I was goofing around on the internet today and learned that the owner (one Mr. Palladino) had imported a wood-burning foccacia oven from Liguria, and was just wondering if any people here had any experience of the restaurant.
I’ve been there a few times. It’s a better steakhouse than Italian restaurant, although most things I’ve had there have been enjoyable, the only thing I think I’d go back for is a steak. The focaccia is one of the better dishes, I’ve only had the “Di Recco” version but I’ve ordered it every time I’ve been there.
One very strange thing about the place which I don’t like: there are giant TV screens dominating the bar and to a lesser extent the dining room. It’s really distracting and takes away from the atmosphere.
Thanks! Foccacia col formaggio is a storied specialty of the seacoast town of Recco, and one very rarely finds it all in Italy outside of this small town, maybe because it takes special ovens and excellent olive oil. So it was surprising to stumble across this info that it was being made in Philadelphia. Legend has it that the recipe dates back to pirate days, when people living near the shore would spot pirate ships on the horizon, and grab flour, salt, oil and cheese and run to the hills. They supposedly lived on foccacia col formaggio until the pirates finished looting Recco and went back out to sea.
Also interesting is that “stracchino” cheese – which is the only kind used in the authentic recipe – is made from the last milk that cows are able to give after making the arduous journey through the steep Ligurian mountains to isolated pasture lands. “Stracchino” literally means “stretched” or “stressed”. It’s tangy taste is actually rather addictive, and one now sometimes sees trendy eateries in Italy, far away from Liguria, selling pizza with stracchino cheese in lieu of mozzarella. Not only does stracchino melt very well, it’s supposedly also lower in fat.
I’ll second this opinion. The focaccia is really good, and the steaks do outshine the other dishes. For Italiain, I’d head across the street to http://levirtu.com/, or up a couple of blocks to their counterpart http://brigantessaphila.com/.
Interesting menu at Le Virtu, in that it is one of closest that I have ever seen to a menu that you might actually find in Italy, in terrms of uncomplicated food, very faithful to a regional cooking tradition. Brigantessa much less so – what I would call essentially Italian-American presentation with just a few classics on the menu left unmolested. Doesn’t mean the food isn’t tasty, but I’d be more interested to go to Le Virtu.
I’ve not been to Abruzzo, but I hope to go this summer. (Hope to go to Philly sometime soon as well!)
Brigantessa is on my list for the next Philly trip!
For me, Brigantessa is for the pizza, or snacks at the bar.
Yes, the pizza looked the most faithful to Italian pizza concepts, with a few exceptions.
If you’ve never been to Zeppoli in Collingswood, NJ, that should be your first stop over Le Virtu. Or indeed, over any other Italian restaurant in or near the city.
I think if I visit that area I might not have a car, so don’t know if I’d be able to reach Zeppoli.
It’s a city. There’s cabs, Uber and other modes of transport.
If I’m in the area, I will be in Bryn Mawr, so how long would it take to reach Collingswood Nj and how much would it cost? (I don’t use Uber.)
[Edited to add: Never mind. I looked it up on Google. Zeppoli only does a dinner service, and Collingswood is too far from Bryn Mawr by car or public transport to make me want to spend that much time after a dinner getting back to where I’d be staying. I’m not all that far from Sicily where I am now, so more reasonable to get my Sicilian fix there.)