Sometimes people ask what’s my favorite Italian restaurant in New York and I often tell them it’s Le Virtú in Philadelphia.
“Just take the subway to 34th Street, go down into Penn Station and buy a ticket for 30th Street Station, Philadelphia.”
Le Virtú is genuino and it never disappoints. Our last dinner there was a celebration of a recent trip by owners Francis Cretil Cretarola and Cathy Lee, along with their chef, Joe Cicalla, to Abruzzo in central Italy. Abruzzo is the muse and the spirit of this restaurant and they brought back treasures from the source.
The dinner was prodigious with many brilliant courses, many Abruzzese wines and various lethal digestivi, but I want to focus this post on a pasta dish that alone is worth the train trip to Philly – pastaalla mugnaia – which means pasta in the way of the mill worker’s wife from the Province of Loreto Aprutino in Abruzzo.
If you want to see it made made in its original Abruzzese setting, check it out below.
Joe Cicala at Le Virtú is the only chef I know of who does this dish in the States. It is essentially one long strand of maccherone – Joe says he figures four-to-six feet per person – that was sauced the night we were there with olive oil, garlic, pepperoncino and pecorino cheese. Simple? Yes, totally. Unlike anything you’ve tasted? Absolutely.