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

Lobster alla Diavolo

By on Tuesday, July 26th, 2022 at 9:06 am | 933 views

Ada Boni’s Il talismano della felicità collected Italian recipes from across the country when it was published in 1928. However, the English translation The Talisman Italian Cookbook often changed the content.

The original talisman is often compared to the English The Joys of Cooking. Boni’s cookbook did continue to evolve over the years and even to this day is gifted to young people setting up their home for the first time.

Matilde la Rosa translated the classic cookbook in 1950. Lobster fra Diavolo is a perfect example though of the American influence on Italian immigrant cuisine.

The early fra Diavolo recipes originate in the United States, most likely in New York’s restaurants. Italian lobsters are the time were rare and generally undesirable. American Maine lobsters, now exported around the world, created a great opportunity to create a new dish.

In Italy at the end of the 19th century, Chicken diavolo is a spicy chicken. The spice in this case was a lot of black pepper, not the spicy chili peppers common in fra diavolo sauce.

Chicken though was a lot more common than lobster, and likely the inspiration for the Americanized dish.

By the 1950s, lobster fra Diavolo was widely known, if not widely eaten. Critics like James Beard liked to believe it was a French-influenced dish, while cookbook translators like la Rosa helped cement its place in the legends of old Italian cuisine.

Eventually though fra diavolo came to more commonly refer to a spicy shellfish sauce rather than a whole lobster preparation.

Here, the recipe is a sauce serve on top of whole lobster.

Sauce served over baked lobster


2 lobsters
1 tsp tomato paste
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp melted butter
½ cup vinegar
½ tsp black pepper
5 red pepper seeds
1 cup broth
1 tbsp butter
1 tsp flour
½ tbsp prepared mustard


Slice lobsters lengthwise.
Sprinkle with butter and oil.
Bake shell down for 20 minutes.
Combine vinegar, pepper, and red pepper.
Reduce by half.
Add broth and tomato paste.
Cook 10 minutes.
Combine butter and flour into a roux.
Slowly thicken sauce.
Add mustard and pour over baked lobsters.