Viennese Schnitzel, or “Wiener Schnitzel”, is a thin slice of veal coated in flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs which is fried in clarified butter. Although the Austrians are very proud to call “Wiener Schnitzel” their national dish, the truth is that the initial recipe was developed as Cotoletta Milanese in the 15th century in Italy. Cotoletta Milanese can be seen as the precursor of our “Wiener Schnitzel” today. In the 18th century, the Italian recipe found its way to Austria and from there on schnitzel got famous all over Europe. Legend has it that former field marshal Joseph Radetzky von Radetz brought the recipe from Italy to Austria. In 1848/49 he defeated a riot in Lombardo-Venetian (Italy) and there he got to eat Cotoletta Milanese. He was so impressed with this delicious piece of meat, that he did not hesitate to take the recipe back with him to Austria. Although it is a lovely story, it’s no more than a tall tale and the truth is not yet verified.
Do you know that the name “Wiener Schnitzel” is protected by Austrian law? If you see “Wiener Schnitzel” on a menu, the meat has to be veal. The use of any other types of meat like pork or chicken is still allowed but requires the dish to be referred to Schnitzel Viennese style (“Wiener Art”). It’s not a real “Wiener Schnitzel” if it’s not made with veal.