Chicken Cacciatore: Deconstructing the Dish

Chicken cacciatore's culinary heritage traces back to Tuscany.
Chicken cacciatore's culinary heritage traces back to Tuscany.

Tavola Calda by Commellini Estate
14713 N. Dartford Dr., Spokane, commellini.com, 509-466-0667
Open Wed-Sat from 4:30-8 pm for takeout only

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rought from Staffoli, Italy, by Leda Commellini in 1923, this locally famous recipe for chicken cacciatore is the culinary foundation of Commellini Estate and its onsite restaurant, Tavola Calda.

The unique and robust flavor of Leda's rich Bolognese sauce and tender chicken has caused the restaurant to be booked for months in the past, and still has customers raving with reviews like, "I daydream about that chicken cacciatore."

The Commellini family recipe for the dish became so legendary in the estate's early days that it even brought Marilyn Monroe and Joe Dimaggio out to the venue in the woods many years ago.

"Chicken cacciatore is the cornerstone of the Commellini Estate legacy," says estate manager Desiree Seghetti, whose family on her father's side are descendents of its original owners.

"Chicken cacciatore was one of three entrees patrons could choose from when making a reservation at the restaurant. [Leda] would be booked out for months."

Seghetti says that Leda Commellini was so passionate about ensuring a high quality of ingredients used in the dish that she and husband Albert started their own chicken farm on the estate in 1941. This fact is also why, Seghetti says, "there are so many buildings on the estate... In the height of its operation it had 100,000 chickens in various stages of development."

Chicken cacciatore's culinary heritage traces back to Tuscany, where the tiny town of Staffoli is located. Cacciatore translates from Italian to "hunter-style," and refers to a hearty dish prepared with herbs, tomatoes, wine and braised meat.

"Although there are many variations of this dish, our chicken cacciatore uses ingredients that were abundant in Staffoli," Seghetti notes.

Since being introduced in Spokane from its origins half a world away, Leda Commellini's chicken cacciatore has become a local institution for many. Some of the estate's customers order it weekly, and others make sure to always serve it at special gatherings, Seghetti says.

"Customers rave about this dish and particularly mention how much they enjoy the mushrooms and sauce, as well as how tender and easily [the chicken] comes off the bone," Seghetti says. "It is so unique and the flavor so robust that we are constantly asked for the recipe."

The two-day preparation of the dish begins with the making of the Bolognese sauce, starting with natural grass-fed beef from a local farm and a dark red wine. Combined, the ingredients create a "very dark and rich texture and flavor," she says.

"Because of how much care we take to truly slowly braise the chicken, it locks in the flavor and creates an extremely tender dish. One of the keys is how slow the process is. It cannot be rushed."

It's for this reason that Commellini Estate's chicken cacciatore ($20) often sells out, so be sure to call ahead if this dish is your great desire during the Great Dine Out.

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