Posted by: debrakolkka | May 27, 2011

Marco’s pollo mattone

We have been regulars at Marco’s restaurant across the bridge from our apartment for 8 years. One of the reasons for this is his brick chicken – pollo mattone. Just before I left Bagni di Lucca I asked if I could see how it is made. Marco happily led me into the kitchen for a demonstration.

first chop your chicken in half

The next step is to put the chicken skin side down in a pan with a little olive oil.

place the pan on the stove top

Now season the chicken with salt, pepper and whatever flavouring you wish. Marco sometimes uses rosemary.

season the chicken

Then as quick as a flash Marco whipped out the heavy brick and put it on top of the chicken.

the brick goes on top

I didn’t pick it up, so I can’t tell you how heavy the brick is but it looks extremely weighty. Marco informed me that there are very few original bricks left in Tuscany and they are now very valuable. Maybe there are a few lying around disguised as door stops.

have you seen one of these lying around?

The chicken is left to cook for about 20 – 30 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, and served simply with lemon and whatever contorni takes your fancy.

the finished product

 I have eaten many of these delicious chickens in my last 8 years in Ponte a Serraglio. Our lovely friend Annabel enjoyed hers too.

she didn't leave much

 Marco’s brick makes my pollo mattone device look pretty flimsy.

Click here to see my feeble attempts at brick chicken.

Click here to read more about our good friend Marco and here to see Marco in his roll as traffic cop.


  1. Looks Good !


    • It is good. I have tried several to be sure.

  2. Thanks. A friend of mine is very keen on this when at ‘Da Vinicio’ and has asked me how it’s done so I’ll pass this on. Tracking down a good brick will be an interesting challenge for her!

    • You can buy the terracotta pot with lid that I have in Lucca in Via San Paolino at that funny little shop that sells all sorts of gadgets.

      • I know exactly the shop you mean, thanks.

      • No problem.

  3. Damn, I only have a square brick available! Now to find a square frying pan and a chicken with corners.

    • That shouldn’t be too difficult.

      • One of those battery hens should be square enough.

      • Poor little things are probably already flat as well.

  4. I must confess that I have a weakness for Italian earthenware pots, particularly the PIRAL brand. They make them in Liguria, but I have not seen the Tuscan mattone needed to make the “pollo alla diavola”. I have traced mattones to one of my favourite cookwear shops in San Francisco (Williams of Sonoma); however, I was not looking forward to coming back to Europe with a mattone in my suitcase… I will try the shop you recommend in Lucca. As you said, the original mattones are practically impossible to find nowadays.

    • The shop in Via San Paolino always has the pot. It wieghs about 4 kilos with the lid. I dragged one all the way back to Australia.

  5. That looks wonderful! I would like to eat at his restaurant. What are some other good restaruants in the area?

    • We like L’Osteria della Piazzetta, Ristorante del Sonno, Bruno’s and Trattoria Borghese. I have done posts on all these except del Sonno and I will do that soon.

  6. I regret I didn’t try Marco’s brick chicken when we were staying at Bagni di Lucca; but I did try his other dishes and they were always delicious. We also loved to dine by the River Lima on a nice Summer night. I hope Marco will still be around when we visit next time; and I will definitely order that chicken!

    • Unfortunately Marco doesn’t put the tables by the river in summer any more. He has not been well lately.

  7. I LOVE chicken prepared this way…curious: does he flip the chicken over at any point during the cooking? Or does he just cook it skin side down the whole time?

    • I don’t think the chicken is turned during cooking.

  8. Curious and fabulous. I wonder if a square brick by Boral will do the trick …

    • It will work very well I’m sure.

  9. I was about to ask if the brick was heated and checked back at your pollo matone and discovered it is. I have tried it with a foil wrapped Besser block – ! didn’t look half as oh la la rather more ha ha and of course it wasn’t heated. I love your own photo of your chicken – it’s little legs look so demure. Richard’s comments were a giggle – I think if our chook Julia keeps up her vocalising I’ll be able to supply Richard with a chook with corners (we’ve changed their diet and Julia’s not happy about it).

    • I heat my mattone, but Marco’s was not heated. He just hoisted it on to the chicken from the shelf it was resting on.

  10. Many thanks for your article on pollo sotto mattone! My Sicilian mother made chicken as such many, many times (as I do now) though I think she might have learned it from a Tuscan neighbor, but Sicilian friends insist it is a Sicilian dish, non lo so. Mamma used at least a head of separated large juicy unpeeled garlic cloves, a generous branch of fresh rosemary, olive oil, several bay leaves and the requisite salt and pepper, once in a blue moon she’d marinate the chicken in lemon juice (ciao Sicilia!). On top of the chicken (placed in a heavy duty pan) she’d put a large cast-iron pan then a heavy basalt brick on top of the pan cooking the chicken first on its opened side then breast-side; the chicken would be cooked at a low heat until it took on a light mahogany color and turned over half way through the process. The result was (and is) pure ambrosia with the garlic being slightly charred dark brown and oh so succulent, the rosemary crispy and its flavor well infused into the chicken, and the poor bird being as thick as a generously stuffed wallet, so so crispy and aromatic… All doesn’t end when the chicken is cooked and served, after doing so is when the rough country bread is torn into generous chunks and dipped into the resulting oil, not only delicious but cholesterol be damned…

    • That sounds absolutely wonderful. I like the sound of the garlic and rosemary. I’m going to try that.

  11. What an honour to be shown how to make a dish in the kitchen!

    • I know Marco very well and he was happy to show me his brick.

  12. Deb, I’m not sure how that works, do they preheat the brick or something? Or is it all cooked in the oven? If they use a cold brick, I’m not sure how the top side cooks? Absolutely intriguing, thank you (and Marco!) for the guided tour!

    • I didn ‘t see Marco turn the chicken and the brick was not hot when it went on top of the chicken. It was cooked on top of the stove in a fry pan. It does cook all the way through. I put mine in the oven.

  13. A big hello to Marco & C. one of the best friends I had into the square during my 20 years working esperience in Bagni di Lucca.

    But all around all this period of time a question wan’t let me sleep well…
    Marco he kill the pollo with the brick???????

    Ciao a tutti

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