It’s proving to be a busy month at Le Virtu and Brigantessa, especially for chef Joe Cicala. For the start of the spring season, the two restaurants are hosting a variety of events lasting until April 30th. We already mentioned the Scott Schroeder spuntini takeover happening on April 2, but here’s a round-up of what else is happening at the sister restaurants.
With the continuing restaurant boom in Philadelphia comes an array of new choices to visit during everyone’s favorite after-work past time: happy hour. It’s that blissful hour or two after work where you can complain to your co-workers about what’s going on in your life over cheap wine and bite-sized snacks. Now with all new options, it’s time to branch out from your favorite watering hole and try these six new happy hours in Philly.
We expect a lot from restaurants these days. If they don’t transform liquids into powders or barrel-steep cocktails with homemade bitters, they’d better serve chickens that roamed freer than our children do. So when a forneria bowls you over even before the door whooshes shut as you enter, it’s time to ask what really matters most.
I’m not the only winter-bitten soul to feel that way crossing the threshold of Brigantessa, where great blasts of heat from a Vesuvian-ash pizza oven ripple along a bar teeming with platters of sausage-stuffed long hots and oil-poached swordfish and wood-grilled octopus salad. Chef Joe Cicala’s sophomore effort on Passyunk Avenue has been rollicking since it opened in October.
So you guys know all about Brigantessa by this point, right? Joe Cicala‘s new place on East Passyunk? His ode to Neapolitan street food and super-authentic pizza?
Yeah, well apparently what he’s trying to do at Brigantessa (which includes, among other things, being the first DOC-certified Neapolitan pizzeria in Philly which involves following a whole bunch of rules made by Italians to govern what is and is not a proper pizza) is confusing some folks. So he’s put out a video all about his oven, his pizzas, the right way to make a Neapolitan pie and the right way to eat them. In addition to being instructional, it’s also full of slo-mo pizza porn and lots of loving shots of that imported pizza oven, so be aware: Maybe don’t watch it until after you’ve had lunch.
The people of East Passyunk must have a boundless appetite for pizza, because despite the proximity of Slice, Santucci’s, Marra’s, and Francoluigi’s (and I’m sure you’ll let me know if I’m forgetting somebody…), opening night at Brigantessa yesterday was bumping. Cocktails were flowing, as were wines on tap and by the carafe, and the high-tops and bar seats were loaded. But the warm dining room upstairs will ensure plenty of space for Passyunk’s pizza lovers as the restaurant hits its stride.
Brigantessa opens this evening on East Passyunk Avenue. The second restaurant from chef Joe Cicala and his partners Cathy Lee and Francis Cratil-Cretarola will focus on Southern Italian cooking and a menu built around the restaurant’s wood-fired oven. The bar and open kitchen take up much of the first floor with a dining room upstairs. Cicala will also have a rotisserie and grill at his disposal in the kitchen.
The bar will offer sixteen beers on draft, including several craft Italian beers as well as US craft options as well. Wine will also be available on draft and will focus on wines from Southern Italy.
Brigantessa will initially be open for dinner seven nights a week and lunch will be added later. It is walk-in only for now, OpenTable reservations are available as of Monday, October 20th.
Joe Cicala is getting close to opening his second restaurant, Brigantessa on East Passyunk. How close? He estimates his menu is about 80% done, which is about how much of it we can decypher in this blurred photo that Cicala posted on Instagram.
Most visible, the annotation “more salumi.” And who can’t get behind that? Cicala, who is also the chef at Le Virtu will be serving flavors of Southern Italy at Brigantessa.
We’re happy to see Joe Cicala standing next to just delivered wood-fired oven. The video that Cicala posted of the delivery guys attempting to get the behemoth into the open wall at Brigantessa didn’t exactly inspire confidence.
The wood-burning oven will be at the heart of Cicala’s new East Passyunk restaurant that will focus on Southern Italian cooking and pizzas. The oven was manufactured to order in Italy for Briganessa and is hand-made from volcanic ash. Brigantessa is aiming to open this August.