The Authenticity of Chicken Parmesan: Unveiling Its Italian Origins

Chicken Parmesan, a beloved dish known for its crispy breaded chicken cutlets smothered in marinara sauce and melted cheese, is a staple in many American-Italian restaurants. But is it an authentic Italian dish? And if so, where in Italy does it originate from? The answers to these questions may surprise you. Let’s delve into the history and origins of Chicken Parmesan to uncover its true roots.

The Origins of Chicken Parmesan

Contrary to popular belief, Chicken Parmesan, as we know it today, is not an authentic Italian dish. Instead, it is an Italian-American creation that evolved from the culinary traditions of Italian immigrants in the United States. However, the dish does have roots in Italy, specifically in the southern regions of Campania and Sicily.

The Italian Inspiration: Parmigiana di Melanzane

The true Italian predecessor to Chicken Parmesan is a dish called Parmigiana di Melanzane, or Eggplant Parmesan. This traditional dish, popular in the regions of Campania and Sicily, features layers of fried eggplant, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, all baked to perfection. The concept of breading and frying a main ingredient, then layering it with tomato sauce and cheese, is the common thread that connects Eggplant Parmesan with its American counterpart, Chicken Parmesan.

The Evolution of Chicken Parmesan

So how did Eggplant Parmesan evolve into Chicken Parmesan? The answer lies in the wave of Italian immigration to the United States in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As Italian immigrants sought to recreate their traditional dishes in their new homeland, they often had to adapt recipes based on the ingredients that were readily available. In the case of Parmigiana di Melanzane, eggplant was replaced with chicken, a protein that was more commonly consumed in the United States.

Chicken Parmesan Today

Today, Chicken Parmesan is a beloved dish in the United States and around the world. While it may not be an authentic Italian dish in the traditional sense, it is a testament to the adaptability and creativity of Italian immigrants who sought to recreate a taste of home in their new surroundings. So, the next time you enjoy a plate of Chicken Parmesan, remember the rich history and cultural journey that led to its creation.


In conclusion, while Chicken Parmesan may not be an authentic Italian dish, it is a delicious example of Italian-American cuisine. Its roots in the traditional Italian dish of Parmigiana di Melanzane, combined with the adaptability of Italian immigrants in America, have resulted in a dish that is loved by many. So, whether you’re enjoying it in a restaurant or making it at home, Chicken Parmesan is a dish that carries with it a rich and fascinating history.