Dear Friend,
We proudly announce Chef Cicala's 4th appearance as a James Beard Semifinalist (Best Chef, Mid-Atlantic), offer our initial Spring events at Le Virtu' (including a collaborative dinner with Chef Tod Wentz of Townsend and a Cataldi Madonna/Marina Cvetic Abruzzese wine dinner), link to a profile of Le Virtu' and the mugnaia pasta in  Lucky Peach and our inclusion in FoodableTV's "Top 25 restaurants in Philadelphia," Zagat's list of "Philly's 10 Essential Pastas" and provide the Spring schedule for our East Passyunk sibling restaurant Brigantessa.   

Francis Cratil

le virt�

Chef Cicala James Beard Semifinalist, etc
Wine dinner with Tod Wentz and Lauren Harris of Townsend
Abruzzo National Parks wine dinner
Brigantessa inaugural wine dinner
Brigantessa guest chef Scott Schroeder takes over bar action station
Brigantessa Italian beer dinner
Chef Cicala's 4th appearance as a James Beard Semifinalist, Le Virtu' in Lucky Peach and other mentions...
It's been an extremely satisfying and humbling season for Le Virtu',our South Philly paean to Abruzzo.


We are extremely proud to announce that Chef Joe Cicala has, for the fourth consecutive year, been named as a semifinalist for the 2015 James Beard Award ("Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic"). Joe joins a distinguished list of local Beard nominees, including two others on East Passyunk Avenue (Townsend for "Best New Restaurant" and Nick Elmi for "Best Chef: Mid-Atlantic"). Joe's commitment to our mission of honoring Abruzzo has been deeply gratifying to us and we are thrilled that his skills have not gone unnoticed and continue to bring attention to the region we love. 2015 marks the third occasion that East Passyunk has been home to multiple semifinalists for America's most prestigious culinary awards: http://www.phillymag.com/foobooz/2015/02/18/james-beard-award-semifinalists-announced/


Cathy and I were inteviewed by Lucky Peach about the origins of Le Virtu' and Joe discussed and demonstrated the preparation for maccheroni alla mugnaia, one of the most obscure pastas in Italy from a small sliver of the Fino River Valley: http://luckypeach.com/profiles-in-obsession-francis-cratil-cretarola-cathy-lee/


The maccheroni alla mugnaia was included in Zagat's list of pastas you must try in Philadelphia (we think of the mugnaia as a small-town kid who moves to the city and makes it big!): https://www.zagat.com/b/philadelphia/the-10-pastas-you-need-to-try-in-philly#4


Finally, Le Virtu' was second in Foodable Web TV's list of "Philadelphia's Top 25 restaurants: February 2015." We are honored: http://www.foodabletv.com/philadelphia-top-25/2015/2/29/philadelphia-top-24-restaurants-february-2015

Collaborative Italian wine dinner with Chef Tod Wentz and sommelier Lauren Harris of Townsend


Le Virtu' Executive Chef Joe Cicala

One of the best things about working in a restaurant on East Passyunk is just how much of a real community the Avenue is. I personally think the genesis of this attitude comes directly from the genetic makeup of the neighborhood, long a bastion and sanctuary for one of America's largest and most vibrant Italian-American communities. When Cathy and I first moved to this neighborhood, we were treated with uncommon kindness, generosity and interest. People looked out for us. I'm happy to say this is also the case among restaurateurs on the Avenue.


  Townsend Chef/Owner Tod Wentz


One of our favorite places on East Passyunk, a place that provides us (like several others) with no small amount of vicarious pride, is Tod Wentz's Townsend, a pefect paean to French cooking that manages to be simultaneously elegant and down-to-earth. From the cocktail magic provided at Townsend's intimate bar by Keith Raimondi, Lauren Harris's pefect wine pairings and Tod's unpretentious mastery of French cuisine, the whole experience is one we heartily endorse. Townsend earned its place as a 2015 James Beard Semifinalist for "Best New Restaurant." 

Well, Tod is soon branching out with an Italian-themed BYOB in Philly's Fairmount secion and we would love to help him launch that project. On Wednesday, April 8th, Le Virt� Executive Chef Joe Cicala (himself a four-time James Beard semifinalist, including 2015) will team up with Tod in our kitchen for a collaborative dinner, featuring wine pairings by us and Townsend sommelier Lauren Harris. This promises to be a memorable event, with two of the Avenue's best chefs teaming up to dish out not only some outstanding, innovative Italian fare, but also a taste of community. Please join us! 

Date: Wednesday, April 8

Time: 6:30 pm

Location: Le Virtu'

Cost: $85 (excluding tax & gratuity)

Limited seating; phone reservations only: 215.271.5626

Menu coming soon...   


Abruzzo National Parks and the wines of Cataldi Madonna and Marina Cvetic 


Rocca Calascio  
(Rocca Calascio in Gran Sasso Nat'l Park; photo by Kateri Likoudis)

Long-time readers of these newsletters are veterans (and perhaps weary) of my rhapsodic descriptions of Abruzzo's natural beauty, cultural diversity and miraculous traditional integrity. Well, here I go again...
Abruzzo is Italy's most beautiful region, with luxuriant hill country, long stretches of unspoiled coastline and the Apennine range's highest, most remote areas. Part of why so much of its natural splendor and traditional life have been preserved are its parks: there are three national, one regional and several WWF reserves providing sanctuary for wolves, bears, chamois, lynx, deer, boar and, of course, humanity. Abruzzo's national parks are also home to some of its most evocative towns and villages, and some of the best cuisine (in our opinion) on earth. The time we've spent in these parks profoundly changed (and continues to change) our lives and inspired the creation of Le Virt�. 


(Mussellaro in Majella Nat. Park; photo by Kateri Likoudis)

In concert with Vias Wines and The Wine Merchant, we celebrate the coming Spring, recommit to our traditional roots and showcase some of the region's very best wines, with a five-course dinner with wine pairings from Abruzzo's award-winning Cataldi Madonna and Marina Cvetic (Masciarelli) wineries. Chef Cicala will craft a menu featuring ingredients and dishes from Abruzzo's three national parks to be paired with a diverse array of Abruzzesi wines.


Lago di Barrea 

(Lago Barrea, Parco Nazionale d'Abruzzo; photo by Francis Cratil)

The wines will include Marina Cvetic's singular Trebbiano d'Abruzzo (which stands the preconception of this white varietal's potential on its head), Cataldi Madonna's Pecorino (a white varietal indigenous to Abruzzo and Marche, which has only been recently rediscovered and appreciated), Cataldi Madonna's Cerasuolo (the region's deep, full-bodied, flavorful ros�), Cataldi Madonna's potent Maladrino and Marina Cvetic's new Iskra, full-bodied, structured and one of the most exciting new wines from Abruzzo. Abruzzo's cultural, culinary and oenological mastery will be on full display.


Date: Thursday, April 23 

Time: 6:30 pm

Cost: $85 (excluding tax & gratuity)

Limited seating; phone reservations only: 215.271.5626

5 courses, 5 wines 

Menu coming soon... 


Brigantessa: Inaugural wine dinner with Nico Raia 

All Photos by Kateri Likoudis

Our recently opened East Passyunk sibling restaurant Brigantessa (which earned early accolades from Philadelphia magazine and The Philadelphia Inquirer), welcomes Spring with a wine dinner featuring the Wine Merchant's Nico Raia. Nico is providing a selection of some of Italy's most interesting varietals, taking us from the Alto Adige's South Tyrol in the North to the Isle of Sardegna and then deep into the South and the regions of Puglia and Basilicata. This wine dinner is Executive Chef Joe Cicala's first chance to go "off-menu" at Brigantessa, and his pairing selections are inspired - perfect companions to the diverse array of wines being showcased. Join us for our inaugural wine event!


Date:Thursday, March 26 

Time: 7 pm

Cost: $75 (excluding tax & gratuity)

Location: Brigantessa, 1520 E. Passyunk Avenue

Limited seating! Phone reservations only: 267.318.7341

Menu (5 courses, 5 wines):

Spuntino (small beginning)

Turbot "al vapore," garlic, parsley, white wine

I Fiori Vermentino di Sardegna DOC


Wood-grilled quail, charred chicory, rosemary jus

Terlan Terlano Classico (Pinot Bianco, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Italico) DOC


Beet-green cappellaci dei Briganti (conical pasta), dry-aged beef ragu, parmigiano-reggiano

Pater Noster Basilicata Aglianico IGT


Wood-grilled venison, bintje potatoes, roasted piennolo tomatoes, pesto siciliano

Rocca dei Mori Copertino (Negroamaro, Montepulciano) DOC


Almond-polenta cake, poached pear, moscato zabaglione



Brigantessa: Thursday, April 2: Guest Chef Scott Schroeder takes over the "Spuntini" (small bites)  station 


When we designed Brigantessa, we were hoping that the salumi and spuntini (small bites) action station at the bar would provide some theater. And that was before American Sardine Bar and South Philadelphia Tap Room Executive Chef Scott Schroeder volunteered to take the action station's wheel for one night (this promises to be great drama, indeed). On Thursday, April 2, Scott will helm a "spuntini takeover," providing his own recipes and inspirations for our bar snacks.


We're sure that for many of you, Schroeder needs no introduction. His innovative, down-to-earth and delicious takes on pub food have made American Sardine Bar and SPTR two of the city's most popular spots. Scott's long been a good friend to Le Virt� and Joe, and we're thrilled to have him on board, even for just one night. But be warned: while Scott dishes out some of the city's tastiest fare, he's equally skilled with the quip or barb. This promises to be an extremely spicy evening at Brigantessa... 

Date: Thursday, April 2

Time: 5-10pm

First-come, first-serve at the bar (get there early!)

Brigantessa: Thursday, April 16: Italian beer dinner
(all photos by Kateri Likoudis)

Brigantessa is proud to serve one of, if not the - and we believe it is THE - largest selections of Italian craft beers in the city. From Baladin's Nora, an ancient recipe based on Egyptian ale, Birrificio Italiano Cassissona, a cassis-infused brew to Birra del Borgo's Perli ai Porci (pearls before swine), an Oyster Stout, we've got you covered with close to 15 rare Italian drafts and bottles. 


It would be harder to think of a better pairing for Italian craft beers than the street foods and rustic classics of Napoli, and Chef Cicala's an expert on these. After years of "field research," he's accumulated an unrivaled understanding of the cuisine of Italy's most chaotic but also most-alive city, la bella Napoli. We hope you'll join us at our inauguralbeer dinner featuring osme of Italy's most exciting new craft beers and a menu of including some of Napoli's earthiest, most classic foods.

Date: Thursday, April 16th 

Time: 7 pm 

Price: $60 (excluding tax & gratuity)

Limited seating; phone reservations only: 267.318.7341
5 courses, 5 beers

Menu coming soon...