Most people aren’t lucky enough to have a Nonna at home slingin’ dishes from the old country. Those that do are blessed. For everyone else, there’s Le Virtu. Chef Joe Cicala just came back from a two-week trip abroad and he’s ready to drop some ‘Italy in spring’ inspired dishes on his diners. Interestingly enough, a meatless theme seems to have emerged.
“We usually go four times a year,” said Cicala.
Specifically to the province of Abruzzo, which is in the southeastern region of Italy.
“We go to these remote villages, find a dish that they’ve been preparing for like hundreds of years, bring it back and put it on a menu,” he said.
The trip was full of dining and photo shoots as the Le Virtu team prepares for some upcoming projects. One of which is a photo book. The sales will go to benefit an earthquake relief fund for the 2009 earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, a region of Abruzzo.
On his travels, Cicala picked up a bunch of stand out dishes.
“The spring menu is accidently very vegetarian friendly,” he said. “Like the Maccharoni alla Mungaia, which translates to ‘in the way of the millworkers wife.’ It’s a flour and water dough, no eggs. Rolled out and hand stretched like a Chinese noodle. One portion is four to six feet long. But it’s normally for huge parties. The sauce is just garlic olive oil, peppers and pecorino cheese.
He’s also got a meatless meatballs dish, the Cacio e Uova.
“When you’re in a region that’s so poor like Abruzzo, you really have to be creative, he said. “So they made meatballs out of the white part of the bread, pecorino and eggs.”
They’re then fried and braised in a Sugo Finto, which translates to fake sauce. It’s pretty much a poor man’s bolognaise: coarsely ground celery, carrots, onions, and fennel mix braised in a tomato sauce.
His spring menu is available now, but he’ll also be showcasing it during a special feast on May 30, when Le Virtu opens its outdoor dining area, Il Campo, for the spring.