Chicken alla Joe

Gene & Georgetti is a legendary old-school Chicago steakhouse, founded in 1941, and still with us during the plague, happily. On November 1, 1987, the Chicago Tribune‘s food critic at the time, William Rice (excellent name for a food writer, no?), published this baked chicken recipe. Like Spicy Grilled Tuna, I have made this recipe many times. Unlike that one, however, I have modified
it extensively. And about ten years ago, I realized I almost always made this in January. So, now I must make it in January. Sometimes late, like January 31, 2020, and sometimes early, like January 1, 2021.  (Photo: Nancy Young)

Chicken alla Joe is named for the man who invented it. Gene & Georgetti retains servers for years, if not decades. One of them was Joe Pacini, a native of Tuscany, who worked tables beside the bar in the restaurant`s front room. He had a regular customer, Morris Krumhorn, who liked spicy food. He would order broiled chicken and ask Pacini to have the chef, Mario Navarro, put red pepper on it. “One night I went to the chef and told him, ‘My customer is complaining that the chicken you make is not spicy enough,'” Pacini recalled.  Chef Mario responded, “What can I do?” and Joe says, “He really likes it hot. Let’s put some hot pepperoncini with the chicken and green pepper and hot red pepper.” After serving the dish, Joe returned to the kitchen and said to Mario, “Mr. Krumhorn is a happy customer. He asks what you call this dish?” Mario answered, “It was your idea, not mine. I call it Chicken alla Joe.”

Chicken alla Joe

Serves 6 to 8

3-1/4 lbs. bone-in chicken thighs, or a mix of thighs and breasts, skin removed
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
4 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried red-pepper flakes
9 tablespoons olive oil
1 red bell pepper and 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into broad strips or chunks, about 12 each
16 oz. jar of pepperoncini, drained, rinsed and left whole (but pierced once, so you don’t get a mouthful of vinegar when you bite into one)
3 – 4 russet potatoes, sliced into spears
2  lemons, cut in half

  1. Heat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a zip-lock bag, mix the salt, pepper, oregano, red-pepper flakes, and 3 Tbls oil together. Add chicken, seal bag, and toss until coated.
  3. In a large bowl, add the remaining 3 Tbls oil, salt and pepper to taste, potatoes, and bell peppers, and toss with your hands to evenly coat.
  4. Add 3 Tbls oil to an 18″ x 12″ roasting pan and coat the bottom. Add the chicken pieces (just the thighs for now if you are using breasts also) and potatoes. Place pan in the oven and cook until the chicken pieces begin to brown, about 20 minutes. Remove roasting pan from oven. Turn chicken pieces (add breasts now if using) and add bell-pepper strips or chunks and pepperoncini. Return to oven and cook until chicken is tender and pepper strips are soft, an additional 20 minutes.
  5. Remove pan from oven. Squeeze juice from lemon halves over the chicken pieces, then transfer them, the peppers, and pepperoncini to warm serving plates. Spoon pan juices over each portion.

Serve with a green vegetable such as spinach, and an Italian red wine, perhaps Dolcetto.

You can read William Rice’s original column and recipe here:

And if you are ever in Chicago, you can try Chicken alla Joe at Gene & Georgetti itself, where the dish remains quite popular to this day.

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