Culinary couple creates 'pizza speakeasy' in Philly backyard to support out-of-work employees

Alicia Vitarelli Image
Monday, May 18, 2020
Philly culinary couple create 'pizza speakeasy' in backyard to support out-of-work employees
Popular culinary couple Joe and Angela Cicala have created a 'pizza speakeasy' in their backyard to support out-of-work employees

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- For local restaurants, staying afloat right now is taking a lot of re-inventing and a ton of creativity.

A popular local culinary couple is doing just that with a fresh, delicious take on the whole "work from home" concept.

Joe and Angela Cicala recently opened their namesake restaurant, Cicala, a dream space at the newly renovated Divine Lorraine.

While they work to get back in there, they're now running what they lovingly call a "pizza speakeasy" in their South Philadelphia backyard.

"It's like an underground pizzeria from our backyard," says Joe. "We're just bringing people through the alleyway. It's very 'underground.'"

From their home, the Cicalas are running a pizza pop-up shop.

"This is more like a fundraiser for our out-of-work employees because the restaurant is closed," he says.

The couple just opened Cicala at the Divine Lorraine in November, a massive renovation that they poured their hearts and careers into.

"We were just about to take the training wheels off and then this happened," says Joe.

Four months later, they had to lay off everyone.

"Everybody including ourselves," he says. "We're out of work."

They tried takeout.

"It really kind of broke our hearts because we were plating the food in to-go containers," he says. "We were looking at it and said, 'This isn't the identity of our restaurant.'"

Home for a few weeks, and restless, Joe built a pizza oven in one week.

"For Neapolitan pizza, I needed this exact design," he says.

It's kind of a test run for how they're re-envisioning Cicala, once they reopen.

"This is like a practice round for the pizza oven that we're building on the patio," he says.

At home, Angela is still piping and selling her homemade cannoli.

"We have to get creative now," she says.

The Cicalas have pivoted before.

"I wasn't even panicking this time," says Joe.

"You just have to survive," says Angela. "You have to go on. You have to keep going. I'm sure we're not the only people doing stuff like this," she says. "I'm sure everybody's got a little secret something happening."

As for what's next for Cicala, they're picturing a second pizza oven on their patio at the Divine Lorraine, and an outdoor specialty food market there, too.

At last week's pizza pop-up, they sold roughly 200 pizzas and cannoli.

They just announced the next pop-up.

Click here to join their mailing list.


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