point here wrong which leads you to a wrong conclusion.

    Vital Information wrote:Antonius, I have respect both for your scholarship and for your passion, but as this debate brews, I find myself less swayed by your position.
    I have next to me on my desk, a circa 1993 menu from Spring Deer, a quite famous Beijing style restaurant in Hong Kong. Number 83 on this menu is...chop suey in casserole. Conclusive proof, no, that chop suey is not an American dish. Really?


    This is a very false analogy. What I have argued is that the same dish (i.e., a group of closely related variants involving chicken pieces, potatoes, garlic, wine or lemon and herbs) which appears in Chicago with the local name “Chicken Vesuvio” also appears elsewhere, where (Southern) Italians live, such as New York/New Jersey and in (Southern) Italy. It is a basic principle of various disciplines that if one sees such a pattern of distribution, one should assume that the item in question was present in the original home and was brought to the other, newer places thence. Otherwise, you are left in this case with the impossible task of trying to demonstrate that an innovatory dish of Chicago somehow spread to the East Coast and all the way to Italy but did so without bringing along its name. You also have to account for the fact that my grandmother was making this dish in Hoboken back when World War I was being fought, presumably a good bit before the appearance of "Vesuvio" in Chicagoland restaurants.

    No. I think we have two things going on here. First, yes, Chicago chicken vesuvio is based on numerous dishes of its ilk from Southern Italy. As you demonstrated, the antecendants are clear... Chicken Vesuvio is an original dish, the proportions of things and the timing of things make it taste different. Different than plain ol' roast chicken and different from related dishes like chicken scarpiello.


    There are a couple of things wrong here. The most important is that there is no more or less widely accepted recipe for Chicken Vesuvio which is distinct from treatments of chicken and potatoes etc. etc. elsewhere across Italia in diaspora. I must also point out that chicken scarpiello cannot reasoably be called a dish ‘related’ to pollo arrosto (con le patate). Aside from using chicken pieces, there isn’t much they have in common (I’ll address the scarpiello topic some other time).

    Second, it has become nomenclature. Just as a Chinese restaurnt in China would use the words chop suey to now describe something, restaurants now use vesuivio to describe something. Something winey, oily, garlicy and served with potatoes. The problem (I think) is that a lot of (more?) places have glommed on to the vesuvio name than the "actual" recipe. But on the other hand, I doubt very much that much of the chop suey these days tastes like the original either.


    I have nothing whatsoever to say about chop suey and leave that discussion for those who know the relevant cuisines of China and the Chinese in America very well to address it. A far more relevant analogy seems to me to be an actual Chicago innovation, namely the Chicago stuffed pizza, which is obviously a crossing of the holiday pizze with a short dough and savoury filling of Southern Italy with the flat-bread pizza alla Napoletana. In effect, the Chicago stuffed pie uses the sort of stuff that is more appropriate (from the traditional Southern Italian standpoint) to putting on a flat pizza and putting it inside the package (pastry-like dough) in place of the more traditional sorts of fillings (there is some overlap here but the point should be clear).

    Now, a stuffed pizza in Chicago is something for which different restaurants surely have somewhat differing recipes, but that which marks the thing as an innovation here in Chicago is shared by all, namely, dough-type, form of pie and basic ingredients for filling. There is no such distinctive feature of “Chicken Vesuvio” to which one can point. The potatoes are not unique, nor the flavouring with herbs and wine or lemon, nor the cooking method (stove top to oven or just oven). The innovation that sets Chicken Vesuvio apart historically from “roasted chicken with potatoes” is the name, tout court.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #39 - April 19th, 2005, 1:49 am
    Post #39 - April 19th, 2005, 1:49 am Post #39 - April 19th, 2005, 1:49 am
    It’s widely known that chicken as we know it originated in Chicago in the early twentieth century and Chicken Vesuvio was invented shortly thereafter.

    Of course, Chicagoans weren’t the first to roast a chicken with olive oil, garlic and potatoes but the dish was named and its preparation codified here and it has become solidly identified with Chicago. Sort of like cioppino and San Francisco.

    When eating Chicken Vesuvio I find the similarities more striking than the differences. When you order Chicken Vesuvio in Chicago you have a reasonable expectation of receiving pan roasted chicken, cut into serving pieces, prepared with lots of olive oil, plenty of garlic, usually white wine, and always roasted potatoes but never any other vegetable except the optional peas (I think this is a later addition). I’m sure there are exceptions but you won’t get a whole roasted chicken, you usually won’t taste much lemon (that would be called lemon chicken in Chicago), and there won’t be any other vegetables included. Potatoes always accompany Chicken Vesuvio and are an essential component of the dish; if there are no potatoes I’d say it’s not Chicken Vesuvio. Some online recipes call for things like onions, carrots, sausage, olives or mushrooms but I’d venture these dishes wouldn’t be recognized by most longtime Chicagoans as Chicken Vesuvio. I’ll be curious to see how Gary’s recent survey fits with this.

    What are the origins of the name and the dish in Chicago? The claims that Gianotti’s originated the dish and/or name in the 1960s are clearly false because of numerous earlier mentions.

    Francois Pope’s Gourmet Dining Guide: Chicagoland’s Top Restaurants (1955) lists numerous restaurants serving Chicken Vesuvio. The review of The Quadrille at the Belden Stratford Hotel is particularly interesting because it mentions the ingredients and hints at the derivation of the name: “A tasty Italian creation of disjointed spring chicken and French cut potatoes. Sauteed in finest olive oil properly seasoned with garlic, chopped parsley and oregano. Served in a manner to represent and honor the famous Mount Vesuvio.” This is essentially what jbw said in his 12 April 05 post in this thread on Oakley Street restaurants in the 1970s. Also note Mr Pope calls it an Italian creation, making no claims for a Chicago origin.

    In the 1955 book, Dining in Chicago by The Restaurateurs, many of the reproduced menus from Italian restaurants list Chicken Vesuvio. A couple examples are Gene & Georgetti (it was $3.00!) and Erie Café ($2.50). The dish isn’t described on any menus or in the accompanying text. Seemingly it was too common to require explanation.

    Vittles and Vice, a 1950 book by the Chicago newspaper reporter Patricia Bronté, mentions Erie Café and even includes their recipe for Chicken Vesuvio (page 84). The ingredients are disjointed chicken, olive oil, garlic, and parsley. Nothing else.

    Not long ago Tom MacNamee wrote a very interesting article about Chicken Vesuvio (Chicago Sun-Times, 12 January 05; unfortunately no longer available for free on the internet). At the Chicago Historical Society he found a menu from San Carlo Ristorante at the Century of Progress World's Fair in 1934 listing Chicken Vesuvio. From interviews with elderly Chicken Vesuvio eaters he suggests it originated in the 1920s at the notorious restaurant/nightclub Colosimo’s.

    For those unfamiliar with Colosimo’s, here’s a little background. Colosimo’s opened in 1909 at 2126 S Wabash and quickly became a popular hangout in the wide-open area known as The Levee. In 1920 Big Jim Colosimo was murdered at his restaurant probably with the involvement of his nephew Johnny Torrio (the Tribune’s headline was Colosimo, Vice King, Slain) but this didn’t seem to interfere with the restaurant’s popularity as it stayed open at least into the 1940s. Torrio, with one Alphonse Capone, took over his uncle’s operation and expanded from prostitution into liquor and beyond (I’m not sure who owned the restaurant after Colosimo’s death). If indeed Chicken Vesuvio was served at Colosimo’s that might partly explain its fame. One problem with tracing back Chicken Vesuvio to Colosimo’s is that it is not listed in a 1939 menu from that restaurant (I don’t have the menu in my possession but have an email from its owner). Obviously its absence doesn’t prove anything (perhaps it was so well known there was no need to list it) but I have yet to see any solid evidence. Incidentally, Colosimo’s is included in John Drury’s Dining in Chicago (see last paragraph). Al Capone is mentioned but not Chicken Vesuvio.

    Another claim, mentioned by MacNamee, is that Chicken Vesuvio was first served by the Italian Village, Chicago’s oldest Italian restaurant, opened in 1927. Italian Village’s owners seem eager to advance that notion but the earliest menu they can find that lists Chicken Vesuvio is 1939.

    Another possibility is The Vesuvio formerly at 15 E Wacker. Unfortunately, very little information is available on this restaurant. All I know is what I’ve read in the fascinating book, Dining in Chicago by John Drury (forward by Carl Sandberg) published in 1931. In earlier postings I didn’t mean to dismiss this as a possibility, but didn’t want to build a case for it without more evidence. It seems to me if Chicken Vesuvio was such a specialty of the house, Drury should have at least mentioned it. I’ve been looking for more information on this restaurant, including monitoring menu offerings on ebay for a number of years now.

    Not that it matters but my favorite Chicken Vesuvio was at Febo (“Famous for Nothing”), the great old restaurant formerly at 2501 S Western.
  • Post #40 - April 19th, 2005, 6:41 am
    Post #40 - April 19th, 2005, 6:41 am Post #40 - April 19th, 2005, 6:41 am
    Antonius wrote:Now, let me also state clearly what I am not claiming:

    1) I am not claiming that “chicken Vesuvio” is not an established part of the culinary repertoire and cultural identity of Chicago.

    2) I am not claiming the dish is bad.

    3) I am not claiming Chicagoans are bad-cooks, dishonest people, or people incapable of developing new and tasty dishes (well, there are of course exceptions).

    4) I am not claiming that it is not the case that there is a tendency for dishes bearing this name to conform to an increasingly fixed recipe and this likely especially in restaurant kitchens. In this manner the Vesuvio preparations are perhaps on the way to being established as a dish more or less distinct from its Southern Italian forebears (especially given the development of ‘Vesuvio’ style which no longer necessarily involves chicken – see below). But this secondary development in no way alters the indisputable fact that the dish is in all ways a direct outgrowth and in essence a continuation of the Southern Italian tradition of roasting chicken pieces.



    Now, one issue surrounding “chicken Vesuvio” comes down to the following: To what degree can one regard the body of more or less closely related recipes that restaurants and domestic cooks in Chicago make and themselves think of and call “chicken Vesuvio” as constituting now a sufficiently codified and distinct dish as to be in some real sense detached from the body of its (Southern) Italian forebears of pollo arrosto (con le patate)? ReneG says it is that and I’m sure many of you would agree with that position. As can be seen clearly from what I stated above that I am not claiming, I agree with this position to a degree: for me, the variation with regard to basic aspects of the dish renders it still in a stage of development (just review the restaurant versions described above by GWiv and others, including published descriptions of older restaurants' versions). At the same time, though, one must also note the detachment of a (still not fully codified) Vesuvio-style which can be applied to presumably any manner of flesh (try the iguana!): That development strengthens in my view the claim that the dish is an independent res culinaria Chicagoensis propria.

    But, while all that is well and good, that was not the focus or claim of my original post in this thread, which clearly is unpalatable to many but has not been in any specific way or with any particular evidence challenged.

    Antonius wrote:It has been claimed that the various preparations served in Chicagoland which are known as “chicken Vesuvio” constitute a unique dish that was “invented” in Chicago and further that this manner of preparing chicken is not known in Italy. The short passage from Mr. Vettel’s review of the Grotto cited by Cathy2 expresses this view very succinctly: “People who dismiss chicken Vesuvio for its lack of Italian pedigree (the dish was invented in Chicago) forget how good it tastes when you do it right” [emphasis added].


    Beyond Mr. Vettel’s statement, I have heard many others say that the addition of the potatoes to the chicken constitutes the original touch of the Chicago version, or less often some other aspect is so invoked. But the simple fact remains that the basic dish as described below is one that my family and many other southern Italian families from Naples to New York, from Benevento to Boston, from Potenza to Patterson, from Salerno to Sandy Hook, from Taranto to Toronto, and on and on, have enjoyed all while being blissfully unaware of the noble culinary traditions of Chicago.

    ReneG wrote:When you order Chicken Vesuvio in Chicago you have a reasonable expectation of receiving pan roasted chicken, cut into serving pieces, prepared with lots of olive oil, plenty of garlic, usually white wine, and always roasted potatoes but never any other vegetable except the optional peas (I think this is a later addition).


    Again, to sum up, to claim the dish in question has “no Italian pedigree,” to claim that the addition of potatoes to the dish, or of peas, or the method of cooking used in its preparation, is something “invented” in Chicago, is nonsense, pure and simple. The dish is a basic (Southern) Italian dish which picked up a new name in Chicago. Under that new name, it continues to evolve, while bearing in the range and sort of variation it allows a close spiritual relationship to the pollo arrosto con le patate that so many of us Italians like to eat on Sunday afternoons.

    Antonius

    Typo fixed.
    Last edited by Antonius on April 19th, 2005, 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #41 - April 19th, 2005, 7:43 am
    Post #41 - April 19th, 2005, 7:43 am Post #41 - April 19th, 2005, 7:43 am
    So if we are really taking it all the way back into the twenties and to Colosimo's, then maybe The Vesuvio was named that because that was a dish associated with Italian dining in Chicago and not the other way around!

    Another thing about taking it that far back is that we do reach such an early point in the history of ethnic dining in America that something as simple as a stock Italian style of preparing chicken could seem like a genuine innovation or at least novelty. I think that is, at bottom, the explanation for the fact that Rene G, Vital Info etc. say, quite rightly, that Chicago has long had a firm sense of having invented something, while Antonius says, equally convincingly, that there was nothing to invent (and once "invented," it hardly stayed fixed).

    Roast chicken with a little garlic and oregano, and maybe some red wine vinegar or lemon, may seem as obvious as toast with jam, but in the context of WASP dining pre-WWII, it was as exotic and strongly-flavored as Thai food. Indeed, not merely exotic but decadent; I once ran across a quote from the Jacob Riis era of immigration that cited, as proof of the essential inferiority, indeed criminality, of the Italian immigrant the fact that he often clung to his own cuisine even once in America and finally able to abandon spaghetti and veal scallopini for scrapple and Yankee pot roast. (And now we've all sunk to that level!) That is another reason I instinctively felt the dish's origins had to be before WWII; especially after that war (in which so many farm boys and girls tried new things), Italian or Italian-American food was a standard part of the American experience, the romantic little spaghetti joint cheap enough for a poor young couple to afford, complete with effusively paternal proprietor named Giuseppe, is a fixture of many Hollywood movies by the 1940s (common enough to even be parodied in a Disney cartoon, The Lady and the Tramp, 1952). You have to go back to at least the early 30s if not earlier to find a time when Italian food is still something exotic and urban; that's the context in which it makes sense to me that Chicken Vesuvio could seem new.

    Unfortunately the fact that John Drury doesn't mention the dish wouldn't seem to mean much, as most of his writeups are very vague on the actual food (but take care to tell you the headwaiter's name so you know who to ask for; this is typical of guides for the period, seen most amusingly in those exposé guides which loudly decry the rampant immorality for sale in areas like Chicago's Levee, complete with addresses, who to ask for and what special interests they cater to).
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  • Post #42 - April 19th, 2005, 8:40 am
    Post #42 - April 19th, 2005, 8:40 am Post #42 - April 19th, 2005, 8:40 am
    Mike G wrote:Another thing about taking it that far back is that we do reach such an early point in the history of ethnic dining in America that something as simple as a stock Italian style of preparing chicken could seem like a genuine innovation or at least novelty. I think that is, at bottom, the explanation for the fact that Rene G, Vital Info etc. say, quite rightly, that Chicago has long had a firm sense of having invented something, while Antonius says, equally convincingly, that there was nothing to invent (and once "invented," it hardly stayed fixed).



    The thing is, on one hand, I think most of us (at least me) accept the basic premis of Antonius's point, that chicken v is not an innovative a dish. On the other hand, I think where I (at least) still disagree with Antonius, is the fact that, a version of roast chicken was put together in Chicago and dubbed chicken vesuvio. I want to add, which I have said before in this thread, to me there is something specifically defining about what I would call "classic" vesuvio, and that is a sauce. It is more than roast chicken, it has a sauce. It is a sauce that is especially winey. So for me, the "taste" of vesuvio is mostly associated with wetness and high acidity from the white wine used.

    Which leads me to my next point, I think the "classic" style of vesuvio is somewhat in dis-favor amongst diners. Modern cooking is not as wet, so to speak. And I think a lot of versions that appear to be just like roast chicken are just reactions to what eaters want (i.e., less sauce/more garlic.)

    Which gets me to my final point. I still find the argument about the lack of recipe sanctity meaningless. Let me try another analogy/example. Oysters Rockefeller is a dish with a VERY clear history. No one denies it was "invented" at Antoines in the 19th century. Over time, many other places made their version of the dish. The defining feature of this dish are a green, creamy, mildly spicey, anise scented mush baked onto oysters. But Antoines never (and specifically) did not release their recipe. Over time a lot of versions contained spinnach, and spinach may even be considered "right" but good sources insist their is no spinanch in the original. There are now versions with cream and cheese and who knows that may only bare a passing resemblance to oysters rock (i'd say it has to be green). Yet, all the variations in the approach over time do not alter the history.

    Which means, what ever Grandma A was making, it was NOT chicken vesuvio, no matter how much it was LIKE chicken vesuvio. The failure to pinpoint the first vesuvio does not mean there was not a first vesuvio.

    8)
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #43 - April 19th, 2005, 9:44 am
    Post #43 - April 19th, 2005, 9:44 am Post #43 - April 19th, 2005, 9:44 am
    Vital Information wrote:The failure to pinpoint the first vesuvio does not mean there was not a first vesuvio.


    I have enjoyed this tomato tomahto polemic, however, my far more immediate concern rests with the results of what I sense is an impending CV-athon, organized by VI, led in spirit by Antonius and with at the minimum Gwiv and Rene G and Mike G's and JIL's and C2's input to balance the equation. No takeout either, but a same day back to back chicken on the table marathon.

    Wiping sleep from his eyes at 11:25 AM, waiter to party of 12: 'What will you have?'
    'Chicken Vesuvio'.
    'And you, sir?'
    'Water, and a check'.

    This way, at least 15 places could be hit between 11:30 AM and 11:00 PM, the results catalogued and reported.

    Of course, an alternate structre could work as well, or better.
    Chicago is my spiritual chow home
  • Post #44 - April 19th, 2005, 9:55 am
    Post #44 - April 19th, 2005, 9:55 am Post #44 - April 19th, 2005, 9:55 am
    MikeG:

    Good points and...

    MikeG wrote:Roast chicken with a little garlic and oregano, and maybe some red wine vinegar or lemon, may seem as obvious as toast with jam, but in the context of WASP dining pre-WWII, it was as exotic and strongly-flavored as Thai food. Indeed, not merely exotic but decadent; I once ran across a quote from the Jacob Riis era of immigration that cited, as proof of the essential inferiority, indeed criminality, of the Italian immigrant the fact that he often clung to his own cuisine even once in America and finally able to abandon spaghetti and veal scallopini for scrapple and Yankee pot roast. (And now we've all sunk to that level!)


    ... very funny too. You’re right about how Italian food was regarded in the pre-WWII age by much of the general American population and there are parallels with other ‘alien’ cuisines. I still remember distinctly that as late as the 1960’s and 1970’s lots of Americans thought garlic was nasty and weird and something they wouldn’t eat (even though they were eating it in their pizzas and spaghetti and meatballs and maybe also their Chinese take-out, etc.). The Emeral-live phenomenon of people wallowing in tubs of puréed garlic is to the old way of thinking about garlic as Plato's Retreat was to Victorian views of other fleshy matters.

    Now, what should I have for dinner, scaloppini or scrapple... (not to imply scrapple doesn’t have its rightful place in the world)...

    *****

    Rob:

    VI wrote:Which means, what ever Grandma A was making, it was NOT chicken vesuvio, no matter how much it was LIKE chicken vesuvio.


    Quite, it was pollo arrosto con le patate with olive oil, garlic, wine, herbs and maybe peas. And???* :shock:

    VI wrote:The failure to pinpoint the first vesuvio does not mean there was not a first vesuvio.


    But again you seem to miss a very simple point: the application of a new name does not constitute “invention.” As I say a couple of times above, once named, the existence of a name may alter the way a thing is regarded and thus too how it develops further over time but the name-giving does not alter the historical context in which das Ding an sich came into being.

    :P

    Emmanuale ‘Antonius’ Canto
    Italo-Prussian Academy

    ____
    * On the other hand, one could say with considerable justification that my Grandmother's roasted chicken and potato dish was what is known as "chicken Vesuvio" in the Chicago dialect. And as kids we drank soda with it, which also has a different name in Chicago dialect, no?

    *****

    A footnote to the present discussion concerning a post on CH San Francisco about the restaurant “Pazzia”:

    JohnnyP wrote:I orderd the roasted chicken with potatoes. I wanted something simple, uncomplicated... but hearty and satisfying at the same time. I ordered perfectly. The dish reminded me of roasted lamb w/ potatoes (spiced lightly with rosemary) from your basic trattoria in Rome.


    I’m reasonably certain I would concur with JohnnyP’s statement with regard to the similarity to the treatment of lamb (see my response to GWiv earlier in this thread) and would add that the same treatment of chicken can also be found in trattorie in Rome –– I had a Sunday afternoon meal of roasted chicken and potatoes (that in Chicago would have passed as “Vesuvio”) at such a place, I think in the Piazza Sant’ Ignazio, about 25 years ago, back when I was gathering the requisite documents to establish Italian citizenship. Further information about the background of Pazzia, the restaurant in question in the CH post, is also worth noting:

    JohnnyP wrote:Following is a quote from San Francisco's Italian Cultural Institute Website:
    "PAZZIA - Massimo Ballerini and Marco Sassone were both born in Florence. Massimo’s family owns and runs the restaurant I Ghibellini, considered one of the finest restaurants in Florence specializing in Tuscan cuisine. Pazzia specializes in homemade breads, pizza, pasta, and deserts prepared daily."


    By the way, judging from the comments in the thread over in Leffland, this restaurant sounds like a great place.

    *****

    Steve D:

    I believe I remember you had an especially impressive recipe for the dish and I think your presence for a CVathon would be a considerable boon for the expedition as a whole.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #45 - April 19th, 2005, 9:56 am
    Post #45 - April 19th, 2005, 9:56 am Post #45 - April 19th, 2005, 9:56 am
    Hi,

    I also feel compelled to attempt the homemade-CV-athon: 'my' recipe which is a combination of 3 recipes printed in the Tribune at various times, Cook's Illustrated, Steve's recipe, Harry Carey cookbook's recipe and the ringer from Sundevilpeg with artichoke hearts, principally because I like artichoke hearts.

    I'm just not quite sure my family is up to it.

    Regards,
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
    Facebook, Twitter, Greater Midwest Foodways, Road Food 2012: Podcast
  • Post #46 - April 19th, 2005, 11:36 am
    Post #46 - April 19th, 2005, 11:36 am Post #46 - April 19th, 2005, 11:36 am
    Mike G wrote:Roast chicken with a little garlic and oregano, and maybe some red wine vinegar or lemon, may seem as obvious as toast with jam, but in the context of WASP dining pre-WWII, it was as exotic and strongly-flavored as Thai food. Indeed, not merely exotic but decadent; I once ran across a quote from the Jacob Riis era of immigration that cited, as proof of the essential inferiority, indeed criminality, of the Italian immigrant the fact that he often clung to his own cuisine even once in America and finally able to abandon spaghetti and veal scallopini for scrapple and Yankee pot roast. (And now we've all sunk to that level!)


    Mike, that’s a great point about Italian food being exotic back in the old days and disdained by some. Anglos in Southern California had similar attitudes about Mexican food, according to an interesting book which I have been desultorily reading in lately, Recipe of Memory: Five Generations of Mexican Cuisine, by Victor M. Valle and Mary Lau Valle. The Valles cite as an example a newspaper story from the Los Angeles Record in 1899, which tells of a 21 year old shop girl – “a most pronounced blonde” with “beautiful flaxen hair, a pearly complexion and large expressive blue eyes” – who was in a coma close to death. Why? She had eaten a tamale. :shock:
  • Post #47 - April 19th, 2005, 12:03 pm
    Post #47 - April 19th, 2005, 12:03 pm Post #47 - April 19th, 2005, 12:03 pm
    I made it last night, only I didn't use chicken, I used half a glatt kosher turkey breast instead, and I didn't cut the potatoes in wedges because they wouldn't fit in the skillet that way with the turkey breast. And I used both wine and lemon, because I felt like it. But I didn't use oregano but instead a very healthy dose of turkish dried red pepper in with the garlic. I did use peas.

    And when himself got home late from work and asked what's for dinner, I didn't give it a name, I just said "This is."

    It was good.

    :twisted:
  • Post #48 - April 19th, 2005, 2:01 pm
    Post #48 - April 19th, 2005, 2:01 pm Post #48 - April 19th, 2005, 2:01 pm
    Antonius wrote:I believe I remember you had an especially impressive recipe for the dish and I think your presence for a CVathon would be a considerable boon for the expedition as a whole.


    I hereby affirm my intent to participate. Where are the usual suspects?
    Chicago is my spiritual chow home
  • Post #49 - April 20th, 2005, 8:40 pm
    Post #49 - April 20th, 2005, 8:40 pm Post #49 - April 20th, 2005, 8:40 pm
    Among civilized people, it is my belief, there can be no surfeit of circumstantial evidence. Desirous of throwing another log on this fire, I called an acquaintance who is a descendant of the Colosimo family (yeah, that Colosimo) to probe his childhood memories of Chicken Vesuvio or pollo arrosto con le patate. I also secretly hoped, if he were so disposed, he might share a few bon mots regarding the whacking of Big Jim.

    As background, my acquaintance was born on the west side of Chicago in the mid 1930s and was from the larger, honest, destined-to-be-college-educated side of the family, and had a long career as a history teacher. After initial courtesies, we got down to the business of food history. He was quick to observe that Chicken Vesuvio was "some sort of Neapolitan dish, isn't it?", and thus foreign to the cultivated palate of Calabrese, so he would have no direct experience of its provenance. Having never dined in the eponymous family restaurant, he couldn't provide any clarity there, either. He described with no small delight a Christmas dish made of capon, though, and that dish sure sounded to these Neapolitan ears identical to the topic of this thread, plus, it was served with roasted potatoes (QED!). More popular in his ancestral home, though, were: chicken with olives,anchovies, and hot peppers; chicken stuffed with sausage and roasted (con patate); and a pollo in umido with bell peppers, tomato, and potatoes. He could recall none of these dishes being named after towns, restaurants, or volcanoes.

    I tried to finesse the topic of the ventilation of Zio Vincenzo, but was rebuffed. Instead, I got a short dissertation on the great aviator, Italo Balbo, but could not establish any relevance to our discussion here.
  • Post #50 - April 21st, 2005, 9:01 am
    Post #50 - April 21st, 2005, 9:01 am Post #50 - April 21st, 2005, 9:01 am
    I'm jumping in with a first, but obviously late, entry into all of these mental gymnastics relating to the origins of chicken vesuvio. I've read it all, and it's fun, but what finally got my undivided attention was Steve Drucker's suggestion of a CVathon, in which I'd love to participate.

    But I would like to toss in a thought about the pedantic (and fun, to be sure) entries here regarding the origins, Chicago or otherwise, of CV. These are educational and thought provoking posts. It seems to me, though, that the practical usefulness of the ubiquitous presence of CV on Chicago restaurant menus transcends the bona fides of its historical origins (and clearly, though anecdotally, no American city seems to specifically list the dish nearly to the extent Chicago does).

    For, by specifically labelling a dish "chicken vesuvio," that restaurant is clearly challenging all (like me) who seek the ultimate in the sensual pleasures of the aroma, taste and mixed textures of this great dish, to match that proprietor's offering against any and all comers. Were a restaurant to offer "roasted garlic chicken with potatoes," or any generic variant of that, it would be unfair to then compare that as a culinary experience to any establishment bold enough to proclaim an offering of real chicken vesuvio. In other words, accepting, as I do, that any number of variations of the dish can legitimately be labelled as chicken vesuvio, it is only that specific appellation that allows culinary adventurers like us to compare one offering to the many others.

    As I've posted on another thread, my quest for the "perfect" chicken vesuvio goes back at least 40 years, when this city's best rendition of the garlicky bird was available at the New Capri (and yes, of course I understand that "perfect" in a culinary context is always very personal), located on Diversey, just west of Clark (I think it was in the space then taken over by the now also defunct Lawrence of Oregano). Following New Capri's unfortunate demise, I became equally loving of the CV offered at Candelite (but only when Bobby was doing the cooking). That rendition of the dish is long gone, but, as we all know, Candelite is still a great venue for one of the city's best thin crust pizzas.

    As readers of an earlier post of mine know, I currently consider the CV at Cannella's on Grand a culinary sensation with no equal. I've seen postings that promote the delights of the Grotto version, and the Harry Caray version, both of which I've tried, and neither of which I think is worthy of even a close second place. But that's the point, isn't it? That's what really makes us fortunate to be in a venue with so many eateries claiming to be able to offer this dish, in whatever form. It allows us to pursue our quest for the one that excites us the most by being able to compare any number of offerings with that specific appellation.
    Last edited by marydon2 on April 21st, 2005, 8:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • Post #51 - April 24th, 2005, 9:20 am
    Post #51 - April 24th, 2005, 9:20 am Post #51 - April 24th, 2005, 9:20 am
    Hey, Antonius, what is a "culinary invention?"

    Since it does not seem there is that much argument about the general facts behind Chicken Vesuvio, I guess the issue is primarily semantic - the defintion of the word invention, as it applies to culinary preparations, and their names.

    If I make a variant on a traditional recipe that is not particularly unique (whatever particularly unique means), add a new name, promote it well and gain notoriety for the dish, is that an invention? I conclude you would say no, but I really fail to see how that is such a big deal either way.

    Virtually every food preparation has antecedents that are pretty darned similar to it. I find it useful and interesting to learn about those antecedents, but I fail to see the value in arguing about whether a particular preparation and name combination attains the status of an invention.

    But my answer, if asked, would be: "Yes, no, and who cares? How does it taste?" If you conclude this is evidence of valuing the experiential and even sensual over intellectual rigor, I plead guilty as charged.

    Thank you for all the information on the antecedents of Chicken Vesuvio, a Chicago dish, if only by its name, with a long tradition of Italian cooking firmly behind it.

    I both await GWiv's report on his extensive CV survey, and stand ready to participate in such a project at any time. I can report that the Grotto makes a darned good CV, as does the Capri out here in N'ville.

    Roasted Chicken, in all its forms, is a truly wondrous thing.
    d
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #52 - April 24th, 2005, 2:20 pm
    Post #52 - April 24th, 2005, 2:20 pm Post #52 - April 24th, 2005, 2:20 pm
    dicksond:

    Your post brings to the fore something that I have sensed from some of the previous posts, namely, that my original and main point has been made so persuasively that it is now felt to be common knowledge but then in turn I am taken to task for claims I have not made. I will try one more time to make it clear what had been claimed about “Chicken Vesuvio” and what I have argued here and elsewhere.

    Many people have claimed that “Chicken Vesuvio” is a dish invented in Chicago and that it has no close or direct antecedent or forebear in Italy. Among the things that have been claimed most often and most prominently as being the great Chicago invention have been the addition of potatoes to the roasted chicken pieces, the addition of peas (and potatoes) to the roasting pan, the combined stove-top to oven method of cooking the dish, and surely also the wine/garlic/herb(/lemon) flavouring of the dish. One more time I call attention to the statement by Phil Vettel which moved me to start this thread:

    Antonius wrote:It has been claimed that the various preparations served in Chicagoland which are known as “chicken Vesuvio” constitute a unique dish that was “invented” in Chicago and further that this manner of preparing chicken is not known in Italy. The short passage from Mr. Vettel’s review of the Grotto cited by Cathy2 expresses this view very succinctly: “People who dismiss chicken Vesuvio for its lack of Italian pedigree (the dish was invented in Chicago) forget how good it tastes when you do it right” [emphasis added].


    I have called attention to the fact that there is no single, reasonably narrowly defined and canonised recipe for “Chicken Vesuvio” and that ALL of the variants (including the one that is used in a number of restaurants and is now at least on the way to becoming “THE Chicken Vesuvio”) fit neatly within the range of variants of chicken pieces roasted with herbs, wine and/or lemon with various vegetables including potatoes and peas in Southern Italy and other places, such as New Jersey and New York, where Southern Italians have settled. These are simple facts that apparently have been hitherto unknown to or ignored by those who wish to claim a very particular version of the “invention” of this dish. That the analogues in Italy and elsewhere exist is a fact known to all those who grew up in Italian families with traditionally oriented kitchens and/or make a habit of reading Italian cookbooks. From that perspective, it seems utterly wrong for someone to say, for example, “‘Chicken Vesuvio’ is a distinctly Chicago-dish because we Chicagoans added cut up potatoes to roast along with the chicken pieces.” This claim strikes me as saying , in effect, that somebody made chicken in Chicago the way their Grandmother did in Italy and claimed it was his or her individual “invention” and that by making it in Chicago and/or giving it a new name, that constituted an act of 'creation', of culinary innovation. Hogwash, I say.

    Now, once again, I must repeat that I have not claimed that the dish does not have a special status within the culinary culture of Chicago, and I have also (from the start) said that to some degree the dish has become or at least is on the way to becoming a thing separate from the Italian forebears. But no one can point to anything that is a specifically Chicago innovation at the basic level of what the dish is.

    What is a culinary “invention”? Well, again, above I have offered an example of what I think is an "invention" or at least real, local innovation:

    Antonius wrote:A [...] relevant analogy seems to me to be an actual Chicago innovation, namely the Chicago stuffed pizza, which is obviously a crossing of the holiday pizze with a short dough and savoury filling of Southern Italy with the flat-bread pizza alla Napoletana. In effect, the Chicago stuffed pie uses the sort of stuff that is more appropriate (from the traditional Southern Italian standpoint) to putting on a flat pizza and putting it inside the package (pastry-like dough) in place of the more traditional sorts of fillings (there is some overlap here but the point should be clear).
    Now, a stuffed pizza in Chicago is something for which different restaurants surely have somewhat differing recipes, but that which marks the thing as an innovation here in Chicago is shared by all, namely, dough-type, form of pie and basic ingredients for filling. There is no such distinctive feature of “Chicken Vesuvio” to which one can point. The potatoes are not unique, nor the flavouring with herbs and wine or lemon, nor the cooking method (stove top to oven or just oven). The innovation that sets Chicken Vesuvio apart historically from “roasted chicken with potatoes” is the name, tout court.


    This crossing of very distinct (by recipe and culinary rôle) kinds of pizze does not, to my knowledge, occur in Italy, nor in places where (Southern) Italians have settled (e.g., Northeast of U.S.) except to the extent that it has been imported from Chicago. It is a dish that is originally peculiar to Chicago. It is a Chicago invention, if you will. "Chicken Vesuvio," chicken pieces, roasted in a pan with potatoes and possibly peas etc. etc. just ain't a similar sort of a beast.

    To my mind, somebody taking a recipe with lots of minor variants that he or she learned from his or her family and that is made in essentially the same way by all the families (i.e. with similar minor variations) in the old home-town or old country, and giving it a new name does not constitute a culinary invention. Incidentally, though, I doubt very much the original cook to use the Chicago name “Chicken Vesuvio” (whom I, along with MikeG, would guess worked at the Vesuvio Restaurant on Wacker) did not intend to claim it as a personal invention and original product of his individual culinary genius. No, I think he just needed a name for his customers and perhaps especially non-Italian customers who would likely not know what to expect from or be interested in a dish bearing the simple name we use for it, a dish we eat on so many Sundays of every year: pollo arrosto (con le patate), ‘roasted chicken (with potatoes)’.

    Again, what was the specific innovation that made “Chicken Vesuvio” a Chicago invention? That in some sense at least broke with the tradition of pollo arrosto (con le patate)? It does not exist. Subsequent development of the dish over recent decades was NOT the focus of my original post. Look back to the quote from Phil Vettel, which expresses a view that was and perhaps by some is still held with regard to the origins of the dish, a view that cannot be defended in light of the facts.

    Finally, some people may well not care at all about historical issues such as the one at hand and that’s fine. But some people do and I think it an absolutely legitimate topic for discussion on the Non-Food Chat board. Indeed, I find it a more worthwhile endeavour than debating the undebatable, that is, matters that are purely questions of taste.

    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
    Na sir is na seachain an cath.
  • Post #53 - April 24th, 2005, 4:13 pm
    Post #53 - April 24th, 2005, 4:13 pm Post #53 - April 24th, 2005, 4:13 pm
    Antonius wrote:Finally, some people may well not care at all about historical issues such as the one at hand and that’s fine. But some people do and I think it an absolutely legitimate topic for discussion on the Non-Food Chat board. Indeed, I find it a more worthwhile endeavour than debating the undebatable, that is, matters that are purely questions of taste. Antonius


    A,

    Couldn't agree with you more. I have read this exchange with interest, and have not participated due to a lack of knowledge rather than lack of interest. I think debates of this nature are exactly the sort that would make average civilians roll their eyes and say "get a life," but this kind of impassioned examination of culinary traditions and menu minutiae feels right at home on the Non-Food Chat board.

    Hammond
    “Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody’s gonna die. Come watch TV?”
  • Post #54 - April 24th, 2005, 7:13 pm
    Post #54 - April 24th, 2005, 7:13 pm Post #54 - April 24th, 2005, 7:13 pm
    What the Hat sez.

    But back to the main point. Antonius, you seem to take it that we all agree with your point that chicken vesuvio is no different from any other dish like it. But that, my friend, is where we do not agree, and where I believe your argument fails.

    I have made this point above, but I shall make it again. Chicken Vesuvio does not (or did not) refer to all versions of roasted, garlic chicken with potatoes. The fact, that to a certain extent, that is what is has come to mean today, has no bearing on the history of the dish.

    Chicken Vesuvio refers to a very specific combination of chicken and sauce. One that is much more sauce, than in say contemporary versions. Old time Chicago eaters KNOW the specific sauce that is vesuvio. As I have noted above, vesuvio was much more about the wine than the garlic. In fact, the winey-ness of the dish made it a very un-kid like choice as I remember growing up. And, as I have said above, tastes have changed, especially in favor of the dry, and that is why (I think) vesuvio seems a lot less vesuvio these days.

    So, yes, I (and probably everyone else) agrees with you that roasted chicken in a garlic sauce, garnished with potatoes was not invented in Chicago. No cook in Chicago first thought to make chicken that way. On the other hand, someone in Chicago made his chicken/garlic/white wine/potato dish *a* way, his way, and someone dubbed *that* version chicken vesuvio.

    Rob
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #55 - April 24th, 2005, 9:23 pm
    Post #55 - April 24th, 2005, 9:23 pm Post #55 - April 24th, 2005, 9:23 pm
    I don't think Antonius says it's no different.

    I think he says C.V. is a subset of the larger set of Italian roast chicken dishes; that nothing in it falls outside of that set and thus betrays originality or an unmistakable American origin (as if it included a slice of pineapple on top, say); and that it is, in any case, so vaguely defined, the name used to apply to so many variations, that it's hard to even define the outlines of it as a subset of roast chicken. Basically, if an Italian restaurant in Chicago roasts a chicken, it's Chicken Vesuvio, is what he's saying. (I'm speaking for him because I know he's shy about posting.)

    You, on the other hand, say that a heavy hand with the wine is a distinguishing characteristic of C.V.-- or was in the old days. I wonder how many folks agree. Might be true, might not-- I was pretty sure that lemon was a non-negotiable item in C.V. but there have been plenty of mentions here that did without it. I tend to think that for a named dish, especially one specifically associated with a place and with restaurant dining, C.V. does have an unusually wide degree of variation, even if certain things turn up with such frequency that, as someone said very early on, you know it when you see it. (But I might not. Or if I know it when I see it, you might not, depending on the versions we each grew up eating. Or in my case, grew up not eating, since I didn't grow up here.)

    I think we have arrived at the essential conundrums of Chicken Vesuvio, the mysteries of Chicken Vesuvio. We are at the chicken foot of Mount Vesuvio, waiting for the oracle to speak. Chicken Vesuvio was invented in Chicago after existing in Italian cooking since the dawn of time. It has an essential nature which is not defined by any essential ingredient, including chicken. What is the sound of one Chicken Vesuvio wining? If you cut some potatoes in a forest, do they make a Vesuvio?
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  • Post #56 - April 24th, 2005, 9:40 pm
    Post #56 - April 24th, 2005, 9:40 pm Post #56 - April 24th, 2005, 9:40 pm
    But alas, dear MikeG, the debate IS one of semantics and philosophy.

    What seems abundantly clear *to me* is that at some point, a version of chicken, wine, garlic, and potatoes (I do not think lemon is cannonical) became a dish, a different dish.

    What I think Antonious is really arguing, or should be arguing, is that at what point can we call a version a new dish. It is really an argument of intellectual property. What gave someone the right to "claim" chicken vesuvio.

    Now, I would argue, that the food world is full of ever changing and re-named dishes. One tinkers, and voila, it is chicken vesuvio. Think of this, other chefs in New Orleans were tinkering with the same set of ingredients and created chicken bonne femme. It is of couse, a totally different beast.

    I would also add, that back in the day, it was quite common for restaurants to name dishes (as has been pointed out in this thread). I think it makes more sense that the attribution was as a stake of ownership, especially if we accept the claim that it came from the Vesuvio restaurant. Why call it after the restaurant if it was not a dish the restaurant felt particularly proud of.

    I think it is fair to give credit to the Chicagoan who first invented chicken vesuvio.

    :P :P :evil:
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #57 - April 24th, 2005, 9:57 pm
    Post #57 - April 24th, 2005, 9:57 pm Post #57 - April 24th, 2005, 9:57 pm
    Except we've seen versions without chicken or potatoes, and you say the wine is often skimpier than it used to be, and I'm sure there's some place catering to the old folks that omits the garlic.

    And so we come to the ultimate definition of Chicken Vesuvio: a dish consisting of chicken (optional), wine (optional), garlic (optional), and potatoes (optional), to which many substitutions are often made. Invented in Chicago.
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  • Post #58 - April 24th, 2005, 10:19 pm
    Post #58 - April 24th, 2005, 10:19 pm Post #58 - April 24th, 2005, 10:19 pm
    Mike G wrote:Except we've seen versions without chicken or potatoes, and you say the wine is often skimpier than it used to be, and I'm sure there's some place catering to the old folks that omits the garlic.

    And so we come to the ultimate definition of Chicken Vesuvio: a dish consisting of chicken (optional), wine (optional), garlic (optional), and potatoes (optional), to which many substitutions are often made. Invented in Chicago.


    But I think it is a grave error to equate what chicken vesuvio has become, to what chicken vesuvio was. Or put another way, what a dish tastes like today has no bearing on what the original dish was. Or put it another way, the seeming confusion of what the dish means today, does not mean that there has always been confusion over what the dish was.

    It is only over time that the dish and name have morped, adapted to changing tastes and styles. Also, it has become a signifier for a certain kinda Italian resturant (or perhaps better, a certain kinda restaurant). Why for instance, did Harry Carey's make it its signature dish.

    You know also, it is that way with a lot of dishes. How many cooks still use Holland rusks for their eggs benedict?

    :shock:
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  • Post #59 - April 24th, 2005, 10:26 pm
    Post #59 - April 24th, 2005, 10:26 pm Post #59 - April 24th, 2005, 10:26 pm
    I've tried to stay out of this, because I'm conflicted. Maybe like Antonius, when I have a dangerously high fever or get hit in the head and see stars, it's Sunday morning and the air is filled with the truncated Neapolitan song, tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, and the very distinct essence of "roasted chicken with potatoes and maybe other stuff with wine, garlic and oregano." I'm five, and no one I know is from, or has been to, Chicago (except maybe my uncle Johnnie, but not for the chicken).

    On the other hand, no one embraces and pays this much attention to Italian style roast chicken and potatoes.

    They eat Frankfurters in Frankfurt, but I still think Chicago has some claim when it comes to hot dogs. Porchetta is commonplace in Italy, but the pork Italian, I think, is a South Philly sandwich here in the US.

    On the other hand, I'm not sure we've made a sub-genre of roast chicken here, the way there has been an evolutionary shift to the garden dog or the Mission burrito. In the end, it might be a style of potato (or a style of style based on a sauce) that Chicago can take credit for, not a style of chicken.

    I offer as exhibit A, the bife Vesuvio at Tango Sur, one of the finest dishes I've tried with Vesuvio in the name. A big chunk of steak, filled with provoletta, spinach, and "Vesuvio sauce," grilled in the Argentine style, then covered with more sauce and Vesuvio potatoes. I don't know, but if I tasted this, and didn't know the name, I might guess something Vesuvio.

    Intriguingly, the roast chicken (not Vesuvio?) comes with Vesuvio Potatoes.

    I'm interested in why these Argentines, with all of their Argentine-Italian dishes, decided to go with Vesuvio-style as a description. Not just shorthand for "roasted potatoes" but a certain winey, garlicky kind of roasted potato. Talked to the nice Uruguayan lady today while stocking up on some morcillas, chorizos, tasajo and malgueta sauce. While discussing my own ethnicity, she noted the many Italians in Urugay and Argentina and was surprised to find out that there are any in Chicago. Didn't know anything about Vesuvio style.
  • Post #60 - April 25th, 2005, 1:57 am
    Post #60 - April 25th, 2005, 1:57 am Post #60 - April 25th, 2005, 1:57 am
    Mike G wrote:And so we come to the ultimate definition of Chicken Vesuvio: a dish consisting of chicken (optional), wine (optional), garlic (optional), and potatoes (optional), to which many substitutions are often made. Invented in Chicago.


    :lol: :lol: :lol:


    Vital Information wrote:But I think it is a grave error to equate what chicken vesuvio has become, to what chicken vesuvio was. Or put another way, what a dish tastes like today has no bearing on what the original dish was. Or put it another way, the seeming confusion of what the dish means today, does not mean that there has always been confusion over what the dish was.

    It is only over time that the dish and name have morped, adapted to changing tastes and styles.


    Rob:

    I find this wrinkle in the argument pleasantly ironic: I claim Vesuvio has become or at least is on its way to becoming something genuinely Chicagoense but am villified or denounced (or something) for rejecting orthodoxy about the essential and original Chicagoness of CV; meanwhile, you claim that it used to be genuinely Chicagoense and , moreover, a Chicago invention but now is becoming some debased sort of a vaguely defined and historically inaccurate thing (more Italianoid in nature?).

    Your claims would have some persuasive force if you could offer evidence to support them. But such evidence is, so far as I can tell, wanting. Just in the course of this thread we have seen what I believe to be a sufficient number of recipes and OLD descriptions of the dish (at least one of which refers to it as an “Italian” concoction, which is vague but suggestive) which demonstrate clearly that there was no mythical innovative Chicagoan Ur-Vesuvio which has since degenerated into variety but rather that, as I have claimed ad nauseam, the variety itself is old and, since it conforms to variety seen in the Old Country, was beyond almost all doubt inherited from the Old Country. In other words, it seems very much the case to me that at some early date (once the term "Chcicken Vesuvio" caught on), people (especially of the Italian variety) started to adopt the name as a more colourful and handy handle for the old trusty pollo arrosto (con le patate), making the dish as their family more or less always had, perhaps with twists added by the individual cook, but not conforming to some highly revered and (quasi-) canonical dish cleverly put together for the first time in a professional kitchen on Wacker (or wherever).

    If you have knowledge of some original “Vesuvio” that was a) marked by an innovation thought up here (lots of wine in the flavouring doesn’t quite rate as that to my mind) and b) clearly was more or less widely accepted or recognised before degenerate variety set in, please produce the evidence, or at least give us a hint about its nature.

    In my view, the evidence points to a new name being applied to a dish which was one not particularly innovative representative of a loosely defined (Southern) Italian method of treating chicken pieces. Over time, some narrowing in the definition of the dish has taken place but the variation remains throughout the history of “Chicken Vesuvio” and right on up to the present day, despite a further possible narrowing of the definition in some restaurants; the variation remains very much part of the mix unless one chooses to ignore it. And to counter by saying that all recipes show variation in execution does not cut it here. For your position to be meaningful, you need to show that there was a specifically Chicagoan innovation that sets the dish apart and then that the variation is secondary to some "golden age of genuinely Chicagoan Vesuvio."

    :twisted: :roll: :D
    Antonius
    Alle Nerven exzitiert von dem gewürzten Wein -- Anwandlung von Todesahndungen -- Doppeltgänger --
    - aus dem Tagebuch E.T.A. Hoffmanns, 6. Januar 1804.
    ________
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