Back in the ’60s when I worked at Pirro’s in San Francisco, we made an outrageous chicken cannelloni. Actually, all the food we made there was outrageously good. We made our own meatballs, shredded our own cheese, made fresh dough, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce,  lasagne… everything was made from scratch. Hell, we even sliced our own mushrooms, salami, and other meats, and ground pork butts to make our own sausage.

I really learned a lot in those years. It was also my first management job, and I made every rookie mistake a new all-powerful manager could conceivably make – from firing a waitress at the beginning of her shift to having a really good cook quit because I was the boss and therefore, right. [I wasn’t, surprise, surprise…]

My boss bought a building a few blocks away, and we tore down walls, laid tiles, built an open kitchen, landscaped an outdoor patio, and opened the new store with an expanded menu. My first opening and my first real dealings with the intricacies of the Health Department. He then bought a pizza place in Richmond, CA, started doing everything but paying attention to his businesses, got divorced, got remarried, got divorced, again… In the midst of it all I got into a fight with him one night, went across the street to a restaurant where I eventually ended up working, got stinking drunk, went home, packed up my car, and moved to Portland.

I’ve never been the impulsive type. Much.

Which leads me back to cannelloni… I don’t really remember the recipe we did, other than it had ground chicken and lots of cheese, so I grabbed a copy of Lidia’s cook book, checked out her recipe, and then decided to wing it.


First thing I did was braise a bone-in chicken breast – the lonely one that has been taking up space in the freezer for months – with a couple of end-cut pork chops that have also been taking up valuable freezer space. Into the melange went fresh rosemary, chopped carrot, parsnip, onion, garlic, and celery – and a cup of white wine.

When the meats were done, I took them out and added last night’s beans, along with pecorino romano, ricotta, and gorgonzola cheeses.

I used fresh lasagne sheets cut in half, because I didn’t feel like making crespelle.


Into the pan with a cheesy bechamel sauce, and into the oven.



I made six, we barely finished off two, each, and I had enough filling for at least a dozen more. The filling and leftover pasta squares went into the freezer. I’ll do something with the sauce later in the week.

So back to Pirro’s… My ex-boss pretty much lost the businesses. My nephew and my niece both worked there during high school, but the place had really gone even farther down hill under the new ownership.

Rumor has it that there’s a new owner, again, and they’re trying to recreate those glory years! I see that cannelloni is on the menu, too! I’ll wager it’s not the homemade stuff we created way back when, but I hope they make a go of it!

It really was the best pizza in the city.