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Le Virtu: Not Living Up to It's Reputation

We had a choice table outside last night, which was delightful. Service
was good, not a problem.

Spurred by memories of fantastic appetizers in the past, consisting of homemade
salumies, cheeses, vegetables, I suggested the $29 mixed appetizer (cold) for our
table of 4. It was mostly meat, everything tasty, but the portion size would have
been mingy even for 2. One grilled artichoke? One small pile of sliced onions
with balsamic vinegar? One small pile of sliced red peppers? One tiny tsp of
sausage spread? A disappointment.

Our pasta entrees were good, but not remarkable. I liked my rabbit ragu; a friend's pistachio
pesto was great, the gnocci very plain, and didn't draw raves from the friend who is a gnocci
lover; my husband's mix of rigatoni and vegetables was pedestrian.

The three tiny glasses of granita that my husband ordered provided a nice ending touch
to the meal; coffees were excellent, but total tab came to $75/couple with a generous tip.
No incentive for us to return--this was not an 'off' night--the menu choices for entrees were
not particularly tempting.

I detected a heavy hand of clever cost-cutting on ingredients at work. Don't misunderstand--
pastas were homemade and lovely, but sauces were not exciting.

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  1. Le Virtu had been on my "should visit" list ,which is already too long, and their removal based on your specific comments is quite helpful actually. "A disappointment, pedestrian, no incentive to return, not particularly tempting, clever cost-cutting" opened their place on the list for others currently receiving more favorable attention. . Thanks very much indeed.

    1. Damn, on my list for next few weeks as well.

      1 Reply
      1. I have been to Le Virtu at least three times - although not within the past few months. I thought it was very good but I never viewed it as outstanding.

          1. re: Holly Moore

            i'd hope that they would take my comments, and those of the friend who was with us as a wake up call. They could turn this around. My friend noted that the service was also perrunctory--no refills on water or coffee, no spicing in the olive oil poured on a plate for our bread dipping.
            She was right--I just didn't notice.

            What Le Virtu used to be was innovative. it wasn't last night.

          2. I wonder if the chef - who is great - was on vacation.
            We have been there many times and always thought it was excellent.
            Sorry to hear this report.

            1. Demoted to my if-fy list as well. With regret...

              1. The most "wow" dishes I've had at Le Virtu are not the pastas but the rabbit cooked porchetta style, the sausage and polenta, and the n'duja. Never had an issue with portion size. I hope they aren't getting stingy.

                2 Replies
                1. re: barryg

                  The n'duja was hot as hell, but yeah, that was damned good.
                  Pastas were okay, but all the Vetri spots do 'em better imo.


                  1. re: uhockey

                    +1. I did really like the n'duja, but other than that the food was just ok. Not bad, but certainly not worthy of all the praise I've seen heaped upon them from various places. All of the Vetri spots are better. If I lived in the neighborhood I'd go to Le Virtu, but it's not worth a special trip.

                2. Wow, that was not our experience when we visited a few months ago. Food was sublime. Sorry to hear about your experience. No excuse, even if the chef was on vacation.
                  Our dinner experience is below


                  1. Four of us had dinner at Le Virtu on Wednesday night. We had a nice time, the service was great and the food was good to outstanding. The enjoyment of eating at a place like Le Virtu is in trying traditional preparations that are not offered by other restaurants.

                    We shared the fried olives and the salumi antipasto.

                    The fried olives we thought were kind of a joke, but other people seem to love them.

                    The salumi antipasto was very expensive but is all made in-house and they served 6 or 8 meats plus two very small vegetables and no cheese. For people that do not frequent Italian specialty shops this appetizer affords them the opportunity to taste guanciale, capicola, pancetta, cured duck and nduja among other cured meats and sausages. The portions probably could have been a little bigger but then again they could have cut back on the selections and given more of each. If you are looking for value on this dish I would advise going to DiBruno where these meats are $12.00 to $20.00 per pound. Restaurants need to make 4X food costs and I think it was a fair deal.

                    I can only speak for the dishes that I ate but note that my friends were happy with the meal.

                    The scrippelle was a nice dish, delicious and unusual. I have never seen this dish on a menu before.

                    The hand pulled pasta with hot pepper, garlic and pecorino was really terrific. The sauce had a creamy consistency which was very surprising and delicious.

                    The guitar cut pasta with lemon, rock shrimp and bottarga was a good dish but did not taste that unusual the bottarga notwithstanding.

                    The brodetto seafood stew was very, very good. It had clams, mussels, calamari etc but also had a big hunk of white monkfish in the middle of the bowl. I thought that their rendition of a seafood stew was one of the best that I have had in a restaurant.

                    The wine was kind of expensive and we did eat a lot of food (6 antipasti, 4 pastas and 4 entrees) so that the tab was high at a hundred dollars per person including the tip.

                    I will certainly go back to Le Virtu.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Unkle Al

                      Thanks for the report. The bottled Italian beer list is good there, and a much better value than the wine.

                    2. Totally disagree with Bashful3. My wife and I dined last Sunday evening. Split the Housemade salsiccia over polenta. Delicious, spicy and more that ample portion to split. Half portions of pasta were next. Whole wheat fettuchine with pistachio pesto was light and tasty. Rigatoni with sheep milk ricotta was light and perfect. House wife Chicken was crispy outside and moist inside. Accompanying potatoes and vegetables were delicious. The porchetta with white beans and broccoli rabe was a home run. My wife took home half her chicken because she was full. Service was on point. Water refilled in a timely fashion. Nice selection of wines by the glass,too. Great meal. Can't wait to return.

                      1. Polar opposite experiences from a number of patrons of Le Virtu posting here. For me it is that inconsistency which encourages me to make other choices where a poor review might just be an off night or a bad choice of food items: which is always possible almost anywhere. Too many specific problems listed at Le Virtu to be ignored by this hound. I am not feeling that lucky lately.

                        1. I think their food is fantastic, but the service is a bit spotty. Last time I was there it took us forever to get menus, and I watched the hostess run and shake her hands through her hair, and then reached into the bread box to get our bread for the table. Did it right in front of us. If we weren't already tipsy and starving, we would have said something.

                          1. I've never had a bad meal there since Joe Cicala took over as chef but I have had bad service once and lackadaisical service one other time. I agree that the best places should be consistent, and delivering a good experience even when the chef has the night off is the mark of our best places. Maybe I've just always been lucky when I've been there. In any event, I'd encourage anyone who was considering checking it out to do so. It's obvious from all the good opinions you read about it here that they are capable of delivering a great meal, I'm sorry Bashful didn't have one but I've had many there. It's not my favorite Italian in the city though, Osteria is. When LV is firing on all cylinders it's #2 for me (though I haven't been to Modo Mio in a long time). That rabbit porchetta dish is fantastic.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Buckethead

                              Went for 1st time on 3rd July, albeit a day before the holiday. The egg and cheese croquettes were tasty, stuffed olives incredibly salty and unbalanced flavorwise, macaroni pasta both salty and brought new meaning to Al Dente. Fish of the day was destroyed by someone in the kitchen, who doesn't know how to filet a fish, and tasted like school lunch, rabbit porchetta style was unbelievably good and the portion size big enough for at least two people to share. Wines were average at best and relatively expensive. I went on the back of raves from this board, and glad I did, however, I am not raving, but felt that there is enough effort here not to write it off.

                            2. Went to Le Virtu this evening and found the place to be friendly and helpful. Table we had in small dining room in same room as bar but the extended part was very noisy, difficult to have conversation.
                              Had two courses, the trippo, which was well prepared but certainly not distinguished in any way. Then the polenta with one little sausage, one meatball,and one meatless rib. Was it too little, way, but was not good enough that l cared. My friend had the rabbit porchetta, which he liked, but l found quite dry.
                              Sorry, did not work for me. $115/2, that is with our own wine with small corkage fee included.

                              1. I thought it was just me. We ate there in May. Appetizer board was tasty, but a lot of $$ for not much to eat. Pastas were excellent, but seafood stew didn't have much seafood and we were served a large fish bone and shrimp head - that shouldn't happen. I can't see myself returning anytime soon. Too many other places.

                                1. Went recently for the first time and had a very mixed experience. Appetizers, mixed drinks, and dessert were excellent. Service was on the slow side, and getting water refills was next to impossible. Two of us ordered the hand-pulled pasta, which left us both underwhelmed. The basket of dried peppers and scissors thing felt schtick-y. I appreciate the ability to control the amount of heat in the dish, but the peppers seemed 'stale'. Also, some in the basket had already been cut, which left me wondering how many other customers had their mitts on the peppers before we got them. The pasta itself was gummy / chewy -- more like udon than pasta -- and the sauce wasn't anything special. Too many great restaurants in Philly to be going back to this one any time soon.

                                  1. I was back at Le Virtu again recently and I agree that the place seems to have lost a step. If it was just my experience I might chalk it up to unfortunate menu choices: I didn't get my known favorite dishes (the fried olives, rabbit porchetta, rabbit pasta dish), and tried all-new (to me) dishes instead. Like Bashful, everything was good, but not quite as good as I would have expected based on past experiences there. The portions were also a bit on the small side for the prices, particularly one dish, the braised egg and cheese croquettes, $12 for (IIRC) four meatless meatballs.

                                    Service wasn't great either (though it never really has been great there), we had to flag our server down to get more wine, water, etc.

                                    Anyway, our meal wasn't bad by any means, but it was overpriced and not up to the standards they themselves have set there in the past. I'll probably still go back, if only to order dishes I've had and loved in the past and confirm that those are still good. But for these prices, I'd recommend Osteria instead.