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Jul 13, 2012 07:33 AM

Involtino di Pollo in Rome/Florence/Bologna/Venice?

Had an outstanding chicken dish - Pollo Involtini - at an authentic-style Italian restaurant in Colorado called Ti Amo. Looking to recreate my experience, but bring it to the next level in ITALY!! :)
Will be there in October. Does anyone know where to get this amazing dish??

On the menu at the restaurant in Colorado, it is described as:

Chicken breast stuffed with mozzarella and garlic, wrapped with prosciutto and topped in a chianti wine sauce, served with sautéed spinach and garlic mashed potatoes


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  1. I would make a modest bet that that combination of ingredients is nowhere to be found in Italy. There is nothing authentic about it, starting with the concept of chicken involtini, though why that should be, I can't tell you. Sliced boned chicken breasts are easy to come by. But mozzarella, garlic, chianti, potatoes, spinach just wouldn't be found together. They are too different. Mozzarella and Chianti are from two different planets (Campania and Tuscany).

    8 Replies
    1. re: mbfant

      I'm fine if there isn't spinach or potatoes! So you think it will be nearly impossible just to find the chicken wrapped in prosciutto stuffed with mozzarella and garlic?

      1. re: chattys82

        there are certainly italian recipes for this type of dish (thefirst linked one uses fontina the second has mozz, ham and garlic,both are sauced with white wine (seems to fit better for me) but I cant say I have ever seen either dish in a restaurant in Italy. chicken in general is much less commonly served than in US restaurants, where white meat chicken sometimes seems like the only meat on the menu other than steaks or burgers..

        1. re: jen kalb

          Those recipes appear to be somebody's invention (as opposed to traditional), but yes, if you take the Chianti and garlic mashed potatoes out of the equation, the credibility increases. Still, chicken has practically dropped off the restaurant radar, unfortunately.

          1. re: mbfant

            How about Involtini di Maiale? I can see an American restaurant substituting chicken for pork.

            1. re: wally

              You can make an involtino of anything, but I don't recall ever seeing pork because you don't often find pork sliced thin like that. The most common involtini are beef and swordfish. The more I think about chicken involtini the less improbable they seem except that chicken is so unusual in restaurants, and of course the Chianti and garlic mashed potatoes of the OP. I have a vague recollection of excellent involtini of faraona at Grano, in Rome. Faraona, guinea fowl, is morally chicken but more likely to be on the menu. My husband once brought home some thin-sliced turkey for involtini. I resisted as long as I could then made them and had to confess they were good. Of course I used so much cheese, bread crumbs, and oil that he should have just bought the beef.

              1. re: mbfant

                The most common involtini in the north of Italy (Tuscany and north) are involtini di vitello. It's around in restaurants, but not very often. This is definitely a dish that is more traditionally cooked at home.

                1. re: mbfant

                  Because so many Milanese vacation in Liguria and are weight-conscious when it comes to being seen on the beach, turkey breast is readily available from the butchers as a substitute for veal (to be used in breaded cutlets as well as making involtlni).

                  I've had turkey breast cutlets layered with prosciutto in Bologna, but never chicken or faraoana (which is mostly served cold, sliced paper thin).

                  What is this "morally" chicken thing? It increasingly seems one needs to keep a catechism close by reading Chowhound.

                  1. re: mbfant

                    Pork is certainly the meat of choice in Calabria, and traditionally so. My family there enjoys involtini di maiale in many ways, braised in ragu, grilled, and baked. I'm not sure how the pork is purchased, or even what cut it might start out as, but it certainly ends up thinly sliced, stuffed, and rolled. The stuffings vary somewhat, but are mostly mollica-garlic-parsley--maybe a little shredded scamorza if it's around the house and always grated pecorino. No red wine sauce, of course, and simple contorni.

        2. One see chicken breast sliced thin all the time by butchers Italy for home cooking. In Venetian restaurants that do do not cater inclusively to visitors, I hardly ever see chicken on the menu in any form. Eat Pollo Involtini when you are home; when visiting each city, eat the food that those cities are is known for.

          1 Reply
          1. re: PBSF

            The wisest advice in this thread. If you want to optimize your eating in Italy, rather than look for a dish you've had in Colorado, read up on the cooking of Rome, Florence, Bologna and Venice - they're all very different from each other - and eat the local dishes,

          2. Sorry I'm jumping in a bit late to the conversation. While chicken, or turkey, involtini aren't necessarily traditional, they are very very common these days. While you might not see them in a lot of restaurants, you do see them in almost every high end butcher in both Florence and Rome. Besides selling cuts of meats, butchers in the big cities (especially in the more well to do neighborhoods) sell a variety of 'prepared' dishes.

            The fillings always change, according to the season. But if you ask how to cook them, the butcher will almost always suggest using wine. So if you are in Tuscany, Chianti would probably be your wine at hand.


            By prepared, I mean that they take cuts of meat, season, stuff, grind or roll them, so that all you need to do is take them home and cook them. Involtini of all shapes, sizes and meats are one of the most common things to find. For instance, if you are in Rome, stop by the butcher in Campo de' Fiori, and he regularly has at least four or five different versions, including turkey or chicken.

            1. @chattys82,

              I had a thought walking down the stairs today:

              If you are going to Florence, think you might enjoy eating the famous chicken with butter at Sostanza? (petti di pollo al burro)

              Might be a new high, and one unique to the locale.

              I've never eaten at Sostanza, so it's not a personal recommendation, but I gather from many, many Chowhound posts and food guides that this chicken is a very rewarding experience -- maybe even beter than Ti Amo's Pollo Involtini. You might want to check it out since you are going to Florence.


              11 Replies
              1. re: barberinibee

                I will personally recommend Sostanza - I love that dish so much that I will be in Rome for 3 days in September and am taking the train to Florence and back one day just so I can have the chicken for lunch at Sostanza!

                1. re: ekc

                  Wow. Given the costs of fast trains from Rome to Florence, that is quite a recommendation for a chicken dish!

                2. re: barberinibee

                  Just be careful. Because once you have Sostanza's butter chicken, it's kind of like crack. You can't stop thinking about it, until you are able to have it once again. It is amazing! And completely unique.


                  1. re: minchilli

                    would you recommend this chicken dish for lunch or dinner? it sounds delicious!!

                    1. re: andreamnyc

                      Andrea, I would recommend it for any meal! The chicken and the artichoke "omlette" and I am a happy girl.

                      1. re: ekc

                        what is it about it? is it the texture of the chicken? Is it smooth and moist like say the poached chicken in hainanese chicken rice?

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          I am not familiar with hainanese chicken rice, but it the chicken is very smooth and moist. Of course, everything is better cooked in Italian butter ...

                          1. re: ekc

                            It's all about the butter. Elizabeth is right: I can'[t get back soon enough.

                    2. re: minchilli

                      Obviously, I totally agree Elizabeth!

                      1. re: ekc

                        i just called to make a reservation and i found out they are closed in August!! too bad... i'll have to go there next time!

                  2. Chicken rarely makes the menu in Bologna or most of Emilia-Romagna - it is not a highly rated meat. Guinea hen and rabbit are considered much finer. I have yet to see a chicken "panino" nor do I know of any traditional pasta dressings that use chicken meat as the main component - a chicken liver or two added to a beef ragù maybe, but not a chicken only ragù. And only people on a diet - and children - value chicken or turkey breast. For most people breast meat is just dry and stringy and nowhere near as juicy or tasty as meat near the bone - the wings, backbone and thighs are what most locals traditionally prefer.

                    Regarding involtini, veal is most often used - it is tender and not having a strong flavour of its own it is considered OK to add flavours through the filling ingredients. Even so, I have seen pork and beef involtini on menus too. Involtini is the word used here for what more southern Italian regions call "bragiole" or "braciole". Whereas in the north "braciole" are chops, as in veal or pork chops. Confusing!

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: carmelita

                      Not to pick on poor carmelita here, but trattorie in Bologna I've been to offer chicken breast regularly as a secondo (I specifically recall eating it at La Mariposa, where it was terrible), and have seen "pollo alla cacciatore" on other menus, and roast chicken with potatoes. While I agree that using chicken in a pasta sauce is unusual almost everywhere in Italy, the "traditional" menu at the pricey I Portici in Bologna serves a tagliatelle that uses chicken as its main meat, or at least it did last year. Again, I chalk this up to people being more weight-conscious and drifting away from pork.

                      Also, even in Bologna, I'm not surprised to see prosciutto in dishes that also have garlic (the special house pasta at Il Tinello has prosciutto, cream and garlic), and outside of Emilia-Romagna, I've seen many primis that use prosciutto and peas (or fave) that also have garlic.

                      1. re: barberinibee

                        Chicken first, garlic second : ))

                        Personally I love a good roast chicken and will sometimes buy a nice big heavy free range bird - 2 1/2 to 3 kilos. I do everything I can to make the breast tasty and tender. My Italian friends will eat the wings, thighs, drumsticks and even nibble at the back bone leaving the breast till the very last, untouched. Then someone usually picks at a piece and is pleasantly surprised to find it is not dry and stringy as they'd imagined. And it gets eaten.

                        Restaurants that serve chicken are using the cheapest meat around, and yes it is becoming more common as "la crisi" hits, just as the ragù Bolognese in town is getting redder as restaurants bulk out what is essentially a meat sauce with ever more tomato. Butchers here sell chicken and people eat chicken breast though mainly it is children having breaded chicken cotoletta or people controlling their diet for a variety of reasons. Incidentally today's "light pigs" means loin of pork now has fewer calories that chicken meat especially when the chicken skin is not removed.

                        I certainly believe that some restaurants serve chicken but none of the restaurants that I frequent in the city or in the countryside with Bolognese and Romagnolo friends. Btw my friends here are locals not ex pats and the only time I eat out with non Italians is when I have foreign friends over for a visit. What I notice is that the restaurants that my non Italian friends like most are not the same as the ones my local friends like.


                        When new here and cooking with Italian friend I'd ask "How much garlic?" They'd look at me as if I were mad and answer "one clove of course, or we might as well just eat garlic!" That's not a question I ask any longer. Neither do I any longer say, as I sniff the air appreciatevly, "Smells good in here, lovely smell of garlic" . Because panic ensues with the cook asking me if they should start the dish over, worrying they've overdone the garlic, or assuring me it was just one clove which they have already taken out. before it coloured and got too strong tasting.

                        Procsiutto, cream and garlic sounds like an ill-judged attempt to make a simple dish "restauramt worthy". To me it is off puttng, as is the thought of introudicng garlic in the classic Bologna / Emilia-Romagna pasta "condimento", prosciutto and peas. You say outside of Emilia-Romagna barberinibee , so I guess they know no better : )

                        But have you noticed the new trend of no garlic in basil pesto? I've heard / read Italian food critics saying now we have good refrigeration and food conservation we no longer need to add garlic to our food for its disinfectant and antibiotic properties, as in the past. Just as we no longer need to add lots of fat to our food given our heated houses and our very sedentary life style.

                        Yes the times are really changing, in all kinds of ways.

                        1. re: carmelita


                          To be perfectly honest, I weary of these long posts where people invoke the authority of Italians. There are plenty of restaurants that have been operating for years in Bologna that are serving a secondo of chicken breast to locals. Such places are where students and professors eat, as well as people who fully quality as well pedigreed natives.

                          The pasta special at Il Tinello is just homey. It is not "an ill-judged attempt to make a simple dish "restauramt worthy". It's just the chef's personal recipe. As for I Portici, it is one of the most expensive restaurants in Bologna, not one of the cheapest.

                          Yes, in the years of Berlusconi, we of course saw a lot of "no garlic" in basil pesto. Where I live in Liguria, you would find pasta fresca shops selling "pesto vero" and "pesto Milanese" side by side. With Berlusconi temporarily gone, we've seen less of that. Personally, I hope none of it returns. Ligurian cooking is very much influenced by its long and interesting interaction with garlicky Spain. The Mediterranean has its own culture, and doesn't feel a need to mimic other areas of Italy.

                          1. re: barberinibee

                            Just my experiences barberinibee. I work with visitors to Italy and socialise with locals, eating in and out with this last group mainly I find it curiously fascinating that there is a clear difference between what locals and non locals prefer restaurant wise. .

                            Thanks for the info on Liguria's long interaction with garlicky Spain. I had always thought it must be due to its proximity to garlicky France. I like your basil pesto as it was meant to be, btw, and think Liguria has a wonderful cuisine.

                            You already told me how much you dislike Trattoria Tony : )

                            1. re: carmelita

                              People go round and round on this board on the eating habits of Italian locals. I too was fascinated, in moving to Italy, to begin to unravel the attitude of locals about eating in restaurants, and when and why they chose one place over another.

                              I think it is a pity that so many travelers have been steered away from some really enjoyable eating experiences by the notion that they should follow the locals into this or that other place. I seem to recall that both of us recommend Da Gianni to visitors in Bologna. Plenty of locals enjoy the food there and bring out-of-town guests to enjoy it too. But it is also true that many locals balk at the slightly higher prices or just prefer their neighborhood eatery, either for a particular dish or because they are well-known and treated like family.

                              When I stayed for an extended period in the Jewish ghetto in Bologna, I developed a positive craving for some of the pasta dishes in the nearest eateries, even though I almost never recommend those places to others. They are too uneven. I've never walked by Trattoria Tony when it wasn't full, and I'm sure many people love it not only for the cheap price and the friendly owner but just because after a while they crave the way Trattoria Tony makes a certain dish.

                              My view is that all people on Chowhound can do is share their personal enthusiasms, plus listen to what it is travelers are looking for as a dining experience, and wanting to eat with the locals if a perfectly valid experience to seek out, even if it sometimes means lesser quality food. For the fundamentals of Italy's astonishing variety of regional cuisines and quirks and eating habits, in and out of restaurants, I think people would do better to read a few books, and then go with an open mind, not a catechism in the head.