East Passyunk Avenue restaurant Le Virtù, which serves the cuisine of the Abruzzo region of Italy, has started curing its own meats and sausages, thanks to the arrival of Massimo (like Cher, he goes by one name only), a butcher from Abruzzo who is now working at the restaurant under the direction of chef Luciana Spurio. Owners Francis Cratil Cretarola and Catherine Lee have constructed a semi-secret “cantina” to house, cure and age pancetta (cured pork belly), guanciale (pork cheek) and several obscure Italian pork sausages and salamis - including one called “Swine Nutella” - plus duck prosciutto.
They’re serving the cured meats as a platter - along with traditional Abruzzese sheep’s milk cheeses - as a seasonal special for as long as the meats last. If they don’t run out before warm weather, you may be able to sample them on the restaurant’s spacious adjacent lawn. Cretarola and Lee have received an extension of their liquor license, which allows them to serve alcohol on the large grassy area next door to the restaurant. They plan to add communal tables and a grill so they can offer a menu of grilled items like lamb arrosticini (skewers) and sausages. While it’s not exactly a beer garden, it’s the closest thing to it in the South Philly concrete jungle.
Massimo and Cretarola gave us a guided tour of the products - click through the slideshow to see detailed descriptions of how each is prepared.
Le Virtù, 1927 E. Passyunk Ave.; (215) 271-5626