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Food We Love: Cooking lemon chicken at the legendary Tufano’s

Welcome to Food We Love, our Sun-Times video series featuring stories about Chicagoans family food traditions, secret recipes, special ingredients and unusual favorite dishes.  Each week we’ll hear a new story about food and family and learn some amazing recipes that you can try at home. Our host is Chicago journalist Linda Yu who loves cooking at home, as well as exploring new restaurants throughout the city.  

Today’s episode: A visit to the family-owned Tufano’s in Little Italy to learn how to make lemon chicken

Join Linda Yu every week for cooking and conversation on Food We Love.

Join Linda Yu every week for cooking and conversation on Food We Love.

Making lemon chicken at Tufano’s

Street crews were outside 1073 W. Vernon Park Place in Chicago’s Little Italy neighborhood because a crumbling piece of the sidewalk needed repair. A 14-year-old Joey di Buono watched as they poured the cement.  As it was setting, Joey decided to write something because that piece of cement was outside his grandparents restaurant: Tufano’s  Est. 1930. He also added his own name.

Joey couldn’t have known those decades ago, that in 2018, Tufano’s is still his family’s restaurant and he’s been running it, with tradition and love. After 98 years, it’s just about Chicago’s oldest family-owned establishment — a James Beard award winner serving pasta bolognese, lemon chicken, veal parmigiana and more, beloved by generations of Chicago families.

Home cooking inspires family restaurant

The story began in 1930 when Joseph and Teresa di Buono helped out some cousins who had started a bakery across the street on Vernon Park Place. Soon, a bar and restaurant were natural additions to the family business. Italian immigrants flocked there, including an infamous Chicagoan. Al Capone loved Joseph’s cooking so much, he hired Joseph to be his own chef. So Teresa took over more of the cooking. Tufano’s got so busy, she soon had to make some of the dishes in her home kitchen next door — and passed them through a window they created — into the restaurant’s kitchen.

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Over the years, Joey has added rooms to Tufano’s as the number of customers grew. The chalkboard menu has some additional items to accommodate changing palates. But many things haven’t changed — family members still work there, some waitresses have called regulars by name for decades, pictures on the walls are reminders of Joey’s grandfather, grandmother, father and mother.

Recently, I learned to make Teresa di Buono’s lemon chicken, with a perfect side, the D&D Special, a pasta dish created by Joey and wife Tracey’s twins, Darci and Disa.

The D & D special, a pasta dish at Tufano's Restaurant in Little Italy. | Sun-Times Staff

The D & D special, a pasta dish at Tufano’s Restaurant in Little Italy. | Sun-Times Staff

One more thing that’s still part of Tufano’s — grandmother Teresa’s kitchen window. Go to the Sun-Times website to watch how to make lemon chicken and see if you can spot that kitchen window.

Tufano’s Lemon Chicken


    • 1 whole chicken, rinsed and dried
    • 1⁄2 tsp. salt
    • 1⁄2 tsp. pepper
    • 1 tsp. dried oregano
    • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
    • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
    • 1⁄4 cup vegetable oil
    • Lemon, halved

    Linda Yu learning how to make Tufano's lemon chicken. | Sun-Times Staff

    Linda Yu learning how to make Tufano’s lemon chicken. | Sun-Times Staff


    Preheat broiler to highest level.

    Cut chicken into pieces. Place in broiler pan (make sure pieces are lying flat).

    Drizzle with oils.

    Squeeze fresh lemon over chicken, place pieces in pan.

    Cook for 20-25 minutes (until golden brown and crispy). Turn chicken over, cook flipped side until golden and crispy.

    Plate chicken with options such as cottage fried potatoes or rice. Pour lemon juice from pan over dish and serve.


    Linda Yu enjoying the lemon chicken at Tufano's in Little Italy. | Sun-Times Staff

    Linda Yu enjoying the lemon chicken at Tufano’s in Little Italy. | Sun-Times Staff

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    Watch more “Food We Love” episodes

    We hope you’ve enjoyed this segment of “Food We Love with Linda Yu.” Check the links below to watch Linda’s other #foodwelove videos. Each one has a great story plus recipes for you to try at home. You can also follow Linda on social media to get the latest on her CST series.

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