Old Man WinterI had the experience of living in the mountainous region of Abruzzo for a year (we moved there when I was 10).  This region of Italy is very cold due to the proximity of the Apennine Mountains; it is uncommon to see many villagers that time of year as everyone tends to stay inside.  The town usually has a winter feast to bring everyone together; they share food, spend time together and touch base with their community.   I remember one such festival.  It was a very cold night, it seemed like everyone in the village and surrounding area was in our little home town.  I remember eating porchetta sandwiches and roasted chestnuts.

A recent dining experience brought back fond memories of my childhood when I participated in a similar feast at Le Virtu last Thursday evening.  Le Virtu decided to have a winter feast called La Cottora with proceeds going to Project H.O.M.E.  I took my administrator out for her birthday, and since both of us are half Abruzzese, it was a great way to celebrate.  We started off with a cup of mulled apple cider, yummy!

It was freezing cold outside and actually reminded me of the cold mountain air.  Chef Joe Cicala had an enormous stock pot filled with one of my favorite soups, Pasta e Fagioli, otherwise known as Pasta Fazool.  It was thick from the beans and the pasta was perfectly cooked, so it didn’t fall apart. [Note: When cooking pasta monitor it so it doesn’t get too soft.]  This stick-to-your-ribs soup helps you get through these damp and cold Philadelphia winters.

The second food offered was a traditional porchetta sandwich.  The bread was really crispy, the porchetta was tender and flavorful, and the addition of the au jus made it perfect.  In Italy, they love this sandwich so much they can’t wait to form a line; they all just reach to get their sandwich.

There was an outpouring from the Le Virtu community and they raised over $2,000 in their inaugural year.  It was an amazing evening and for a good cause.  Congratulations on a job well done and I am looking forward to next year’s feast.

There’s nothing like eating authentic Italian food that’s hearty and satisfying during cold winter months.  Enjoy my family’s recipe for Pasta e Fagioli that you can make for your family.  If you would like to make Le Virtu part of your custom culinary tour and experience Chef Joe’s Abruzzese cuisine, contact Chef Jacquie; together we can create a memorable culinary experience for you and your group.

For more information on our culinary tours, please call Chef Jacquie at (610) 506-6120.