Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Memories Are Funny Things

by Elliott Baker

Yes, they are. Sometimes they’re there when we want them, and sometimes they’re not. Unless you’re one of those eidetic folks who can remember every minute of their lives, early memories are often of higher emotional occurrences like birthdays or the time you broke your arm. I grew up with four sisters and brothers and for whatever the reasons, we rarely went out to eat. When we did, it was usually a special occasion. As a food lover, something about being in a restaurant has always been magical to me and has served as an anchor for more memories than I might have been able to recall without.

One of my favorite memories was dinner at Patti’s. This large, many roomed, Italian restaurant was a staple of Jacksonville, Florida dining. The people were friendly, the atmosphere, at least to a twelve-year-old boy was about as elegant as possible, and the food was good and more important to my twelve-year-old memory, plentiful.

If you were there for your birthday, you were served a small everything pizza. I was assured by my father we didn’t have to be there on the exact day of someone’s birthday. In fact we sometimes missed it by months. The restaurant didn’t seem to be concerned, and neither did I. Great pizza.

This restaurant is where I was first introduced to chicken parmesan which I have loved ever since. My memory of the dish combines the excitement of being there with the actual preparation of the food, but given how busy the restaurant was, I don’t think its popularity was due only to the free birthday pizza.

I came across this a while ago and would like to share it with you.

Restaurant reviews
Thursday, March 1, 2001

Duplicating Sauce an Inexact Science

By Dan Macdonald
Jacksonville Times-Union food editor

"Here's the sad truth -- you won't be able to replicate Patti's famous Boneless Chicken Parmesan at home.

This dish was the most popular menu item during the restaurant's history, nightly outselling everything else 3 to 1, said John Patti, grandson of founder Peter Patti and a former chef.

You won't be able to make the sauce exactly as it was made in the restaurant. It's doubtful that you'll want to buy a large round of goat's milk Romano cheese to hand grind. It's unfathomable that someone would go to the trouble of making bread from scratch just for the bread crumbs.



Place all ingredients in a large pot and stir together. Simmer on low heat for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

4 (10-ounce) cans tomato puree
2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons salt
24 ounces water
Pepper to taste

Yield: 2 quarts.

Source: John Patti.


Or maybe Patti is just being coy.

When asked for the recipe, Patti said he didn't know it. At least he didn't know how to make it in anything less than 15-gallon quantities. As unbelievable as it sounds, he doesn't make it at home for the family.

"I have a [bottled sauce] that I use, Classico Four Cheeses Di Parma, It's a little more seasoned than what we used at the restaurant, but it is pretty good stuff," Patti said.

While he wouldn't give us a specific recipe, he did describe how to make the Chicken Parmesan.

First, the sauce (an approximation of the recipe follows). It is made from a thick tomato puree. The restaurant would buy it in No. 10-size cans. The puree had to be thick enough so that if you stuck a kitchen knife into the center, it would stand up.

The puree was diluted somewhat with water and seasoned lightly (a light hand is necessary) with oregano, basil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. It is then covered and left to simmer for five to six hours.
That's it. However, the quantities remain a mystery. Patti suggests preparing 2-quarts of sauce (enough for four servings of Chicken Parmesan and some spaghetti side dishes).

Patti's served a whole chicken breast. When it was de-boned, they left them connected at the top. When served, the breast halves were pushed together to give the appearance of a super large half-breast.
The chicken was dredged in flour then an egg wash and then in dried bread crumbs.

At the restaurant, the chicken was deep fried, though pan frying at home in a good vegetable oil is more practical.

Once the chicken is fried, it is placed in a baking dish and then lightly covered with the tomato sauce (it shouldn't be smothered), dusted with the Romano cheese and the covered with a rather thin slice of provolone cheese. The provolone should be so thin that when placing it on top of the fingertips, you can see the fingers make an indentation without tearing it.

Place under the broiler long enough to allow the cheeses to melt and blend together with the sauce.

But wait, where's the Parmesan?

"You got it," Patti said. "You discovered the secret. We left out the Parmesan. That's what put us on the map."

Now while you mull over why Patti decided to leave out the Parmesan, how about a brief intro to my action adventure story? I hope you like it.

For three thousand years a hatred burns. In seventeenth century France two souls incarnate, one born the child of a prosperous merchant, the other, determined to continue an incarnation begun long ago.

In ancient Egypt, there were two brothers, disciples of the pharaoh, Akhenaten. When the pharaoh died, the physician took the knowledge given and went to Greece to begin the mystery school. The general made a deal with the priests and became pharaoh. One remembers, one does not.

The year is 1671. René Gilbert’s destiny glints from the blade of a slashing rapier. The only way he can protect those he loves is to regain the power and knowledge of an ancient lifetime. From Bordeaux to Spain to Morocco, René is tested and with each turn of fate he gathers enemies and allies, slowly reclaiming the knowledge and power earned centuries ago. For three thousand years a secret sect has waited in Morocco.

After ages in darkness, Horemheb screams, “I am.” Using every dark art, he manages to maintain the life of the body he has bartered for. Only one life force in the world is powerful enough to allow him to remain within embodiment, perhaps forever. Determined to continue a reign of terror that once made the Nile run red, he grows stronger with each life taken.

Read more on Amazon.

Award winning, international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and done throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to offer his first novel, Return, book one of The Sun God’s Heir trilogy.

A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.

Learn more about Elliot Baker on his website. Stay connected on Twitter and Facebook. Like Elliott's Author Page on Facebook to learn all his latest news.


  1. Thanks for the recipe, Elliot, and taking us into the past to share your memories! Love chicken parmesan! Best wishes for a bestseller! Cheers!

  2. Love a good book and a good recipe for sauce! Thanks and best wishes on your new release, Elliot!