"My first job in New York was grilling chickens at DDL Food Show, the big fancy food store that Dino di Laurentiis, the movie director, opened on Columbus Avenue in 1983," Francesco recalls. "At most I had call for 3 or 4 Chickens a day, but when Dino asked how many chickens I was cooking, I told him 90 to 100 because I was afraid to lose my job." Francesco's own roast chicken could not be simpler. The secret ingredient is the herbed salt he uses as seasoning.
In Venice both rich and poor hunted birds for sport and sustenance. This recipe for guinea hen with black pepper sauce suggests the Renaissance, when spice played an important role in flavoring, often counterbalanced with a touch of sweetness. "Game birds are lean," Francesco says, "Which is why we use the bacon." Baby pheasant can be substituted.
"This is about as fancy as chicken gets in Venice," Francesco says. Chicken with cheese and prosciutto is a northern Italian combination of long standing, the ham and cheese is infusing the mild chicken with flavor. Francesco combines the pinwheel slices with mushrooms to serve either on a bed of greens or on pasta. This recipe can be expanded using as many chicken breasts as needed, to make a buffet party dish. It's convenient because some of the preparation is easily done in advance. Once the chicken is cooked, the slices of stuffed chicken rolls can be arranged around the edge of a platter of arugula salad or cooked pasta.