Just six months after Joe Cicala was ousted from Le Virtu and Brigantessa, owners Francis Cratil-Cretarola and Cathy Lee are swapping chefs again. Damon Menapace of Kensington Quarters, the meat-focused restaurant in Fishtown, is heading to East Passyunk to take over the two Italian kitchens. Joseph Voller, who originally replaced Cicala as executive chef at Le Virtu (1927 E. Passyunk Ave.) and the more casual Brigantessa (1520 E. Passyunk Ave.), has been commuting from Princeton, New Jersey, and was ready to find a job closer to home so he could spend more time with his family. The decision to part ways was amicable.
This isn’t Menapace’s first experience cooking Italian: The chef worked for Marc Vetri at Osteria and the now-closed Alla Spina before joining Kensington Quarters, opened in 2014. The Fishtown restaurant, which originally included a butcher counter but has since been reconfigured, is part of Michael and Jeniphur Pasquarello’s 13th Street Kitchens group, along with Prohibition Taproom, Bufad, and Café Lift. Kensington Quarters’ long-time sous chef, Katie Maley, will step into Menapace’s role.
Menapace moves over to Le Virtu and Brigantessa in a couple weeks. Brigantessa’s Adam Taylor will stay on as chef de cuisine. Voller plans to stick around to help with the transition before leaving.
The Abruzzo-inspired Le Virtu opened 10 years ago. Cratil-Cretarola, Lee, and Cicala added Brigantessa, just up the street, in 2014 (two weeks before Kensington Quarters first opened its doors).
Before replacing Cicala at Le Virtu, Voller was at Eno Terra near Princeton.