In the Library with Toni Tipton-Martin: The Man Behind the Name "Fra Diavolo"

In this video, Toni Tipton-Martin explains how Michele Pezza is linked to this Italian American dish. 

Published Oct. 20, 2023.

Seafood fra diavolo is an Italian American dish packed with seafood in a rich, spicy tomato sauce. Its name, “fra diavolo,” translates to “brother devil” in Italian, making it a fitting name given that this dish should pack some heat from dried chiles. 

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But the name is also a reference to Michele Pezza, a ferocious Italian bandit who lived in the late 18th century. Pezza earned the nickname by terrorizing peasants in the Italian countryside. His ferocity was so renowned that he was eventually recruited by King Ferdinand IV to fight against the French occupation of Naples. 

His story made its way to America thanks to a popular opera by Daniel Auber and novels of the French writer Alexandre Dumas. Through these, Pezza was transformed from a ferocious villain to a type of folk hero. 

Cook's Country's Editor in Chief Toni Tipton-Martin gives a more detailed story of how Pezza’s story inspired the name of the Italian American dish in the video below. 

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