The Story Behind the New Sicilian Chicken Salad

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It all started 36 years ago with the Pagliaccio Salad.  As years went by, our customers were clamoring for another salad to add to the delivery menu - enter our Caesar Salad.  Here we are 10 years later and it is time. This week, we debuted the Sicilian Chicken Salad. How did this salad come to fruition? Read on...

Adding a new salad to our delivery line-up was a goal this year. Initially, we planned to modify our Panzanella Salad. On March 21st, the Spring equinox (a day of balance), John Clifford, our Director of Operations, went to the Bellevue Square Pizzeria to test the new Panzanella recipe for quality and execution. While chopping and tossing and tasting, Field Manager Angela Agustin wondered why we didnt consider the popular Sicilian Spicy Chicken Salad instead (available only at Bellevue, Broadway, Queen Anne and University). Hmmm.

Meanwhile, the very same day, Pagliacci owner Matt Galvin worked the kitchen at the Broadway Pizzeria. On his break, he ate a Sicilian Spicy Chicken Salad. After he had put the fire out inside his mouth, he thought this tastes good but we can do better! The next day he emailed John Clifford and suggested we update the salad. 

Ever get the feeling the universe is trying to tell you something? The creative gears began turning. John and Matt started scheming. Matt suggested mixed greens and peppery arugula, salt-cured olives, nixing the artichokes, oh, and taming that heat. John, a lover of the artichoke, countered with ideas to improve them. Back and forth they went, every suggestion parried with another. Finally, they agreed to settle the matter with Macrinas Leslie Mackie, baker and chef extraordinaire.

Versions were tasted, modified, and tasted again. First the salt-cured olives were removed, artichokes were roasted with thyme and deemed a good fit, and they managed to harness the heat in the dressing. Leslie suggested adding something sweet to balance (remember the equinox) the heat. They sampled roasted grapes. Then a version with currants. Everyone agreed the currants added just the right amount of sweet. The final components were set: mixed greens, arugula, marinated chicken, thyme-roasted artichokes, currants, kasseri cheese.

The next challenge: Winning over the pizzeria managers. Without their support, changing a recipe for a popular salad would go nowhere. On June 5th, John attended a managers meeting at the Queen Anne Pizzeria. He floated the idea. The managers looked at him like hed just told them the moon was a giant mozzarella ball. Hmmm. They were going to be a tough row to hoe.

A week later, John returned to the Queen Anne Pizzeria armed with grocery bags of fresh ingredients. Bear with me he pleaded as he mixed, measured, and tossed. Two salads, the old and the new, were presented side-by-side. The managers eyeballed the new salad, poked and prodded with forks, then tasted. Hmmm. Their resistance faded with each bite. The new version won out. We sampled the salad to customers in the pizzeria that night and got an enthusiastic response.

Pizzeria by pizzeria, John continued the campaign, meeting with similar skepticism. But taste test by taste test the salad won them over. The Bellevue Square Pizzeria (remember where this started) remained the holdout. They even had customers fill out pre-emptive comment cards insisting that the original version not be changed. We settled the matter by introducing the new salad but agreeing to honor requests for the old. We no longer need to make the old version.

Over the summer, the customer response in the pizzerias to the new Sicilian Chicken Salad has been overwhelmingly positive. This week, after nearly six months of experimenting, consulting, tasting, revising, and the toughest test of all, winning over pizzeria customers, were beginning to deliver the new and improved Sicilian Chicken Salad. Order one and see for yourself.