Red Sauce America - Food, Culture, and Italian American Experience

Is This Chicken Dish The Italian Origin of Lobster Fra Diavolo?

By on Tuesday, May 3rd, 2022 at 8:36 am | 769 views

Pollo al diavolo was a precursor to the lobster fra diavolo that became so famous in Italian American restaurants

Pellegrino Artusi’s La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene includes a version of chicken diavolo that might be related to the more famous American dish, Lobster fra diavolo.

Artusi was writing the first collection of recipes from a united Italian nation. Unification also coincided with the beginning of mass migration to the United States, and recipes of this era likely traveled with immigrants.

Pollo al diavolo, as Artusi names it, is a spicy chicken dish that might have been the source for lobster fra diavolo, a popular red sauce dish in the early years of the twentieth century.

Al diavolo often meant spiced with black pepper, but in Artusi’s recipe he calls for cayenne, a capsicum spice derived from chile peppers. Its the same spicy flavor in the lobster dish which otherwise has no correlation in documented Italian recipes.

This recipe is adapted from Pellegrino Artusi 1891 collection.

Artusi suggested that this dish be served spicy enough that those who eat it will want to send the chicken or person serving it to hell.


Cockerel or young chicken
Butter or oil
Cayenne pepper


Flatten the chicken.
Dry chicken.
Roast on rack.
Brush with oil and pepper.
Season sufficiently.
Continue adding oil and pepper until cooked