Le Virtu on East Passyunk Avenue is bringing back its epic annual 9-hour meal on Sunday, January 28. La Panarda will last for more than 40 courses, served to just 35 diners. The extravagant feast is $400 a head, not including tax and tip (but including a food-filled gift bag). Reservations are a must, and, in keeping with tradition, every diner is expected to try every course — so maybe don’t eat for a day or two before.
This is new Le Virtu chef Joseph Voller’s first La Panarda, and the sixth for the restaurant’s owners, Francis Cratil-Cretarola and Cathy Lee. The couple got Voller up to speed on the cuisine of Italy’s Abruzzo region with a research trip through southern Italy shortly after Voller joined the restaurant, replacing Joe Cicala.
The over-the-top meal is modeled after one in the Italian town of Villavallelonga, which, according to Le Virtu, has been taking place since 1657. Expect a staggering number of dishes, all examples of Abruzzese cuisine. Here’s the preliminary list:
- Stuzzichini, or small bites, such as olive all’Ascolana and grilled sardines
- Salumi e formaggi, such as Pecorini, including traditional canestrato year-aged without oxygen, brigantaccio, and muffato, a blue-cheese style, and 12-, 24-, and 36-month aged Parmigiano cheeses
- Raw and crudo, such as fluke with olive and fennel, bay scallop with chili and lemon, and venison carpaccio with arugula, grana and lemon
- Antipasti, such as grilled baby octopus and fegato, duck liver mousse with Amarena cherry and celery root
- Primi, such as rock shrimp gnocchi with prosciutto and “overnight” tomato, mugnaia with lamb ragu, lamb polpette and pecorino, and timballo with smoked eggplant, quadrello, bufala taleggio, crepes and cardoon besciamella
- Seafood, such as brodetto vastese with monkfish, clams and mussels and braised scungilli with button mushrooms and parsley salsa verde
- Offal, game, and ferments, such as tripe parmigiana with polenta, mazzarelle (lamb offal in wrapped in grape leaves), and spiedini of grilled duck hearts in agrodolce
- Meats and roasts, such as suckling porchetta with fennel pollen and potato, capretto (whole roasted baby goat), and “salt lamb” — baby lamb raised on the coast and fed on seaweed and marsh grasses, with sausage stuffing
- Dessert, such as chocolate olive oil cake with pistachio cannoli cream, lu parrozz, a traditional almond flour and citrus cake, and buttermilk panna cotta with brown butter cake and seasonal fruits
The wines are also from Abruzzo. Ambitious eaters who want in on the 40-plus courses should make reservations now. This will sell out.