Back in July 2014, chef Joe Cicala took delivery of a 6,500-pound, wood-fired oven. Made near Naples, Italy, by Gianni Acunto, it was finished with mortar made from ash from Mount Vesuvius.
The oven was purchased for the restaurant Brigantessa (1520 E. Passyunk Ave.), which opened later that summer. Workers punched a hole in the side wall to get the beast inside.
Three summers later, the partnership of Cicala and his wife, Angela, and Le Virtu owners Francis Cretarola and Cathy Lee blew up. (Speaking of Mount Vesuvius...)
Brigantessa closed Dec. 31, 2019, with Cretarola and Lee selling the business to chefs David Feola and Scott Calhoun, who are now in the final stages of building out an ambitious restaurant called Ember & Ash.
Cicala wanted that oven, and cut a deal. On Sept. 1, 2020, workers punched out the wall and the oven — recognized by AVPN (Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana) — was hauled out, placed on a flatbed, and driven up to Cicala at the Divine Lorraine, the couple’s restaurant, at 699 N. Broad St.
It’s now on an outside patio, having been painted white.
Ember & Ash will have fire power of its own. Calhoun and Feola redid the kitchen, putting in new hoods and installing a hearth made by Grills by Demant.
It’s a testament to metal work.
Calhoun and Feola, well-seasoned alums of the Jean-Georges restaurant orbit, are planning what they call a “rustic, chic, warm, inviting” bar-restaurant whose cooking will be inspired by peasant cuisine from all over the world, e.g. sophisticated, innovative dishes made with the whole animal.
Back to the Cicalas, who raised a bit of a stir over the summer with their backyard pizza speakeasy: They’ll host a pizza pop-up at the Divine Lorraine from noon to 3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 1. Menu and live order link will be sent out 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30. The restaurant also will serve pizza during dinner service on Nov. 1.