About the mission…
Brigantessa is inspired by the peoples, cultures and cuisines of Italy’s South, from Abruzzo to Calabria, Molise to Campania, Puglia to Basilicata and the island of Sicilia. Linked by history and ruled for more than 1000 years as a single kingdom, the South is a place of unparalleled cultural, geographical and culinary diversity, comprised of the most soulful, vibrant and unspoiled regions of Italy.  Rugged pasturelands, white cities above cobalt-blue seas, chaotic streets in Napoli and Palermo that are riots of color and mosiacs of ancient cultures… the Greeks, Italics, Romans, Byzantines, Saracens, Normans, Turks, and Spanish all left their traces here in the art, architecture, customs, people and, of course, food.

Our menu draws on our experiences in the South… pizza mastery in Napoli, dishes redolent with cinnamon and citrus in Sicilia, hot chilies in Calabria, robust Aglianico wines from under the Vulture Volcano in Basilicata,  seafood dressed in bright olive oil in Puglia and grilled lamb across Abruzzo and Molise.  Brigantessa is a “forneria,” an eating place centered around a wood-fired oven (in our case a Gianni Acunto oven, the best in the word, handmade in Napoli with ash from the slopes of Vesuvio) where we produce not only authentic pizza Napoletana but also baked pastas, meats and fish.  The kitchen also features a wood-fired grill for meats and other dishes. Like the regions we try to honor and the neighborhood we call home, Brigantessa is welcoming, unpretentious and proud of what we produce.  We look forward to making you feel a casa tua.

A Brigantessa was a female brigante, or brigand, one of the many southerners who resisted unification under northern rule in the 1860s and fought a long guerilla war.  Our logo is inspired by a real Brigantessa, Michelina Di Cesare from the mountains in Campania. The Brigantessa for us is a symbol of independence, indomitable spirit and living in the moment.  She is also a symbol of devotion to the South. Few people live better in the moment or enjoy themselves more than southern Italians.  Gatherings in the South tend to be unpretentious, warm and filled with conviviality. Welcome to Brigantessa.

About the place…
Brigantessa is located on East Passyunk Avenue, one of America’s most exciting culinary corridors.  The forneria has two distinct dining areas: a lively, downstairs bar with views of the oven and a large upstairs dining room.  The bar features a station where salumi is hung and cut and cold dishes are plated, fifteen taps dedicated to Italian and local craft beers, rare bottled beers, around 40 Italian wines (with 20 available by the glass) and a selection of signature and classic Italian cocktails. In front of the oven, a banchina affords guests front-row views of the oven and our pizzaioli at work.  The second floor is open and spacious with views of East Passyunk; photos of southern Italy brighten the walls.

About us…
Executive Chef and Co-Owner Joe Cicala is a three-time James Beard semifinalist at Le Virtù, our Abruzzese-themed restaurant also located on East Passyunk.  Joe’s familial roots are in Sicilia and Basilicata, and his most formative cooking instruction occurred during a two-year stint at Al Cenacolo, Pietro Rispoli’s 4-person Michelin-starred kitchen in Salerno, Campania. He has also cooked in some well-regarded American kitchens, including Roberto Donna’s Galileo  and Mark Ladner’s Del Posto. Joe’s studied pizza making at Napoli’s AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) school. He’s a Star Chefs award winner for charcuterie and has earned high praise in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia magazine, Washington Post, Food & Wine, and numerous other print and online publications. Chef Cicala has traveled all over Italy, focusing especially on  Campania, Sicilia, Abruzzo and other southern regions.  He lives in South Philly not far from Passyunk Avenue.

Catherine Lee and Francis Cretarola are Co-owners of Brigantessa and Le Virtù.  They’ve traveled extensively in Italy, but especially in Abruzzo (where they also lived), Molise, Puglia, Basilicata and Campania.  They support cultural events and organizations in Abruzzo, as well as exchanges with the region (especially the tours of the Abruzzese folk group DisCanto). Francis’ familial roots are in Abruzzo’s Teramo province. Cathy and Francis also live in South Philly, just two blocks from East Passyunk.