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The Alleged Chicago Origins of "Chicken Vesuvio"

The Alleged Chicago Origins of "Chicken Vesuvio"
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  • Post #61 - April 25th, 2005, 5:45 am
    Post #61 - April 25th, 2005, 5:45 am Post #61 - April 25th, 2005, 5:45 am
    Antonius, two points:

    1) First, you suggest this post contains evidence. Any evidence of old versions, from guide books and what, while helpful, seems not quite adequate to me. For if nothing else, not a single description above truly describes the dish. We have two descriptions provided by ReneG: “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" and "disjointed chicken, olive oil, garlic, and parsley." Aside from the lack of potato, do the dishes appear different? Where can you assume they were? I maintain that we have no definative evidence, beyond our own tastes and experience here of what chicken vesuvio is/was. I mean, we have no specific recipe for the first dish called chicken vesuvio, nor do we have any evidence as to why the name was used. We are just speculatin'

    2) I find it absurd the notion that all Chicago restaurants took to calling their version of roasted chicken with potatoes, chicken vesuvio. It is, of course, interesting that you did not grow up in Chicago and have no historical recollection of what the dish was. Yet, you assume that the name NEVER refered to a specific kinda preperation, a certain way of making chicken. Having seen chicken vesuvio on menu's, on plates, on tables, for many years, I have a strong sense of what the dish is, especially as compared to roasted chicken, broiled chicken, or say, other variations, like chicken scarpiello. So, to me, it is not a leap to think that the term was used by various restaunteurs to cover their version of this recipe, not their version of roasted chicken.

    As a few know, I come into this fight with my own interests in food history. I have all of the books cited above and a few more. I have a ton of old menu's, and I have a feeling, when I look a bit more, I am gonna find places that served roasted chicken AND chicken vesuvio. We'll see...

    :roll: :oops: :o :o :shock: 8)
    Think Yiddish, Dress British - Advice of Evil Ronnie to me.
  • Post #62 - April 25th, 2005, 10:33 am
    Post #62 - April 25th, 2005, 10:33 am Post #62 - April 25th, 2005, 10:33 am
    It does my heart good to know you two are staying up all night thinking about this.

    Seriously, as long as we're pulling historical suppositions out of, uh, thin air, there's probably some truth there-- although I don't think we can talk about a canonical CV when we don't know where it came from or how they served it, if we assume that it was popularized by one famous restaurant initially, The Vesuvio or some other, then there probably was less variation in ingredients way back when than the total ingredient anarchy we see today, because people would have been aiming to more closely reproduce a model. The more extreme swings of variation might very well have come with 1) the loss of living memory of the place that made it popular and 2) the general changes in how Italian food was perceived, with the Northern Italian fad in the 70s and 80s, changes in how Americans eat generally, etc.

    So check the menus and old books! By the way, one source I ran across a reference to but frankly have no idea where to find: in that big, fat, frequently too dry and frustrating, but nevertheless incredibly learned Encyclopedia of Chicago, the too dry and frustrating but learned entry on restaurants has citations at the end for Drury, and for an article on the history of dining in Chicago that apparently appeared in the Illinois Restaurant Association trade journal, or convention booklet, or something in 1945. Now, a 1945 article is probably about the 1880s more than the 1930s, but still, anybody ever seen this article?
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  • Post #63 - April 25th, 2005, 2:21 pm
    Post #63 - April 25th, 2005, 2:21 pm Post #63 - April 25th, 2005, 2:21 pm
    VI:

    The two old descriptions, vague as they are, together with the dozens and dozens of modern recipes and descriptions I’ve read all fail to do the one basic thing that should constitute the basis of your rejection of my position: None of these versions show anything that constitutes an innovation vis-à-vis the tradition of pollo arrosto (con le patate). Again, don’t put words in my mouth about what I am claiming and the secondary development of a Chicago dish has never been what I’ve been focussing on. The origins of the dish were my focus and a rejection of the – to my mind -- woefully misguided notion that “Chicken Vesuvio” is in some meaningful sense an original Chicago invention with no direct Italian forebears.

    You apparently dismiss my opinion on this matter because I was not nursed at the teat of Buckingham Fountain; well, I respect the experience that native Chicagoans have of this dish over a stretch of time longer than my 15 or 16 years here. But does your experience give you an answer to the specific question of what the great invention or innovation, the specific new twist, was that rendered this dish a novel Chicago recipe that radically (or even noticeably) broke with its (Southern) Italian forebears? I’m still waiting for that. We know it wasn’t the potatoes, nor the peas, nor the pan-to-oven cooking method, nor the use of wine or lemon or herbs or garlic. Is it the water of Lake Michigan used to rinse off the chicken pieces?

    Meanwhile, I will have to accept my lack of direct experience with Vesuvio over the course of my earlier life and do my best to make an historical argument on the basis of decades of studying Italian culinary culture and of cooking Italian food and an entire lifetime of eating chicken pieces with potatoes and garlic and wine and herbs that somehow didn’t have the magical touch that transforms them into “Chicken Vesuvio.” But if it's just the water from Lake Michigan, than I guess I've unwittingly been making Vesuvio since I moved here from Belgium back in the late 1980's.

    :twisted:

    Antonius

    P.S.
    MikeG wrote:It does my heart good to know you two are staying up all night thinking about this.

    Clearly, we are highly dedicated to doing our part to keep things on the board lively, 24/7. Serious about the culinary issues but all in good fun...
    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 #64 - April 25th, 2005, 6:28 pm
    Post #64 - April 25th, 2005, 6:28 pm Post #64 - April 25th, 2005, 6:28 pm
    Vital Information wrote:We have two descriptions provided by ReneG . . . Aside from the lack of potato . . .


    What the . . . ?

    I don’t have a lot of time right now but I just realized I made a significant error transcribing the ingredients in the Chicken Vesuvio recipe that Patricia Bronté provided in Vittles and Vice. The recipe contains potato. Here it is verbatim.

    CHICKEN VESUVIO
    Disjoint 1/2 chicken and brown in a skillet with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1 clove of chopped garlic, 1 large diced potato, and 1 tablespoon of minced parsley. Cook until the chicken is tender. Serves one.

    You’ll notice that my argument in the same post about Chicken Vesuvio always containing potato now possibly makes a bit of sense. I’m very sorry for the confusion.
  • Post #65 - April 25th, 2005, 9:28 pm
    Post #65 - April 25th, 2005, 9:28 pm Post #65 - April 25th, 2005, 9:28 pm
    I knew two weeks ago, when I mentioned the Trib's review of Chicken Vesuvio at the Grotto, this would evolve into the Everready Bunny discussion. :roll:

    As someone very early on noted, pan roasted chicken with herbs and potatoes is hardly exclusive to Italians. My Oma made a wonderful pan roasted chicken with herbs, wine and potatoes, which had many of the fingerprints of Chicken Vesuvio minus the garlic. My Oma used plenty of onions in her cooking, though I cannot recall ever seeing a garlic clove in her kitchen. I've even had pan roasted chicken in the USSR; which was cooked with garlic and potatoes.

    Everyday when I read the latest on the Chicken Vesuvio debates, I keep wondering who defends the lowly St. Paul Sandwich in St. Louis. Who understands and claims definitive knowledge how that sandwich was named or originated? This odd sandwich found almost exclusively in Chinese restaurants of St. Louis consisting of egg foo yung on Wonder Bread, served up with lettuce, tomato and mayo. Many in St. Louis are quite content to believe it is a St. Louis original and for all practical purposes exclusive to the region. While Chicken Vesuvio has many Fathers, the lowly St. Paul Sandwich is almost an untouchable, which nobody wants to lay claim to originating.

    This Chicken Vesuvio thread will continue on until simply all sides agree to disagree; which is often how many discussions of religion and politics end.
    Cathy2

    "You'll be remembered long after you're dead if you make good gravy, mashed potatoes and biscuits." -- Nathalie Dupree
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  • Post #66 - April 25th, 2005, 10:50 pm
    Post #66 - April 25th, 2005, 10:50 pm Post #66 - April 25th, 2005, 10:50 pm
    Ah HA!

    My glatt kosher half turkey breast swells with pride!

    The potatoes were diced! So they could fit in the pan!

    It was dinner!

    After dinner we told stories and then we pretended we kissed the Blarney Stone.

    But we were too tired to do that, you have to take a plane, and a train and a bus, or rent a car and drive on the wrong side of the road, and then once you get there you have to lay on your back and stretch your neck just to kiss this stone when we could be talking blarney hereabouts anyway.
  • Post #67 - January 31st, 2006, 1:42 pm
    Post #67 - January 31st, 2006, 1:42 pm Post #67 - January 31st, 2006, 1:42 pm
    After reading three pages of this, I felt I just had to add my two cents also.

    I have to agree with Antonius here. I grew up eating Chicken Vesuvio made for our family by my father (and I've mentioned his culinary skills before, elsewhere on this board), and he died in 1966. Presumably he learned this dish from his mother, as he had learned all the other Italian dishes he made from her, and as we lived in the south suburbs and he wasn't in the habit of eating in Chicago restaurants.

    His version was as follows: chicken cut-up into individual pieces with quartered potatoes roasted in the oven, with olive oil, garlic, wine, parsley and oregano, and finally a can of peas (this was in the days before Birdseye) went in at the very end. The chicken and potatoes were always roasted to a rich golden color, and the potatoes were slightly crispy in places.

    I have to admit, I ate this dish, and even made it myself, never knowing that it was called Chicken Vesuvio until about 10 years ago. I thought it was just a dish our family made. It wasn't until I started getting interested in "all things food-related" that I put 2 and 2 together.

    The name "Vesuvio" says to me that this dish was brought to this country by Napolitanos coming here and wanting to reflect pride in their origins It's like a Mexican taqueria carrying the name of the owner's home town as a point of pride. So many Napolitanos came to this country in the first decades of the 20th Century--my grandparents included--and settled eventually all over this country (and elsewhere--we have relatives in Argentina, also). But many clustered around NY/NJ and Chicago in large numbers, and it would follow that the tradition of this dish would have continued. Then it was just a case of one more delicious dish of their forefathers offered to non-Italian Americans eating in their restaurants. Someone called it "Vesuvio" and the name stuck.
  • Post #68 - January 31st, 2006, 3:49 pm
    Post #68 - January 31st, 2006, 3:49 pm Post #68 - January 31st, 2006, 3:49 pm
    Nonsense, it was invented at Gianotti's in the 60s, I just read that in Time Out.
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  • Post #69 - January 31st, 2006, 4:05 pm
    Post #69 - January 31st, 2006, 4:05 pm Post #69 - January 31st, 2006, 4:05 pm
    Yes, as noted in the TOC bit, no one has stepped forward to contest the claim, so it's settled. :?
  • Post #70 - September 7th, 2006, 8:56 pm
    Post #70 - September 7th, 2006, 8:56 pm Post #70 - September 7th, 2006, 8:56 pm
    According to a recent magazine article, while there is in fact a dish called chicken Vesuvio in Naples, Italy, it's not like what we call chicken Vesuvio in Chicago, and the Chicago version was, according to the article, which quotes the Capitaninis, third generation owners of the Italian Village, as saying that the Chicago version was being served at the Italian Village in the 1930s. The article also mentions culinary historian Judith Dunbar Hines as believing that Alfredo Capitanini was, in fact, the first to introduced the American/Chicago version of the dish.

    I don't know if that constitutes "proof," but at least it carries the dish back to before some of the memories of chicken Vesuvio recounted in a few posts.
  • Post #71 - September 11th, 2006, 11:15 am
    Post #71 - September 11th, 2006, 11:15 am Post #71 - September 11th, 2006, 11:15 am
    Cynthia wrote:According to a recent magazine article...


    Which one? This one?

    ... while there is in fact a dish called chicken Vesuvio in Naples, Italy, it's not like what we call chicken Vesuvio in Chicago...


    My knowledge of Neapolitan cuisine -- through personal experience in family settings here and in Italy, through travel in Campania over more than two decades, and through scholarly research -- is extensive and I know of no chicken dish thus named, though, as I noted elsewhere in this thread, Neapolitans fairly frequently use the Vesuvio name for dishes of one sort or another within narrow circles. Certainly more widespread than any putative chicken preparation under that name is a pasta dish but in this regard I must say that I have over the years seen various, more or less different pasta dishes referred to with the same Vesuvio name; the name is available for inconsistent use precisely because it doesn't have a set meaning in the traditional Neapolitan repertoire.

    ...and the Chicago version was, according to the article, which quotes the Capitaninis, third generation owners of the Italian Village, as saying that the Chicago version was being served at the Italian Village in the 1930s. The article also mentions culinary historian Judith Dunbar Hines as believing that Alfredo Capitanini was, in fact, the first to introduced the American/Chicago version of the dish...


    It should be noted that in the article I linked above, which perhaps is the one referred to in the previous post, it is not quite clear whether Mr. Capitanini is claiming that there is a chicken dish called 'Vesuvio' in Naples. The way I read the text is to say that there is a dish that in his estimation is close enough to be possibly identified with his restaurant's dish and yet, in his own eyes, that dish is in some particular way(s) actually "quite different."

    WhileJudith Dunbar Hines is surely an active and knowledgeable student of things culinary, I have never come across her name in connexion with the subject of Neapolitan or more generally, for that matter, Italian cuisine. Given her connexion to Chicago, however, I would not be surprised that she might believe and espouse the view that the dish was 'invented' here, especially since she appears to be "coordinator of Culinary Arts and Events for the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs." It seems to me that to look to someone in that position -- who is not, so far as one can tell, especially deeply engaged in the study of Neapolitan or Italian cuisine -- for independent scholarship in this regard is unwise.

    I don't know if that constitutes "proof," but at least it carries the dish back to before some of the memories of chicken Vesuvio recounted in a few posts.


    Hardly does that constitute proof. That individual restaurants vie to have recognised their claim that they invented a dish is a commonplace of popular culinary history and in this specific case, there are various claimants to the title of inventor.* Needless to say, the vast majority of such claims are to be taken with a grain of salt.

    Given the independent existence of the dish elsewhere under traditionally prosaic appellations, it remains clear to those who are not blinded by what Vico referred to as the "Conceit of Nations" that the original Chicago innovation in this regard was merely the name of the dish.

    Antonius

    * Vergleichen Sie bitte zum Beispiel:
    Pitsákia me Elliniká Systatiká: Little Pizzas with Greek Ingredients
    http://www.lthforum.com/bb/viewtopic.php?p=68818#68818
    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 #72 - September 11th, 2006, 1:08 pm
    Post #72 - September 11th, 2006, 1:08 pm Post #72 - September 11th, 2006, 1:08 pm
    The US has been an innovator in so may products and processes that it occurs to me that perhaps the dish was invented here and then brought over to Italy. * :wink:

    *Relax, Antonius. I'm just kidding.
    Steve Z.

    “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”
    ― Ludwig van Beethoven
  • Post #73 - February 9th, 2014, 7:39 pm
    Post #73 - February 9th, 2014, 7:39 pm Post #73 - February 9th, 2014, 7:39 pm
    I found a recipe in Cooks Illustrated 'Slow Cooker Revolution' called Chicken Vesuvio. I flashed back to my early years of marriage some 30 years ago and many, many wonderful meals of Chicken Vesuvio at Dave's Italian Kitchen in Evanston. The fact that this was a 'Chicago inspired dish' per Cooks intrigued me. I just knew that this must have been thrashed out here.

    Well... Mr. 'Slow Cooker Revolution', I know Chicken Vesuvio and you, sir, are no Chicken Vesuvio.

    If any of you come across this recipe as I did - take a pass.
  • Post #74 - January 23rd, 2021, 6:41 am
    Post #74 - January 23rd, 2021, 6:41 am Post #74 - January 23rd, 2021, 6:41 am
    I've lived in Chicago for 13 years and I am finally going to cook vesuvio! Toggling back and forth between NYT and Serious Eats but my main inkling is that the potatoes should actually be done separately to be optimally textured - thinking something like Smitten's melting potatoes. If anyone has a favorite recipe or a must-do tip, let me know!
  • Post #75 - January 27th, 2021, 8:02 am
    Post #75 - January 27th, 2021, 8:02 am Post #75 - January 27th, 2021, 8:02 am
    annak wrote:I've lived in Chicago for 13 years and I am finally going to cook vesuvio! Toggling back and forth between NYT and Serious Eats but my main inkling is that the potatoes should actually be done separately to be optimally textured - thinking something like Smitten's melting potatoes. If anyone has a favorite recipe or a must-do tip, let me know!


    Stefani Prime does a deconstructed Vesuvio; not my favorite version (although I'm a big fan of the rest of their menu).

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