Sometimes there is a confluence of all things good and right in the universe and one of those things happened last week, when Le Virtù, my favorite Philadelphia restaurant organized a special evening featuring foods from Domenica Marchetti's latest cookbook, "The Glorious Vegetables of Italy."
Each course was accompanied by wines that complemented the food perfectly - mostly from Abruzzo, but also from the regions of Le Marche and Puglia. The bread service included a cherry tomato and red onion focaccia; pizza bianca with roasted fennel and assorted grilled flatbreads (sorry, I forgot to take a photo.) The breads were terrific alongside this chicory salad, made more savory with the addition of anchovies in the dressing - similar to the flavor in a Caesar salad.
On a cold winter's night, Domenica's ribollita satisfies both body and soul.
The winter risotto was a perfect blend of sweet butternut squash and bitter Tuscan kale, held together with a swirl of Parmesan cheese.
Chef Joe Cicala deviated from Domenica's recipes for the main course - whole roasted suckling pig. The crackling outer skin was irresistible, along with the tender meat flavored with garlic and rosemary.
Vegetables followed, including my favorite, broccoli romano - hard to find in my neck of the woods. It too, was prepared with anchovy sauce, but as with many recipes that include anchovies, you'd never know it. The anchovies just heighten the flavors without overpowering the vegetable.
Served at room temperature, a winter salad of cauliflower had a fiery kick to it.
Fennel with sultana raisins and chili pepper offered a balance of sweet and spicy.
And speaking of sweet, the evening ended on a high note with a pumpkin semifreddo and sweet potato fritelle resting atop a mocha sauce, with toasted pumpkin seeds, prepared by pastry chef Angela Ranalli Cicala.
If you missed the evening with Domenica, there are still plenty of reasons to come down to this gem of a Philly restaurant. The restaurant, owned by Francis Cratil and Cathy Lee, offers one of the most authentic and delicious menus featuring the food of Abruzzo. Their new fall menu is now available here.
Winter Risotto with butternut squash and Tuscan kale
from "The Glorious Vegetables of Italy" by Domenica Marchetti
printable recipe here