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"I would really love to have the recipe for Pollo Sorrentino from the Trattoria Branica in Kirkwood. It is wonderful. It is one of the best chicken dishes I've ever had in a restaurant."

Maria Benivegna, Swansea

At Trattoria Branica's Kirkwood restaurant, executive chef Peppe Profeta prepares Italian food with lots of regional influences: "Roman dishes, Tuscan, southern Italian." Pollo Sorrentino is named for the town of Sorrento in southern Italy, where tomatoes and eggplant are abundant.

The preparation is simple. Lightly breaded, sautéed chicken breasts finish in the oven. A slice of seared eggplant tops the chicken, then fontina cheese and a pan sauce made with white wine, garlic and fresh tomatoes top the eggplant.

Profeta uses 4-ounce chicken breast halves, serving one for lunch and two for dinner. "We pound them just a little," he said, "to tenderize and make them even."

Most chicken breast halves available to home cooks are 6 to 8 ounces. For quicker cooking, those may be pounded between sheets of plastic wrap to a uniform thickness of about half an inch. Another option is to split each piece before applying the breading. (Place chicken on cutting board, hold knife blade parallel to board, and slice carefully in half.)

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Trattoria Branica

451 South Kirkwood Road

Kirkwood

314-909-7575

and

10411 Clayton Road

Frontenac

314-432-8585

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Chicken Sorrentino > Trattoria Branica

Yield: 4 lunch or 2 dinner servings

1 small eggplant

6 tablespoons light-flavored olive oil, divided

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breast halves

About 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 large ripe tomato, chopped

3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced

Salt

Ground black pepper

1/2 cup white wine

3/4 cup chicken broth

1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter

3 ounces (about 3/4 cup) shredded fontina or mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel eggplant and slice about 1/2 inch thick (see note). Place a large nonstick, ovenproof skillet over high heat; when pan is hot, add 2 tablespoons of oil, swirling to coat pan. Add eggplant and sear about 2 minutes on each side; remove from skillet and set aside.

2. Pound chicken to a uniform thickness of about 1/2 inch; cut into serving-size pieces. Dredge chicken in flour and shake off excess. Add remaining 4 tablespoons oil to skillet and place over high heat; sauté chicken about 3 minutes, turning to brown lightly on each side.

3. Add tomato, garlic, salt and pepper to pan; stir in wine, broth and butter. Cook about 6 minutes, until tomato has softened.

4. Arrange eggplant on chicken, then top with cheese. Transfer to oven; bake about 5 minutes, long enough to heat eggplant and melt cheese. (This dish can also be finished on top of the stove. After adding cheese, cover the pan with a lid, reduce heat to medium and continue cooking just until cheese melts.)

5. Arrange on serving plates; spoon sauce over all.

Note: Chef Pepe Profeta recommends using Japanese eggplant, "as they are sweeter." These are usually 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter. They may be peeled then split lengthwise to fit better atop the chicken.

Per lunch serving: 595 calories; 42g fat (64 percent calories from fat); 15g saturated fat; 119mg cholesterol; 31g protein; 18g carbohydrate; 5g sugar; 5g fiber; 420mg sodium; 156mg calcium; 620mg potassium.