My husband and I recently celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary a few months ago– well, as much as any couple with a young child can celebrate - probably getting excited at our son’s bedtime after a long weekday only to fall asleep on the couch together or something glamorous like that! Truth be told, we actually have two technical wedding anniversaries, but most people do not know about the first. I had a dream, fantasy-come-to-life wedding, only it was just the two of us. We traveled to Switzerland and had a beautiful, private ceremony in a tiny, medieval castle on a mountain overlooking Lake Luzern. We wore fancy clothes, got our pictures taken, and treated ourselves to an amazing two weeks in a ritzy hotel as I introduced my husband to my favorite city in the world, having visited there years earlier. A few weeks later, we had a fancy brunch at a historic mansion with just super close family members to celebrate our nuptials.
Although a lot of people accustomed to standard weddings couldn’t quite figure out why we chose to get married this way, most agreed that it sounded super romantic. And it was. It was the most romantic, movie-like experience of my life. Years earlier when I traveled abroad alone, I fell in love with the city of Luzern, and saw a couple getting their picture taken on their wedding day in the beautifully ancient Old Towne. I remember thinking how incredibly storybook-like it seemed, and if I were ever lucky enough to find someone to love, I couldn’t picture a more perfect spot to marry him. It’s funny how things turn out.
Which is why our first technical “wedding” is so contrastingly different, it makes me chuckle. While researching how one gets married in a foreign country legally, I discovered that it’s totally possible, but there is a lot of red tape involved. I was advised by the individuals coordinating our event in Switzerland that it would be much easier to get legally married in the U.S. first, as we would have had to do so in Switzerland anyway before having our castle ceremony. So, on a pretty May weekday, my husband and I took off from work and technically got married at our town hall down the road, attended by just our parents and my sister-in-law and young nieces. Although it was just a technicality, the location was a special spot which would come to have more meaning later on, as we’d often take our son there years later as a baby to play at the adjoining park. After our little office ceremony, we all headed to the great diner across the street for some lunch.
It can sound so silly to think of sitting down to some BLTs and turkey wraps at a no-frills diner after just getting married, but honestly, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever had. Food is such an integral part of the way we all celebrate and what I love about cooking and feeding people so much is the way food can stir up wonderful memories and sentiments. That afternoon, I had one of the most delicious creations ever - what the diner termed a “pitaria,” a grilled sandwich with fried chicken, melted cheese, and other fixins’ using pita bread. I didn’t think twice about recreating it at home, and every time I make it, I smile and think back to my casual, Thursday afternoon wedding day and the delicious and simple celebration lunch that followed. Although pitarias are apparently no longer on the menu at our ol’ diner from that day, I continue to make them all the time, and I’d love to share my recipe with you. They are gooey, delectable, and super easy to assemble. And to me, they symbolize love, celebration, and remind me that the important things in life need not be expensive, fancy, or showy. I hope you will cherish this recipe as much as I do!
- 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into cubes or chunks
- One tablespoon Italian dressing
- One cup Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
- Approx ¼ cup vegetable oil, for frying
- One package, approx. 6-8 count sturdy large pocketless Greek pita or gyro bread
- 4-6 slices provolone cheese
- ½ red onion, sliced
- One cup chopped Romaine lettuce
- 1-2 plum tomatoes, sliced
- 3-4 tablespoons Thousand Island dressing
- 2-3 tablespoons butter or margarine for griddle
1) Dip chicken pieces into Italian dressing, letting excess drain before dredging into a bowl of the bread crumbs. Heat oil to medium-high heat in frying pan, skillet, or Dutch oven. Shallow fry chicken, being careful not to turn over too soon, approximately 6-8 minutes. Flip and fry other side until golden brown and crispy. Drain chicken on paper towels.
2) In the meantime, heat griddle to 400 degrees. Line one piece of pita bread with one or two slices of provolone, a small handful of lettuce, a few slices of tomato, and red onion. Place a few pieces of the chicken on top. Drizzle a tablespoon or two of the Thousand Island on top. Place another piece of pita bread on top. Spread top piece of bread with one tablespoon butter or margarine.
3) When griddle is hot, carefully place “pitaria” butter-side down onto griddle (you may need a very large spatula to help you flip it this way). Griddle until bottom is lightly golden. Spread another thin layer of butter on top of pitaria, and, using large flat spatula, quickly flip to cook the other side until golden. (If something falls out of pitaria during this process, that’s OK, you can quickly stick it back in)!
4) Transfer pitaria onto a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a large serrated knife, carefully slice pitaria into smaller sandwiches, keeping one hand on top to keep everything inside. Enjoy!