Why He's Amazing: Because he's reviving old-school and even ancient recipes from Abruzzo using ingredients from Philly and Italy—and the results are incredibly delicious.
Culinary School: Self-taught
Background: New Heights, Café Milano (Washington, DC); Del Posto (New York City)
Quintessential Dish: Maccheroni alla mugnaia (a single strand of hand-pulled pasta tossed with garlic, olive oil, pecorino and dried chiles)
Culinary School Alternative: "I bought a one-way ticket to Italy." There, Cicala spent two years apprenticing at Al Cenacolo, in Salerno. He continues to make regular "research" trips to Italy for Le Virtù.
What He Trained as Before Becoming a Chef: A minor-league hockey player
That Single Strand of Pasta: Cicala says the recipe originated in Abruzzo around the 1300s; he learned to make it from "two old ladies" who make the pasta every day at their restaurant in Italy. Cicala hand pulls the pasta—a mixture of just flour and water (no eggs or salt)—until it's up to 100 feet long. To cook it, he wraps the strand into a huge braid; then he serves the pasta the traditional way: on a communal board in the middle of the table. Note: To try the super-long pasta, be sure to call the restaurant 24 hours in advance to put in your order.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.