Every winter Le Virtù, the East Passyunk Avenue restaurant serving cuisine from Italy’s Abruzzo region, organizes La Panarda, an epic 40-course, nine-hour marathon meal. It’s Philly’s take on an Abruzzese tradition that dates back to the mid-1600s — and it always sells out. Haven’t been able to snag a ticket? This year there are two chances to get to La Panarda: Le Virtù owners Francis Cratil-Cretarola and Cathy Lee are bringing the feast outside for a summertime version on the restaurant’s patio on Sunday, August 25. Tickets go on sale July 16 at 2 p.m.
As one story goes, the first winter panarda took place about 360 years ago in honor of a local saint of animals, after a baby was released from the jaws of a wolf. But the summer version — “Mastrogiurato Panarda” — has a different tale, according to the restaurant: It’s based off medieval trade festivals in Lanciano, Abruzzo, that started in 1304. The mastrogiurato was a political official who would oversee the multi-day festival.
At Le Virtù, the $375 food and drink extravaganza is limited to one day, starting at noon and going until after dark. It’s capped at 35 diners, who sit at communal tables and dig into course after course of scallop crudo, grilled sausage, pasta with crab, orecchiette with sausage and broccoli rabe, swordfish with lemon and capers, pork ribs in a sweet and sour sauce, and much more, with Italian wines and digestifs.
While you don’t have to eat everything that’s put in front of you, the tradition is to at least take a bite of each dish. There are breaks planned throughout the day, so you can get up and stretch out your legs (and stomach). If it’s raining or too hot, the meal will move inside.
To get a seat, call the restaurant at 215-271-5626.