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Nov 14, 2007 11:41 AM

PHL - Anyone been to Le Virtu yet?

It's the new Italian place on East Passyunk, I think they opened a couple weeks ago. I've heard good things.

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  1. No, but I've been dying to. Menu looks great.

    1 Reply
    1. re: saturninus

      The menu does look great... any idea what prices are like??

    2. Disappointed - Took the wife for her birthday last Friday. Nice looking place and very well lit (hate dark restaurants). Service was a little iffy (i.e. no bread offered for 15 minutes, wine took about 10 minutes from placing the order, no forks . . .) The service was friendly however. As for the food we shared an antipasti which were fried balls stuffed with cheese which were pleasant. Then the pasta courses which include: Ravioli al Cioccolato al Ragu di Coniglio and Parpadelle al Ragu de A'Natra. The former is a cocoa pasta ravioli stuffed with braised rabbit, amaretto cookies and sage butter. It wasn't awful but I expected a lot more flavor. How could something with those ingredients taste bland? (well, it did). The second pasta (duck and beef ragu sauce) was also not awful but the ragu was dried out. It wasn't very moist and again not very rich or unctuous as you'd imagine this dish to be (we've all made ragu right?) Our secondi to me was also disappointing (although my wife thought it was fine). We shared the Filleto Bourbonica (tenderloin, anchovy, and mozzarella in a marasala wine reduction. There was no sign nor smell of marsala wine anywhere. The meat wasn't bad (but not memorable either). The grilled veggies on the side were good though.

      It did enjoy the wine and finished with a good grappa. I'll probably give them another shot but my advice to them (no pun intended): don't bite off more than you can chew.


      6 Replies
      1. re: Chinon00

        If you want a delicious pasta with ragu go to L'Oca, on Fairmount Avenue at 21st. No reservations, not sure if it's cash only. We've enjoyed everything there, including a great roast chicken dish. Very casual, moderate prices. byob.

        1. re: sylviag

          I wonder though, with so many contemporary and interesting dishes (particularly the pastas) on the menu if those choices are more marketing driven and the actual execution skills (or awareness of how these dishes are supposed to taste even) is not present in the kitchen though?

          1. re: Chinon00

            Given the fact that it's only been open a short while and will probably improve a bit as most places do, would you say that it was good enough that you would go back in six months or so, hoping that the issues you had will be ironed out by then?

            Clementine's, a little further north on Passyunk, seemed to have a similar problem when they opened: some of the dishes sounded really good on paper, but they added up to less than the sum of their parts. They seemed to learn from that and drop some of those dishes, and the place is noticeably better now. Just wondering if you saw promise in what was offered.

            1. re: Buckethead

              Some things arrested my attention. For one, the wine list was medium-long (20 reds and 20 whites) but I got the sense when I asked about a few that the server didn't know much about them. I kinda got the same feeling about the food; that they were in over their heads a bit. You know when you are at a place where you can tell the owners/ staff are really passionate about their food and wine? I obviously didn't get that feeling here but I'll try again.

              1. re: Chinon00

                "For one, the wine list was medium-long (20 reds and 20 whites) but I got the sense when I asked about a few that the server didn't know much about them. I kinda got the same feeling about the food;"

                now that's interesting... maybe they took your advice to heart:

                i was actually just googling them trying to find a menu...found that instead, but no menu... anyone have a link?

                chinon00 i forget if i'd discussed with you, but have you tried modo mio up on girard? the owners and staff there sell me on the fact that they're passionate about what they do. i've had some very happy creative, FLAVORFUL meals there. though i am really curious to know what bland cocoa pasta tastes like - unimaginable!!

      2. I have been waiting for this place to open forever. I live like two blocks away and I have been watching them slowly remodel and build this place. It looks great inside - and the first night I was there it was an open-house of appetizers, draft beers, and signature cocktail drinks. My friend and I were just walking by and it was open!! We were so excited and had such a nice time.

        I've been five times since they opened about 3 weeks ago. I've been twice for dinner and three for the happy hour drinks and bar menu specials. All five times I've really enjoyed the food, drinks, and service.

        The bar is a nice place for the happy hour specials. I've met after work with some of my girlfriends twice for drink specials. Many come with fresh fruits and herbs (like basil and blackberries or mint) and are refreshing and light. There are interesting combos too that I've never heard of elsewhere. I had the special cocktails, but my friends each enjoyed some draft beers - including a nice pilsner that I can recall. I do not really drink beer, but I remember that all the drafts are high end beers - not the typical south Philly Coors Light drafts, etc. My friends each tried several (one with like 10% alcohol!!) and they said they were delicious. Most recently I met with two other friends for drinks on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. The bar is really inviting - and they are sometimes playing black and white Italian films with subtitles which I think is much better than sports. And thankfully the sound on the TV is never on, just the tunes - which are pretty good. I note that after they stop serving food in the dining area, the song list changes - less chamber music/ jazz and more pop/rock/soft punk from the 60s-late 80's. We had a good time singing and drinking! I cannot wait until it is warm enough to have drinks on the patio outside.

        While at the bar, we've tried the mussels, calamari, and the antipasto. The mussels were flavorful (white wine and garlic), clean, and plump. The antipasto included some delicious preserved meats (for which the Abruzzi region is known), as well as some great bruschetta (including one with mortadella!!), a nice pesto, and a rabbit liver. The calamari is my favorite though - grilled on a steak with shrimp and served on a little bed of greens and lemon. Very fresh, tender, and tasty. Also at the bar they have a basket of deep fried dough with little savory bits of sage and cheese and anchovy and various things in them that are crazy good. We let two people at the bar try them and they each ordered their own basket!

        The other two times I have come for dinner, we sat in the main dining area. The atmosphere there is really nice. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable about the menu and the wines. The sommelier (Fredericko ?) came over and suggested some wines - including a slightly effervescent red wine. It was fantastic with the antipasto (I've had it each time!). I had the papparadella duck ragu and it was phenomenal! It was moist, light, and the duck was so tender and delicious. I thought about it the entire week until I was able to have it a second time! My partner had a very thin veal cutlet that was breaded and fried with roasted fingerlink potatoes and a light spinach salad.

        We've had some nice desserts too. Including a peach mousse that nearly made me cry it was so light and delicious, and a nice lemon tart/mousse pie. Both really light and homemade by the chef Luciana (?). Two times when I was there late at the bar, the chef has come out to ask me how I liked the food, etc. She is really funny and nice and is really concerned about how people like the dishes. She said she came from the Abruzzi region to work at this restaurant. I don't know if these dishes originated with her or not, but everything I have tried so far has been delicious.

        I am actually heading over there this evening to have drinks with some friends after they have dinner there. Hopefully they will log on and let people know how it was for them. I look forward to hearing what other people think.

        I went to Clemetine's (1600 block of Passyunk) last night and it was pretty good. The wild mushroom linguine was really great and the goat-cheese cheese cake was incredible. We did not think the mussels were so great though. We also love Karina's on the 1500 block of Passyunk.

        Has anyone been to Chiarella's yet (across from the fountain on Tasker)? We have not been there yet. I'd love to know what folks think about these restaurants.


        3 Replies
        1. re: Sonya M

          From your review, one might conclude that Le Virtu is one of the better Italian restaurants in South Philly (if not in the entire city). Would you concur?


          1. re: Chinon00

            Hi - I just learned from an office mate that there was a post for me to reply to. I only just learned about Chow Hound last week when searching for a website for this restaurant (still have not found it). This site was the fourth one in google search. I was excited to see people can just post about restaurants, so I did.

            I think that Le Virtu is the best restaurant in my neighborhood right now, but not necessarily the best restaurant in the city! I have lived here for nearly 8 years (just two blocks from the restaurant) and have seen lots of restaurants come and go and I was/am excited to have Le Virtu in my own backyard. I was disappointed that some of the posts did not mention the bar and my favorite drinks and foods - so I added.

            My favorite Italian restaurant is Villa d'Roma. My partner and I go there several times a month - for a while every Friday night. We always start with a few martinis at the bar have a great time with the bar tenders (who are always there!). They have our drinks being made as soon as we walk through the door - it is nice to be remembered! However, the atmosphere and food are very different at Villa and Virtu - so they are not exactly comparable.

            I have not been to a lot of the trendier Italian restaurants in the last few years - but have consistently gone to the Villa, to Karina's and Cucina Varrallo (two blocks away and BYOBs).

            As for my favorite restaurants in the city - they are all in the Olney section - different Korean restaurants - which is what my partner and I generally go for dinner. Our favorite restaurant of all time recently closed - at 69th and Market in Upper Darby - Pochangmacha - the Orange Tent. We are good friends of the owners there and hope they will be able to open a new Korean restaurant in the city soon!

            Does anyone know if there are Korean food posts in the Chow Hound?


            1. re: Sonya M

              yes! there are a few korean places in the city + burbs if you search the PA board. recently someone had emailed me with info on a place in olney... somewhere in the 5900 block of ?5th? street i think? my GPS found a place at this location called kim's (GPS info is sometimes inaccurate so i was hoping to get someone to verify). i still have yet to make the trek up there.

        2. I finally went last night and was underwhelmed, especially for the price. We started with the soup and the arancini. The soup was very good, probably the only thing we had that I'd go back for. The broth was excellent, and the crepe that is served in the soup was perfectly tender. The arancini were not bad, a little boring but they're just rice balls.

          Our main disappointment was the entrees. I ordered ravioli with three-meat ragu (beef, lamb, and pork). What I was expecting was a sauce with those three meats in it, but what I got was a plate of ravioli in red sauce with three hunks of meat on one side of the plate: a meatball, pork rib, and what I think was a piece of lamb loin. The meatball was very dense and not fluffy as it should be, and the rib and loin were overly fatty. The whole dish was not what I was expecting based on the menu description. That's not so bad if the dish is successful, but this wasn't at all, and it was $17. My wife's gnocchi with four cheese sauce was decent, better than my ravioli but it was broiled before it left the kitchen, giving it a texture a little too close to mac and cheese.

          We did like our wines, the by-the-glass list is reasonably priced and our Sangiovese and Montepulciano D'Abruzzo were better than I was expecting.

          Anyway, for a tab of $74, I'd rather go to Mr. Martino's twice. I will probably go back to Le Virtu after 4-6 months and give it another shot, though, and if I'm in the mood for a good bowl of soup I would definitely head to the bar and have some of theirs, it was really good and reasonably priced at only $6 if I remember correctly.

          4 Replies
          1. re: Buckethead

            Can you tell me more about Mr. Matino's? I want to try it. Price range? Do they have vegetarian? Do you need a reservation?

            1. re: saturninus

              It's very inexpensive, I usually get a cup of the white bean soup for a few bucks and one of several entrees I really like (the spinach lasagna is really good and vegetarian, I'd recommend that), usually around $12 - $13. The first time we ever went there our bill was $46 for two apps, two entrees, a shared dessert, and two coffees, and the prices haven't changed since then. It's BYO. They're only open Friday through Sunday, so I usually make a reservation. You can call them during the week and leave a message with your reservation info, they'll call you back if there's a problem. It can get packed, the tables are a little close together in a few places, but it's such a comfortable space in there that I don't mind that.

              Be warned that the place is a little hard to find, even if you know the address. It's on Passyunk between Tasker and Morris, directly across the street from Cantina los Caballitos. It's the building with the submariner mural on the side. The sign is a stick drawing of a table and chair.

              1. re: saturninus

                Mr. Martino's has a great white bean soup with rosemary, we go especially for the soup in the winter. They have some nice grilled vegetable specials there as well (seasonal). One thing we have noticed is that they really like nutmeg - it seems to be in everything! But the pumpkin ravioli (with nutmeg) is delicious!

                And they are BYOB - so it is a bonus. They have the shutters down on the business except when they are open, so it looks closed most of the time. When they are open, the menu is in the window and is very very consistent.


              2. re: Buckethead

                Well I made it back to Le Virtu recently and it was much better than my previous experience. The pasta dish in particular was a huge improvement. I think Mr. Martino's is still my favorite, but I'll go back to Le Virtu again.

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