Rising Star Chef Joe Cicala of Le Virtù - Biography

Philadelphia, PA

August 2014

Like many Italian-Americans, Joe Cicala came to food by way of family. Raised in suburban D.C. by a mom who owned a private catering company, Cicala got an early start in the industry when his mom hired him to cook alongside her team after he graduated from high school. Working the stove, it didn’t take Cicala long to figure out that his future was right in front of him.

Delving into his heritage, Cicala traveled to Italy to train under Michelin-starred Chef Pietro Rispoli in Salerno. Returning to D.C., Cicala worked at Galileo and then Café Milano with Chef Fabio Salvatore, who would serve as an early mentor and introduced the young chef to Abruzze cuisine.

Cicala then took a brief sojourn to New York, working for a year under Mark Ladner at Del Posto. Back in D.C., he worked as sous chef at both New Heights and Urbana, finally taking on leadership as opening executive chef at Palio in Leesburg, Virginia. In August 2010, Philadelphia’s Francis Cratil-Cretarola tapped Cicala to run his restaurant and ode to Abruzzo, Le Virtù—with Cicala landing the restaurant at number five on Philadelphia Magazine’s 2012 “50 Best Restaurants” list. In addition to his 2013 StarChefs.com Rising Stars Artisan Award, Cicala was a 2012 James Beard “Rising Star Chef” semi-finalist. In summer 2014, he opened a second restaurant, Brigantessa, that features a wood-fired oven and grill.