The kitchen at East Passyunk Italian destination Le Virtù is shaking up next month, as executive chef Damon Menapace departs after two years to become the first-ever culinary director for Primal Supply, the butchery.

In turn, longtime chef Apolinar “Poli” Sanchez, a 10-year Le Virtù veteran, is being promoted to executive chef and Massimo Conocchioli, who was instrumental in creating Le Virtù’s acclaimed salumi program in 2009, is rejoining the restaurant as a consulting chef.

While Sanchez’s name might not be familiar to patrons, said Le Virtù co-owner Francis Cratil-Cretarola, his cooking is.

Massimo Conocchioli is returning to Le Virtu to handle its salumi.
COURTESY LE VIRTU
Massimo Conocchioli is returning to Le Virtu to handle its salumi.

In a statement, Cratil-Cretarola said “his hands have touched nearly all of the artisanal dishes that have emerged from the kitchen during the past decade. And not just pasta: He has played a key role in every aspect of the menu and service, including creating menu additions.”

Conocchioli’s first day at Le Virtù was the restaurant’s benefit for victims of the 2009 L’Aquila earthquake, just three weeks after the fact, under opening chef Luciana Spurio.

Before Conocchioli left in 2013, he helped to train Sanchez and other current employees. Conocchioli’s post-Le Virtù stops included Il Pittore; he will juggle time between Le Virtù’s salumi room and his sales job with a restaurant supply company.

Primal Supply owner Heather Marold Thomason said in a statement Friday that Menapace would help the company explore ways to meet increasing demand for locally sourced meat and expand its market reach.

Thomason and Menapace met in 2014 at Kensington Quarters, where he was executive chef and she was head butcher. He is expected to expand Primal’s prepared-foods program, and offer classes, dinner parties, and pop-ups.

Chef Damon Menapace, who started at Le Virtu in February 2018, is headed to Primal Supply.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Chef Damon Menapace, who started at Le Virtu in February 2018, is headed to Primal Supply.