For many years in high school, I worked at Bertucci's (a chain Italian restaurant) as a hostess and carry-out server. I loved it. It kept me busy, taught me responsibility and discipline, was a fun job to have and it helped me realize that a major in hospitality was very appealing.
From time to time, my mom would surprise me and stop in during my shifts to hang out with me. I always loved those days! She'd sit at the bar by the front door, right next to my home base for the day, and place an order for her favorite tuscan lemon chicken wings and an ice water with lemon to enjoy while I worked.
My mom also spent a lot of time with her mom (my Bubbe). Whenever they would venture out for the day away from Bubbe's Philly apartment, they needed to find a place not too far away, and where she could maneuver around easily with her walker. Of course, the place had to serve good food, too. The winner? Bertucci's! Unfortunately for me, they didn't visit the one I worked at on those days, because it was a bit of a hike from where she lived, but they did frequent another of the restaurant's New Jersey locations. Even in her 90s, Bubbe enjoyed going out to lunch with my mom, sharing orders of these wings and washing it all down with an ice cold beer.
The staff at Bertucci's always loved Bubbe - her bubbly attitude, her zest for life, and her thirst for that tall glass of beer to go along with her meal. She is just so cute!
This year in July, we would be celebrating her 100th birthday! Throughout her 97 years, she positively impacted the lives of MANY in Philadelphia and beyond, had a vision of peace and equality for everyone, and was such a special part of the family! She is truly missed!
In honor of Bubbe and what would be the big ONE HUNDRED (!!), I am making my own version of baked lemon pepper chicken wings. And of course, I'll have to wash them down with an ice cold (gluten free) beer.
I love making this recipe because it's a nice twist on the classic buffalo style wing. You can increase or decrease the seasoning to your liking, leave ingredients out, add different ones in. Maybe just wing it ;)
- 2 dozen chicken wings
- Zest of 5-6 lemons
- 3 lemons (same lemons that were zested)
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1-1/2 tsp salt
- 5 tsp cracked pepper
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 3 garlic gloves, minced
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- Optional Garnishes: rosemary sprigs, fresh parsley, lemon slices, lemon zest
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rinse the chicken wings and pat dry.
- In a large zip top bag, combine the lemon zest, juice of 2 lemons, olive oil, salt, 3 of the 5 tsp of pepper (reserving two for later), crushed red pepper, garlic and rosemary. Zip it up tight, then give it a good shake to get all ingredients mixed together.
- Place the wings into the bag. Seal it up tight again, and give it another good shake. Gently massage the seasoning into the wings.
- Move the wings into the fridge for about an hour to marinate. I like putting the bag into a bowl in the fridge, just in case there are any spills.
- After about an hour, take the wings out and let them come back to room temperature for another half hour, still in the marinade.
- Transfer the wings to a large baking sheet and spread them out. Place them into the oven for about 45-60 minutes, or until the wings are thoroughly cooked through to an internal temperature of 185 degrees, and are slightly browned. About halfway through, take the wings out and sprinkle the 2 remaining teaspoons of pepper on top.
- When fully cooked, take them out of the oven and allow them to cool. Transfer them to a serving dish and spritz lemon juice on top. Garnish with parsley, rosemary and lemon zest to really brighten up the flavors.