A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from February 13, 2009
Tetrazzini (Chicken Tetrazzini; Turkey Tetrazzini; Spaghetti Tetrazzini)

Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940) was an Italian lyric coloratura soprano who had an enormous popularity in America from the 1900s-1920s. Several dishes were named after her, including:

. Chicken Tetrazzini, cited from 1909.
. Turkey Tetrazzini, cited from 1912.
. Ham Tetrazzini, cited from 1920.
. Spaghetti Tetrazzini, cited from 1920.
. Shrimp Tetrazzini, cited from 1947.
. Tuna Tetrazzini, cited from 1951.

The origin of the “Tetrazzini” dish is unknown, but several newspaper articles attribute it to a famous chef (not named) in New York City. The articles from 1920 and 1921 (see below) are interesting; Luisa Tetrazzini supposedly gave her recipe for “Spaghetti Tetrazzini” to Louis Paquet, chef de cuisine of the McAlpin Hotel on Herald Square in New York City. The McAlpin was the largest hotel in the world when it opened in 1912, but “Chicken Tetrazzini” is cited in print from 1909 and 1911.

A “Tetrazzini” dish is often made with mushrooms, cream, parmesan cheese, eggs, onion, pepper, salt, milk, sherry and cooked spaghetti.


Wikipedia: Tetrazzini
Tetrazzini is an American dish usually involving a non-red meat, mushrooms, and almonds in a butter/cream and parmesan sauce flavored with wine or sherry, over spaghetti. More specifically, tetrazzini tends to include a diced fowl, seafood, or another non-red meat, served with mushrooms over spaghetti or another thin pasta, with a thickened butter and cream-based sauce. The sauce is generally flavored with wine or sherry and well-cooked stock vegetables such as onions, celery, and carrots. It is served hot, often garnished with lemon or parsley, and topped with almonds and/or Parmesan cheese.

The dish is named after the famous Italian-born opera star Luisa Tetrazzini. It is widely believed to have been invented ca. 1908-1910 by Ernest Arbogast, then chef at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, California, where Tetrazzini was a long-time resident. However, other sources attribute the origin to the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York City.

There is no universal standard for the dish, so various parts are missing or substituted in various recipes. For example, another kind of nut, or different hard cheese. The name is often expanded to describe the specific protein used (e.g. Chicken Tetrazzini, or Tuna Tetrazzini).

Wikipedia: Luisa Tetrazzini
Luisa Tetrazzini (June 29, 1871 - April 28, 1940) was an Italian lyric coloratura soprano.

Tetrazzini’s voice was remarkable for its phenomenal flexibility, thrust and thrilling tone. She enjoyed a tremendously successful operatic and concert career in Europe and America from the 1890s through to the 1920s. Her final years were marred by poverty and ill-health.

Epicurious.com - Food Dictionary
chicken Tetrazzini
[teh-trah-ZEE-nee]
Said to have been named for the opera singer Luisa Tetrazzini, this rich dish combines cooked spaghetti and strips of chicken with a sherry-Parmesan cheese cream sauce. Parmesan or bread crumbs are sprinkled over the surface and the dish is baked until bubbly and golden brown. Turkey is sometimes substituted for chicken in this dish.

(Oxford English Dictionary)
Tetrazzini, n.
orig. and chiefly U.S.
[The name of Luisa Tetrazzini (1871-1940), Italian operatic soprano.]
A type of pasta dish with a cream sauce and mushrooms, served esp. as an accompaniment to poultry. Freq. used postpositively, as chicken Tetrazzini, etc.
1920 Toledo (Ohio) News-Bee 15 Nov. 2/7 Paquet began making ‘Spaghetti Tetrazzini’ several years ago when she gave him the recipe she brought from abroad with her.
1948 I. S. ROMBAUER Joy of Cooking (rev. ed.) 83/1 (title) Macaroni and chicken casserole (chicken Tetrazzini).
1949 M. MILLER Sure Thing (1950) 35 Tetrazzini..and two Vichyssoise to start out, large coffees, later.
1975 New Yorker 19 May 45/2 A four-room, bottom-based underwater motel and laboratory, which they once occupied for seventeen days, living on things like freeze-dried turkey tetrazzini.
1990 Gourmet Nov. 192/2 Combine well the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan, the bread crumbs, and salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle the mixture evenly over the Tetrazzini and dot the top with the remaining 1 tablespoon butter.

28 October 1909, Baltimore (MD) American, pg. 13:
Chicken Tetrazzini.
[From the Woman’s Home Companion.]
Melt two tablespoonfuls of butter, add three tablespoonfuls of flour, and stir until well blended; then pour on gradually, while stirring constantly, one cupful of thin cream. Bring to the boiling point, and season with one teaspoonful of salt, one-fourth of a teaspoonful of celery salt and one-eighth of a teaspoonful of pepper. Add one cupful of cold chicken or fowl cut in small thin slices, one-half cupful of fresh mushroom caps cut in slices, one-half cupful of cooked spaghetti and one-third of a cupful of grated Parmesan cheese. Put into buttered ramekin dishes, cover with buttered cracker crumbs, and bake until the crumbs are brown. 

15 January 1911, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, “New Ways of Preparing Chicken” by Margaret Barrows, pg. F2:
CHICKEN TETRAZZINI—Melt two tablespoonfuls of butter, add three tablespoonfuls of flour and stir until well blended; then pour on gradually, while stirring constantly, one cupful of thin cream. Bring to the boiling point and season with one teaspoonful of salt, one-fourth of a teaspoonful of celery salt, and one-eighth of a teaspoonful of pepper. Add one cupful of cold chicken or fowl cut in small thin slices, one-half cupful of fresh mushroom caps cut in slices, one-half cupful of cooked spaghetti, and one-third of a cupful of Parmesan cheese. Put into buttered ramekin dishes, cover with buttered cracker crumbs, and bake until crumbs are brown. 

Google Books
A New Book of Cookery
By Fannie Merritt Farmer
Boston, MA: Little, Brown, and Company
1912
Pg. 145:
Turkey Tetrazzini
2 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup cream
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 cup cold turkey cut in thin strips
1/2 cup cooked spaghetti, cut in 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 cup sauteed sliced mushroom caps
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup buttered cracker crumbs

Make a sauce of butter, flour, cream, salt, celery salt and pepper. When boiling point is reached, add turkey, spaghetti and mushrooms. Fill buttered ramekin dishes with mixture, sprinkle with cheese and crumbs and bake until crumbs are brown.

11 January 1913, Ogden City (UT) Evening Standard, pg. 10, col. 7:
Turkey Tetrazzini.
A restaurant in New York serves a delicious entree named after “Our Luisa,” the famous prima donna. here it is: Slice amall, thin pieces of turkey previously cooked into a cream sauce to which some cooked spaghetti is added, also a little grated cheese and some very thin slices of mushrooms cut crossways. This is served in the dish in which it is cooked, and some bread crumbs are browned over the top.

8 July 1920, Syracuse (NY) Herald, pg. 14, col. 5:
Ham Tetrazzini.
Time to prepare—45 minutes.
Number served—five.
1 tsp. onion, chopped fine.
1/2 green pepper
1 pimento
1/2 c. mushrooms, fresh or canned
3 c. milk or diluted evaporated milk
3 tbsp. flour
2 c. ham, baked or boiled
2 c. cooked spaghetti
2 egg yolks
2 tbsp. nut-ola
Chop the onion finely, cut the green pepper in two, remove the seeds and pulp and cut in strips; wash and remove skins from the mushrooms and cut in eighths. Melt the nut-ola in a saucepan and add the onion, green pepper and mushrooms, and cook over a slow fire until slightly browned—cover while cooking and stir often. Add the milk and flour mixed with water, and cook until it boils, then add diced ham, cooked spaghetti and pimento, and cook to the boiling point. Season with salt and paprika to taste. Last, mix in the slightly beaten egg yolks and stir in carefully so as not to break up the spaghetti and other ingredients. Cook over a slow fire for five minutes and serve on a platter with a garnish of parsley an strips of pimento and green pepper. Sprinkle with paprika. Triangles of toast may be served with ham Tetrazzini if desired.

21 November 1920, Kansas City (MO) Star, pg. 14:
“SPAGHETTI TETRAZZINI.”
The famous singer is so fond of spaghetti that she brought a recipe from her home in Italy. Rumor has it that Tetrazzini eats freely of her favorite dish and can prepare it herself, if need be, from this recipe:

For four persons: Chop 1 small onion very fine and cook slowly with 1 ounce of sweet butter in saucepan for a few minutes. Add 3 or 4 small and very ripe tomatoes, shopped small. Let it cook together until well done, adding a little taste of garlic. Take 1/2 pound spaghetti and cook separately in boiling water for nine minutes. Drain off the spaghetti and pour over it 2 ounces of sweet butter browned and melted. Mix well. Add the tomatoes and about 3 ounces of Parmesan cheese, grated very fine. Mix well together and season with salt and pepper.

December 1920, The Steward, pg. 28, col. 1:
SPAGHETTI A LA TETTRAZZINI (sic)
Mme. Louise Tettrazzini, who left the McAlpin Hotel recently for a concert tour of the middle west, took with her 400 pounds of Italian spaghetti (made in America) and Chef Louis Paquet’s recipe for making Spaghetti Tettrazzini, a dish which she has eaten liberal portions of twice each day since arriving from Europe. Here is the recipe of the delicacy, as given to the great diva… (Too long to copy—ed.)

Google Books
The Judge
Published by Judge Publishing Company, 1921
Item notes: v.80 1921 Jan-June
Pg. 23:
Before starting on her long concert tour, Mme. Tetrazzini took a cooking lesson from Louis Paquet, chef de cuisine of the McAlpin hotel. Paquet began making ‘Spaghetti Tetrazzini’ several years ago, when she gave him the recipe she brought from abroad with her. ...

4 November 1922, Los Angeles (CA) Times, pg. II7:
SPAGHETTI TETRAZZINI
Two requests have been received for the recipe for spaghetti Tetrazzini as served by one of the local cafes. Have never tasted the spaghetti at this cafe, but will give the recipe as we served it.

8 January 1928, Washington (DC) Post, “Favorite Recipes of New York Chefs; Emince of Breast of Chicken Tetrazzini” by Theodore La Manna, pg. SM8:
Mix two parts of shredded breast of chicken previously roasted or boiled, with one part of cooked spaghetti cut about 1 1/2 inches long and enough cream sauce to make the mixture about as thick as chicken hash.

Season well with salt, pepper, a little grated nutmeg and grated Parmesan cheese. Place in a deep dish and sprinkle the surface with Parmesan cheese and small pieces of butter. Brown in the oven and serve hot.

Tips on Tables:
Being a guide to dining and wining in New York at 365 restaurants suitable to every mood and every purse

by George Ross
New York, NY: Covici Friede Publishers
1934
Pg. 91:
THE PARISIEN 304 West 56th Street (8th and 9th Avenues)
The aroma arising from such dishes as chicken Tetrazzini, Guinea Hen berlinoise, and scallopine of veal a la Marsala furnishes enough atmosphere for the steady patrons of this ordinary-in-everything-but-food restaurant.

2 January 1936, Washington (DC) Post, “Leftover Fowl May Be Served In Many Ways’ by Dorothea Duncan, pg. 9:
Turkey Tetrazzini Suggested As Attractive Disguise for Holiday Bird.

Google Books
Eating Around San Francisco
By Ruth Thompson and Louis Hanges
Published by Suttonhouse ltd.
1937
Pg. 258:
When Mayor Fiorella La Guardia spent a few days at the Palace he ordered spaghetti Tetrazzini for every meal except breakfast declaring it to be the finest in the world outside New York.

23 May 1937, New York (NY) Times, “Tonic Meals Again Grace the Tables of Spring” by Florence Brobeck, magazine, pg. 20:
Seafood stew, chicken Tetrazzini (breast of chicken, mushrooms and truffles in cream sauce with cheese sprinkled on top and delicately browned)...

3 November 1947, Huntington (PA) Daily News, pg. 7, cols. 6-7:
SHRIMP TETRAZZINI: Melt 3 tbsp. butter in small saucepan. Add 1 tbsp. minced onion and cook over moderate heat for about 2 min. Blend in 3 tbsp. flour. Drain one 6-oz. can of broiled chopped mushrooms, saving liquid. Add about 1/2 c. water to mushroom liquid to make 1 c. in all and add this to flour mixture with 1 c. milk, 1 chicken boullon cube, 1.2 tsp. kitchen bouquet, 1/2 tsp. powdered thyme an 1/2 tsp. powdered marjoram. Cook, stirring constantly, until sauce thickens. Cook 1/2 c. elbow macaroni until tender in boiling salted water. Drain. Arrange in greased shallow baking dish, 10x6x2 in., with shrimp pieces from 1 lb. cooked, cleaned shrimp, and the mushroom pieces. Then pour in sauce, sprinkle with 1/4 c. grated cheese and bake in moderate oven (350 F.) until thoroughly hot or about 15 min. Serve immediately. makes 4 servings.

You’ll prefer fresh shrimp for this recipe if they’re available, but if not, a 12 oz. package of the quick-frozen variety equals 1 lb. of the fresh. For canned shrimp use 2-7 oz. cans.

28 June 1951, Dixon (IL) Evening Telegraph, “Tuna Good Source of Proteins” by Gaynoa Maddox, pg.  16, cols. 2-3:
Tuna Tetrazzini
(6 servings)

One=half pound thin spaghetti, 1/4 cup butter or margarine, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon paprika, 5 instant chicken bouilion cubes, 1 cup water, 1 tall can exaporated milk, 1 7-ounce can tuna, flaked; 4 hard-cooked eggs, coarsely chopped; 1.2 cup minced green pepper, 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese (optional).

Cook spaghetti in boiling salted water until tender; drain. Melt butter or margarine in top of double boiler; blend in flour, pepper and paprika. Add instant chicken bouillion cubes; crush and blend in. Add water and evaporated milk; stir over low heat until smooth and thickened. Cover; cook over hot water 10 minutes. Divide sauce in half; to 1/2 add spaghetti; blend well. Add tuna, eggs and green pepper to remaining sauce. Arrange spaghetti in serving dish; top with tuna mixture; sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese.

11 February 1960, Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, MT), “Chef Creates Dish For Opera Singer,” pg. 11, cols. 1-2:
Many an exciting dish is born in a moment of emergency. Chicken Tetrazzini is a good example. it was when a New York chef heard that Madame Louisa Tetrazzini, the famous Italian opera singer, was coming to his establishment after her performance at Covet Gardens, that he created this delightful supper dish.

He took long stranded spaghetti (for do not all Italians delight in pasta, he reasoned), layered it with slices of breast of chicken, sauced it generously with rich cream, mushrooms and his best sherry wine. Then he sprinkled it with Parmesan cheese (another Italian favorite) and ran it under a flame until the cheese formed a golden crust.
(...)
Shrimp Tetrazzini
Substitute 1 pound of green shrimp, cooked, cleaned, split lengthwise (1/2 pound cooked) for the chicken in the preceding recipe. Proceed according to directions.

Google Book
Live High on Low Fat
By Sylvia Rosenthal
Philadelphia, PA: J. B. Lippincott Company
1962
Pg. 223:
Tuna Tetrazzini

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityFood/Drink • (1) Comments • Friday, February 13, 2009 • Permalink


very complete on the tetrazzini history....but....where oh where can I find the gourmet mag recipe? I had a dogeared page from the mag which has gone missing!! remember sherry and cream figured in it...can’t find the recipe on the net!!!

Posted by joan o'bryan herriott  on  12/16  at  12:43 PM

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