In Downtown Italian: Recipes Inspired by Italy, Created in New York’s West Village, authors Joe Campanale, Gabriel Thompson, and Katherine Thompson provide you samples from their portfolio of Italian delicacies served at their quartet of Lower Manhattan restaurants.

We often say that something “tastes just like chicken.” I love chicken, I do, but sometimes it would be nice to have an “oh-my-God” chicken experience. That’s just the intent of this recipe. The classic version of “Brother Devil” is made with a spicy tomato sauce. Here the spicy flavor, and the red color, comes from smoked paprika.

For more heat, the chicken is mated with broccoli rabe offered with garlic and chilies. That recipe follows below. Broccoli rabe is something that takes an acquired taste, I admit, but surely the Italians have mastered the technique to rabe acceptance. Just follow the recipe along, go gently but directly. Everything will come together in a flavor explosion.

Cold white wine is a necessity. Or, Italian beer frosty cold.

The diavolo rub can be used on other dishes: pork chops, quail or catfish — so the authors suggests. I would think salmon and char would be equally lovely with this red acceleration.

Chicken al Diavolo with Broccoli Rabe

Yield: serves 2 to 4


  • 1 (2 ½- to 3-pound) whole chicken
  • 2 ½ tablespoons sweet smoked paprika (preferably Spanish)
  • 1 tablespoon plus
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1 ½ teaspoons red chili flakes
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon high quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chilies (recipe follows)


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Debone the chicken so that you end up with 2 sections, each with a breast, thigh, and leg (keep the skin on; see Notes). In a small bowl, combine the smoked paprika, ground fennel, and chili flakes. Generously season each chicken piece on both sides with salt. Then generously dust the chicken pieces on both sides with the smoked paprika mixture, using about 1 tablespoon of the spice rub for each half of the chicken.

Heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the chicken, skin side down. Cook until the skin is golden brown and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes (see Notes). Place the sauté pan (still with the chicken skin side down) in the oven for 5 minutes. Turn the chicken over and return to the oven for 15 minutes more, or until the internal temperature reaches 155°F. Remove the chicken from the pan (do not clean the pan) and set the chicken aside on a rack at room temperature to rest.

Return the sauté pan to the stovetop and add the chicken stock. Cook over medium-high heat, scraping the chicken bits off of the bottom of the pan, until the chicken stock is reduced by two-thirds (you should have ⅛ cup in the pan), about 5 minutes. Add the 2 teaspoons lemon juice and the high-quality olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning; it may need another pinch of salt or a dash of lemon juice.

Serve the chicken on a platter with the broccoli rabe. Generously spoon the chicken sauce around the serving platter.

NOTES: Deboning chicken: Using this method to debone a whole chicken helps flatten the white- and dark-meat pieces equally so that they can be cooked for the same amount of time. You can use boneless, skin-on chicken pieces in a pinch, but the thighs will take longer to cook. My deboning technique is different from the one many chefs use, but I find this method to be fast and straightforward.

1. Place the chicken breast side up on a cutting board, legs facing toward you.

2. Using a sharp chef’s knife or deboning knife, cut along one side of the breastbone, following the contour to release the breast from the bone. Repeat along the other side of the breastbone.

3. Use your hands to bend back the leg and pop the leg joint (between the thigh and the body of the chicken).

4. Using the knife, cut between this joint and the body to release the thigh from the body. The breast should still be attached to the leg.

5. Cut the leg meat from the body. You will end up with a piece of chicken with a boneless breast and a leg with bones. Remove the backbone and rib cage and save for stock or discard.

6. Make an incision down the length of the leg bone.

7. Cut around all of the joints on the leg. Use the knife to scrape the meat away from the leg bone. Cut the bottom of the leg meat from the bottom of the leg bone.

8. Cut away any tendons in the leg meat. Cut away any extra fat and/or skin.

9. Cut off the wings and save for another use.

Chicken skin: For this dish, it is unbelievably important that the chicken skin be extra crispy. Let the chicken cook, skin side down, as long as possible before the spices start to burn. The fat will slowly render off of the skin and the results will be well worth it. Do not rush this process.

Broccoli Rabe with Garlic and Chiles

Yield: serves 2 to 4


  • Kosher salt
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, stems trimmed by 1 inch
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, very thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch of red chili flakes, or more to taste


Line a baking sheet with paper towels. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season generously with salt. Taste the water; it should be super salty. Add the broccoli rabe and blanch until the broccoli is bright green and tender, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove the broccoli rabe from the cooking water and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Set it in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes. The blanched broccoli rabe can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several hours.

Place the olive oil, garlic, a generous pinch of salt, and a pinch of chili flakes in a large sauté pan. Over medium heat, gently cook the garlic until just beginning to brown on the edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe. Toss together and continue cooking until the broccoli rabe is hot. Taste and season with additional salt and chili flakes, if desired. Serve immediately with the chicken.

Source Downtown Italian: Recipes Inspired by Italy, Created in New York’s West Village by Joe Campanale, Gabriel Thompson, and Katherine Thompson [Andrews McMeel, 2014]

Photo Credit: Tara Donne