Le Virtu chef Joe Cicala vs an Italian Pasta Sheeter

If you had any doubts that the pasta at Le Virtu wasn’t made fresh, think again.

Chef Joe Cicala
Chef Joe Cicala

Le Virtu chef and Brigantessa co-owner Joe Cicala got a brutal reminder [of the inherent dangers of his profession] Sunday night when he nearly lost his left hand after it got caught in the Italian pasta sheeter he uses at the East Passyunk restaurants. All of the bones in his fingers were crushed, but doctors at Jefferson Hospital were able to reattach them in emergency surgery. Followup surgeries are planned so they can reconnect at least some of the nerves, although Cicala said he was told his pinky may remain numb forever.

Just after 6 p.m. on Mothers Day, with the restaurant full of customers, Cicala took a moment to work on a new pasta he was creating for a planned dinner at the James Beard House in NYC (it has since been rescheduled). The recipe used an unorthodox flour made from grana arso, charred wheat berries, and Cicala had added a bit too much water.

The dough was sticking to the rollers, he said. “So, like an idiot, I reached in and tried to force it through the machine. And then I just heard a crunch. Like a handful of popcorn exploded. It was so gross.” – BillyPenn