BF is a huge pasta person, and I love the stuff too despite its relatively high point value. Considering my seat buddy’s total enthusiasm for the place (“Oh my god, I am so excited for the meal you are about to have”) and the restaurant’s high prize (winner of Citysearch’s “City’s Best Italian” for the last three years), I was surprised we’d never heard of it before. Since our planned skydiving expedition had been canceled (BOO), I needed a pick-me-up anyway.
The restaurant is entirely underground, save for the pasta ladies in the window. As we walked down the stairs, we found ourselves in a rather dimly lit dining room with lots of dark wood, green, and brass features. I almost felt as if we were right back on our cruise ship, but without the air of pretension. It would have been difficult for the place to be pretentious even if it tried, given the fact that it was decked.out. in Halloween decorations. I’m talking bloody zombies coming out of full-size coffins with their arms extended inches from the patrons, three-foot diameter fuzzy spiders on the ceiling, etc.
It was Friday night at about 8:30 and we didn’t have a reservation, but were told we could wait at the bar and would be seated in about fifteen minutes. We ordered extra-dirty Grey Goose martinis ($14 each! Are you kidding me? Jewish Girl’s money-dar was happy that the BF offered to pick this one up), and within a few minutes were told we could sit down. We needed some time to close our tab, and by the time we were ready, the host walked past us initially, almost ignoring us. When he came back, BF apologized for the wait, and the host reponsed, “Are you kidding me? Not a problem. I fucking love my job. I just needed to take a Tylenol for a headache.” How could you NOT love a place like this?!
After we sat, the BF struck up a conversation with the couple seated next to us and asked for recommendations. The guy we talked to was Italian and refused to eat anywhere but Filomena’s. He recommended the cavatelli, the gnocci, and Neopolitan Ragu con Rigatoni. This third dish featured pulled beef that had been marinated for a glorious 24 hours before being used in the dish. The BF opted for this one, and I stuck with my traditional barometer for Italian restaurants: lasagna.
The bread brought to the table was delicious---there were three varieties, and the kind I tried (the wheat bread) was warm and almost sweet, and it was served with olive oil and fresh herbs.
We started out with an order of something called Aranzini, which is described on the menu as:
“Rice balls--All time favorite of Little Italy’s Street Feast of San Gennaro and seen in scenes from “The Godfather”. Italian Arborio Rice rolled and stuffed with Mozzarella and Bolognese Meat, dusted with Bread Crumbs and quick fried. Served with Tomato Sauce on the Side. New Yorker’s “buy ‘em by the dozen”.” I’ve never heard of these, nor have I ever bought them by the dozen, but they were warm, creamy and delicious. I could only have one (I estimated they each were about 4 points, that may have been generous) but BF had no problem finishing the other five on his own.
The menu featured quite a bit of this “As seen on [X] movie/show ” “As ordered and loved by [X] celebrity.” I hated myself for being swayed by that kind of thing, but if this menu is any indication, Bono and I have similar tastes (he didn’t recommend the lasagna, but a pasta/sausage dish that looked fantastic).
Our food came very quickly. The lasagna was solid. Lots of ricotta---a bit much for my taste---but they didn’t skimp on mozzarella or meat, and the sheets of pasta were perfectly cooked al dente and tasted as homemade as they were. BF’s rigatoni was definitely the winner of the night, though; not too cheesy, unbelievably seasoned meat that was the perfect degree of stringy tenderness and chewiness, and fantastic al dente rigatoni. If we ever go back, I will try one of the specialty pasta dishes instead of this old Italian standard.
We ordered the chocolate mousse cake for dessert, which is a tri-colored mousse with a chewy chocolate crust. I’m not a big sweets person (and I much prefer custardy things to chocolatey things, but the cake was pretty good. Maybe more solid than you’d imagine mousse to be; it had the consistency of cheesecake, just a little lighter in density. Along with our dessert, our waitress poured us glasses of amaretto and sambuca (with roasted coffee beans) on the house. No, we didn’t get this special treatment because they’d heard I am the webmaster of StuffJewishGirlsLike.com---this courtesy is standard.
In all, Filomena’s was a great experience. The food was fantastic, the pasta perfect, and the ambience highly romantic. It seems like a great place for a special night out, and is a must for pasta lovers.
1063 Wisconsin Avenue NW
1063 Wisconsin Avenue NW