In the busy kitchen at Allegro Bistro, ever-friendly owner Nella Valenti tells tales of how it used to be as she adds generous splashes of white wine to the chicken cooking in her well-loved pan.
“Where I grew up, we had a lot of sun-dried tomatoes and broccoli, so my mother used to cook all the time with these ingredients,” Nella says. “For this dish, our Chicken Allegro, there is no formal recipe. Watch. This is it!”
Hailing from the small town of Canicattini Bagni near Syracuse in Sicily, Nella learned her craft beginning at age 8, when she began spending much of her time in the family kitchen, watching her mother, aunt and grandmother.
“It was like having three moms,” she says. “I just loved being in the kitchen with them.”
Soon, she adds broccoli, chopped sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and a sprinkle of parsley.
“This is a very easy dish to make,” Nella says. “It takes only 10 minutes. The broccoli needs to be blanched, one minute in boiling water, before you add it. Drain the juice from the artichokes, and chop the sun-dried tomatoes into small pieces. You can put garlic in it, but it’s not necessary. The sun-dried tomato is the highlight, a little flavor of acid and salt. This is a mild and delicate dish. In Italy, we eat this dish whenever we want, not just on special occasions. My brother, Frank Rossitto, our head chef, added the artichokes. It’s a delicious, healthy dish.”
Nella recommends serving her Chicken Allegro with penne pasta and pairing the meal with a chardonnay or pinot grigio, preferably from Sicily.
Along with her husband, Santo, and sons, Cesare and Gianni, Nella has owned and operated Venice’s Valenti’s Ristorante for 32 years and Allegro Bistro for 10.
“We know and cook for everyone in town,” Nella says with a smile.
1740 E. Venice Ave., Venice, 941.484.1889, Allegro-Bistro.com