When Derek Jeter was helping the New York Yankees win World Series as the team’s star shortstop, his go-to meal was chicken parmigiana, or to foodies, chicken parm. He had favorite places for consuming his favorite dish, including Villa Berulia in Murray Hill. Jeter’s photo is still on the restaurant’s website, along with other famous New Yorkers like Hillary Clinton and (yikes!) Rudy Giuliani. Jeter even inspired online Chef Lisa to share on YouTube her recipe for “Jeter Parm.”
The Yankees’ interaction with chicken parm didn’t end with Jeter. And, fittingly, Jeter’s successor at shortstop, Anthony Volpe, had his own chicken parm encounter this past summer. The Bronx Bombers were in a slump after the team’s captain Aaron Judge crashed into a fence at Dodgers park and injured his toe. Volpe was struggling at the plate when he invited some of his teammates to his house in New Jersey. According to the New York Daily News’ Gary Phillips, the players “hung out, dined on chicken parm (made by his Aunt Tita), and reminisced while going over old at-bats.” Eureka! Catcher Austin Wells observed something about Volpe’s batting stance. That revelation led to Volpe making changes and getting hits. (It also led to the Yankees firing their hitting coach.) As one sportswriter noted: “That must have been some great chicken parm.”
Chicken parm as a good luck charm has now been passed on to New York Giants quarterback Tommy DeVito who, like Volpe, lives in New Jersey. DeVito still lives at home with his parents and his brother. The location works, he has said, because their home is closer to Met Life stadium. But perks also include having his mother do his laundry and, you guessed it, preparing his favorite dish, chicken parm. With DeVito as quarterback the Giants have won three in a row and are now one game out from winning a wild card spot.
DeVito has no reservation naming chicken parm as his favorite dish. Sharing plates with internet star Cugine, DeVito ranked it above other Italian mainstays like shrimp scampi and eggplant parmesan. “You can do anything with a cutlet,” he told Cugine, one reason why his new nickname is “Tommy cutlets.”
So why is chicken parm so popular? Angie Rito and Scott Tacinelli, whose Greenwich Village restaurant, Don Angie, is a sought after reservation, offer their opinion in their best selling cookbook, Italian American – Red Sauce Classics & New Essentials. “Chicken parm is the ultimate crowd-pleaser of the parm world. Who cares if it’s an entirely American invention? We challenge you to find someone who doesn’t like the combination of breaded chicken, tangy tomato sauce, and gooey melted cheese.”
I’ve made my share of chicken parm, but if it’s a new dish you’d like to try, Angie and Scott’s recipe is the best one I’ve seen. Their addition of potato starch helps keep the breading crisp and that’s one of the best parts of a great chicken parm. (Click to purchase their book on Amazon.)
Whether you are planning a date night, family night, or want to prepare the dish for the next Giants game, perhaps the good luck chicken parm has brought to New York’s sports stars will rub off. At the least, you’ll enjoy a great meal.
Top photo: Bigstock