From a nine-hour, 40-course Italian feast to a festival with samples from pretty much every big-name chef in Philadelphia, here are four only-in-Philly food experiences to put on your calendar in 2020.
La Panarda at Le Virtu
Philly’s most epic feast is the annual nine-hour, 40-course Abruzzese meal at Le Virtu on East Passyunk Avenue. Owners Francis Cratil-Cretarola and Cathy Lee model their panarda after a tradition in the southern Italian region that inspires the restaurant, with chef Damon Menapace and his crew filling tables with roasted capretto, salty baccala, light as air scrippelle, rich timballo alla pescolano, and so, so much more. The next panarda is scheduled for January 26, 2020: It’s limited to 35 diners, costs $483 (including endless food and drink, tax, and tip) and, as of this writing, only has two seats left — but you can put your name on the waitlist in case anyone has to cancel (note that there’s a $31.04 per ticket fee when you buy online). Last year, for the first time, Le Virtu held a summertime panarda as well, so cross your fingers the restaurant is planning that again, and keep an eye out for announcements.
There are food festivals all year long in Philly, but none combine food from a long list of the city’s most notable chefs with performance art like Feastival. The annual fundraiser for FringeArts takes place in September, at the close of the Fringe Festival, with around 70 restaurants and bars serving samples of savory and sweet eats while acrobats and dancers perform and musicians play. In 2019, general admission tickets went for $300, so expect a similar price in 2020.
The Hoagie Room at Pizzeria Beddia
If you haven’t already jumped on the Pizzeria Beddia bandwagon for the pies, maybe an intimate hoagie tasting will do the trick? For just under $500 ($75 per person plus $7.50 in taxes and fees), six people can cozy up in a private room at the Fishtown restaurant and dig into hoagies, pizza, and soft serve. Small plates and one cocktail per diner are part of the package, but the price doesn’t include any of the wine the restaurant will offer, so keep in mind that it’s all too easy to spend more than planned. The room can seat up to eight. Reserve well in advance.
After Hours at Di Bruno Bros.
Ever walk by the original Italian Market Di Bruno Bros. in the evening, after it’s supposed to be closed for the day, and wonder who are the lucky folks eating their way through the shop’s abundance of cheese? You’re looking at Di Bruno Bros. After Hours, when up to 16 cheese-loving friends can have the shop all to themselves for two hours of sampling fancy cheeses, charcuterie, antipasti, olive oils, vinegars, and other bites, all guided by the extremely knowledgable staffers. It’s a BYOB party (Di Bruno just opened a bottle shop with an impressive selection a couple doors down). The cost is $60 per person Monday to Thursday and $70 Friday to Sunday with an eight-person minimum, so if you’re playing host expect to pay at least $480 plus tax and tip. Add a wine package with sparkling wine, white, red, dessert wine, and Lambrusco for $240 and up.