Since it opened late last year, Pasta Ramen, the by-invite-only refined Italian-Japanese pop-up functioned as a secretive speakeasy. Location and chef were kept hush-hush. Those who dined there were sworn to secrecy, I among them.
But now I can give the secret, most of it at least, away. So here goes:
Chef Robbie Felice of award-winning Viaggio in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood and restaurateur Luck Sarabhayavanija of Ani Ramen in several locations in North Jersey are the two men behind the enterprise. Felice, a James Beard Rising Chef nominee, is the chef.
Robbie Felice, chef-owner of Viaggio Ristorante in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood.
The two are taking their extravagant concept to Miami for the month of January — and have upped the cost of the 13-course feast from $317 to $379 (tax and gratuity included). Not cheap by any means, but supremely delicious.
For eight months, Chef Robbie Felice has been cooking Wafu cuisine at pastaRAMEN, a speakeasy-style restaurant that pops up in secret locations around New Jersey. There are two seatings a night at the exclusive spot, where 10 customers at each pay $317 per person for a 10- to 13-course omakase tasting menu prepared by the James Beard-nominated chef.
Most are intrigued by the secrecy of the event and the chef’s cred, but don’t know much about Wafu until they sit down to dinner.
The cuisine doesn’t have a lot of name recognition in the United States, but it’s pretty well known in Japan and Italy, where chefs have combined the flavors, ingredients and techniques from both cultures to create unique dishes. Felice is on a mission to build a passionate Wafu following here…
It’s not often that owners of a restaurant-to-be don’t want to let everyone know about their place. They usually are eager to get the word out.
But when asked a day after he was spotted working inside the shuttered Villalobos space on South Fullerton Street in Montclair, acclaimed chef Robbie Felice of Italian restaurants Viaggio in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood, said, “I’m sworn to secrecy.”
Felice, who was nominated by the James Beard Foundation for a Rising Star Chef award though ceremonies were canceled due to COVID-19, was there with restaurateur Luck Sarabhayavanija, owner of the ever-growing empire of Ani Ramen House and the brand-new Mochinut Montclair…
Robbie Felice is one of eight chefs competing for the title of USA Master of Pasta in April. The winner goes on to a worldwide competition.
By Kimberly Redmond, Patch Staff
WAYNE, NJ – A chef from northern New Jersey is gearing up to compete against seven others in a national pasta competition.
If Robbie Felice wins the contest at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival, he’ll not only win the title of USA Master of Pasta, but will also represent America at the 9th annual Barilla Pasta World Championship next fall in Italy.
During the 2020 Pasta World Championship, 20 chefs from around the world will face off and compete for the “World Pasta Master” title. The international competition was created by Barilla as a way to “promote and share their passion” for pasta.
In a promotional video about the competition created by Barilla, Felice said he’s excited to compete because cooking “is something I’m super passionate about.”
“Pasta is literally my pride and joy. Food is art and I love making food look beautiful. It should look beautiful before you eat it. You should look down at it and want to take a picture,” said Felice, a partner/chef at Viaggio Ristorante in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood.
Robbie Felice, chef-owner of acclaimed Italian restaurants Viaggio in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood, is preparing to compete in a national pasta competition against seven other chefs. If he wins, he will go on to compete for the title of World Pasta Champion in October.
The first round of the competition will be held at the prestigious Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival on April 16.
In that round, Felice hopes to show New York — and the nation — that New Jersey has got real culinary chops too.
“I want to show New York people,” Felice said with his usual enthusiasm. “‘Hey, some Jersey guy just won this,'” he imagined what the scuttlebutt might be should he win.
Chef/owner of Viaggio and Osteria Crescendo will bring his formidable pasta skills to USA qualifier in Pebble Beach in April.
By Emily Bell
Chef Robbie Felice has plenty of plaudits. At age 29, he owns two successful and critically acclaimed restaurants—Viaggio in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood. Both are on NJM’s list of Top 30 restaurants in the state. Recently he was tapped to compete in the ninth annual Barilla Pasta World Championship. He will be one of eight chefs competing in the USA qualifier at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine festival, April 16 through 19. The top 20 contestants around the world will advance to the Pasta World Championship finals in Italy this October.
Felice is already tweaking—and showcasing at his restaurants—the pasta dishes he’s thinking of making in the Pebble Beach qualifier. You’ll find them in his daily specials list. Normally, Felice doesn’t use commercial pasta. He has two highly skilled, full-time pasta makers, Joyann Demont and Lisa Britting, one at each of his restaurants. He also considers himself camera shy. Nonetheless, he’s all in.
ENTER TO WIN a chance to join us in Pebble Beach!
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Save the Qualified Photo of your favorite chef from this webpage
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Chef Robbie Felice, chef and owner of Osteria Crescendo in Westwood and Viaggio in Wayne, is competing in the USA Qualifying Event of the Barilla Pasta World Championship later this year.
The USA qualifying event will bring eight U.S. young chefs, who are skilled in pasta, together to compete for the title of USA Master of Pasta, at the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival on April 16th, 2020. The winner will qualify to compete against 19 others at the global competition in Italy in October 2020, for the title of World Pasta Master at the Barilla Pasta World Championship — now in its 9th year.
Chefs will create dishes using Barilla Collezione and be judged on taste and presentation for the challenge. Dishes will be judged based on the Pasta World Championship’s criteria by a jury consisting of relevant local culinary experts.
Nominees include Missy Robbins, Gabriela Cámara, Jeremiah Stone, Fabián von Hauske, and more familiar faces.
By Bridget Hallinan
After announcing the “America’s Classic” award recipients last week, the James Beard Foundation is back with its highly anticipated semifinalist nominations for the 2020 Restaurant and Chef awards.
Released on February 26, the list is packed with familiar faces, including Food & Wine Best New Chef alums Missy Robbins, Misti Norris, Gabriel Rucker, Jeremiah Stone, and Fabián von Hauske. It’s also the first iteration of the awards to include the regional changes announced last September, which added California, Texas, and New York State as standalone categories, along with several reorganizations.
Come March 25, each category will be culled down to five finalists each, and the winners will be announced at the annual gala in Chicago on May 4. The Media Awards winners will also be announced on April 24, per the foundation’s website, and the Leadership Awards are scheduled for May 3. Stay tuned for more updates.
New Jersey chefs earned seven spots on the semifinalist list for the James Beard Foundation Awards, among the most prestigious culinary awards in the world.
The nominees include Marciel Presilla of Cucharamama in Hoboken (a 2012 winner of Best Chef-Mid Atlantic and 2013 winner of Cookbook of the Year), Joey Baldino of Zeppoli in Collingswood (this will be his ninth nomination), five-time nominee Dan Richer of Razza in Jersey City, Cookie Till of Steve and Cookie’s in Margate, Robbie Felice of Viaggio Ristorante in Wayne, Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer of Canal House Station in Milford, as well as the restaurant 15 Fox Place in Jersey City.
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The final round of nominees will be announced in Philadelphia on March 25 and the awards gala will take place on May 4 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Since the awards began in 1991, only two New Jersey chefs have received a James Beard award. Craig Shelton, then at The Ryland Inn in Whitehouse, and Maricel Presilla, chef at Cucharamama in Hoboken, both won best chef in the Mid-Atlantic region. Shelton in 2000; Presilla in 2012.
By Jeremy Schneider | NJ Advance Media For NJ.com
New Jerseyans aren’t afraid to tell you how amazing our food is. But the cuisine in the Garden State goes beyond pizza, bagels and Taylor ham, and one of the most prestigious food awards in the country is taking notice.
The 2020 James Beard Award semifinalists were announced Feb. 26, and seven New Jersey chefs, restaurants and restaurateurs were among those named.
Today, the James Beard Foundation announced its Restaurant and Chef Awards semifinalists for 2020.
While last year’s awards saw changes to address the gender and racial diversity of nominees and winners, this year, the Beards are focusing on geographic diversity. For the first time, there will be a Best Chef: California and a Best Chef: Texas among the awards. This ups the total Best Chef awards categories to 12 and relegates the other states that were once apart of the “West” category to a new “Northwest and Pacific” category that comprises Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington.
The James Beard Foundation also redrew the lines around several of the remaining Best Chef categories. A newly named “Mountain” category will include Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming; the Southwest category now comprises Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Nevada. Best Chef: New York City has morphed into Best Chef: New York State.
According to the Foundation, the changes are meant to address “changing population data, restaurant demographics, and culinary trends.” They also address the frequent criticism, as noted by Eater restaurant editor Hillary Dixler Canavan around last year’s awards, that the original geographic categories were unfair to the West, Midwest, and Texas: chefs from California consistently dominated in the “West”; Chicago stole focus in the “Great Lakes”; and last year, Texas was completely shut out of the awards despite being home to major dining destinations like Austin and Houston.
After the judges and committee members vote, this “long list” will drop down to five finalist nominees per category, to be announced on Wednesday, March 25 from Philadelphia. Winners will be announced during the James Beard Awards Gala in Chicago on May 4, where the previously announced six America’s Classics winners (one more honoree than in previous years) will also be acknowledged. (Meanwhile, media awards winners will be revealed on Friday, April 24.)
Announcing our 2020 Restaurant and Chef Award semifinalists! Read on for the semifinalists in all categories, from Outstanding Restaurant to Rising Star Chef. We’ll announce the final Restaurant and Chef Award nominees, as well as the nominees for our Media and Restaurant Design Awards, in Philadelphia on Wednesday, March 25. The nominee announcement will begin at 9:00 A.M. ET and will be streamed live (check back soon for details). Nominees will also be announced in real-time via our Twitter feed.
The 2020 James Beard Awards presented by Capital One will mark the 30th anniversary of America’s most coveted and comprehensive honors for chefs, restaurants, journalists, authors, and other leaders in the food and beverage industry. The 2020 James Beard Awards Gala will take place on Monday, May 4, at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. The 2020 Leadership Awards will be held on Sunday, May 3 in Chicago, and the 2020 Media Awards will take place on Friday, April 24, at Pier Sixty at Chelsea Piers in New York City. Tickets to both the Awards Gala and the Media Awards will be on sale beginning March 25 at jamesbeard.org/awards.
This morning, the James Beard Foundation shared the list of semifinalists for the 30th annual James Beard Awards, highlighting some of the most talented, creative, and accomplished people working in food throughout the United States.
Last year, the foundation announced the biggest shake-up to the regional Best Chef categories since 2007, and this is the first year it will be in effect. California and Texas are now their own regions; Alaska, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington State have been combined into a new “Northwest & Pacific” region; Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and Wyoming are now part of a new “Mountain” region; and New York City, once its own category, has now been combined with the rest of New York to form the “New York State” region.
Still, New York City is well-represented among this year’s nominees, with Sam Yoo’s Golden Diner making the Best New Restaurant nominees list; Existing Conditions and Brooklyn’s Leyenda making the cut for Outstanding Bar Program; and SriPraPhai landing among the Outstanding Restaurant nominees. Tune in on March 25 when the semifinalists list is narrowed down to this year’s finalists, and see who wins when the awards take place in Chicago on May 4.
Eight Garden State chefs and restaurants have been nominated for this year’s awards, which recognize excellence in the food world.
By Emily Bell | February 27, 2020
It’s the 30th anniversary of the James Beard Foundation Awards, and Jersey has all the more reason to celebrate this time, with eight chefs and restaurants represented on this year’s list of semifinalists.
Among familiar names is New Jersey’s own mother of soulful heritage cuisine, Maricel Presilla of Cucharamama, who is nominated once again in the “Outstanding Chef” category. Presilla already has three James Beard Awards under her belt: “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic” 2012, “Cookbook of the Year” in 2013 for Gran Cocina Latina: The Food of Latin America, and a “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” win in 2015. An “Outstanding Chef” win would not only be deserved, it would cement her culinary legacy as a highly influential voice in our national culinary conversation.
New entrants on this year’s lists include Jersey City’s 15 Fox Place, which was nominated for “Outstanding Hospitality,” and Cookie Till, nominated for “Outstanding Restaurateur.” 15 Fox Place is a unique father-and-son-run BYO Italian prix fixe out of a home in the Journal Square section of Jersey City. (And yes, good luck to all of us getting a reservation now.) Cookie Till is from Steve and Cookie’s in Margate, as well as the more recent small batch bakery concept Ventnor No. 7311.
It didn’t take Robbie Felice much time to feel anxious.
Barely 24 hours after Felice, the chef and owner of Viaggio in Wayne and Osteria Crescendo in Westwood, learned that he was nominated for one of the most prestigious culinary awards in the world, was no longer feeling the heady joys of winning. He was now feeling the agonizing fear of losing.
Felice is a semifinalist for the James Beard Rising Star Chef of the Year award. Rising Star Chefs, according to the James Beard Foundation, “must be age 30 or younger and display an impressive talent, likely to make a significant impact on the industry for years to come.” Felice is 29.
“I’m already scared of not making the final,” said Felice, sitting on one of the high stools that surround the large, sun-lit bar at Osteria Cresendo, his modern, 80-seat Italian restaurant, which opened in April. (His more rustic, 73-seat BYOB Viaggio celebrated its third anniversary year five months ago.)
Come join Chef Robbie as he prepares a dinner series from spring to fall as the sunsets and under the lights on The Farm at Glenwood Mountain. A farm overlooking 170 acres of land in Vernon New Jersey.
Chef has worked closely with this farm for over 2 years now with owner/farmer Steve McClean where he has built an outstanding relationship. This dinner will be inspired by the farm and the ingredients grown and raised on it.
This farm is certified as 100% organic and all animal breeds are GMO, antibiotic, and steroid free just the way nature intended them to be. T
he Farm grows over 75 different varieties of fruits and vegetables. These dinners will be inspired by what is on the phone and all of its offerings.
KEEP YOUR EYES OUT FOR SPECIAL SURPRISE GUEST CHEFS THAT WILL BE JOINING CHEF ROBBIE AT THESE DINNERS.
These dinners will start off at 5:30 P.M. with an optional walkthrough and tour of The Farm as the sun begins to set.
A group tour will commence at 6 PM with dinner to follow at 6:30 PM. After dinner service, Steve the farmer will open his store and market for the purchase of fresh fruits, vegetables, and meat.
Dinners will be held outdoors in the heart of the farm with communal seating
Please dress weather appropriate
This is a rain or shine event. If inclement weather occurs, we will have the dinner inside the barn
Dinners in the greenhouse are still in the heart of the farm where the seedlings are started before planting
Menus TBD based on seasonal availability
All Tickets are nonrefundable
Tickets can not be switched for other dates
Event Date, Time Location
Time: 6:30 PM (dinner start time)
Location: The Farm at Glenwood Mountain, 1801 County Rd 565, Sussex, NJ
Event Open: Open to guests at 5:30, 6 PM The Farm Tour
Restaurant fans have come to know Robbie Felice as the chef and owner (along with his father) of the critically acclaimed Viaggio in Wayne, but his ambition has long reached farther. “On the first day Viaggio opened [in 2016],” he says, “I knew I wanted to open a second restaurant before I was 30.”
He impressed even himself. Osteria Crescendo opened in Westwood in April, less than six months after his 28th birthday. In August, it earned a place alongside Viaggio in New Jersey Monthly’s list of Top 30 Restaurants in the state.
Felice wanted Crescendo to be a completely different dining experience from Viaggio. Unlike Viaggio, it has a liquor license. Instead of Viaggio’s rustic charm, diners find a chic-but-not-snobby, modern Italian experience. To further distinguish the restaurant from Viaggio, Felice split the menu into five parts, adopting a more traditional Italian approach with antipasti, primi, secondi, per la tavola (“for the table,” for sharing) and dolci.
We started every visit to Crescendo with one of their wicked-clever cocktails. The list offers drinks for every taste, from an herbal gin and tonic made with lemon-scented Italian malfy gin, blueberries and rosemary, to the sweet-and-light In Buona Salute, a blend of vodka, grappa, fresh lemon, vanilla, apricot and ginger. Bartender Anthony Warren may be playful with his ingredient combinations and his names (Spaghetti Western, Lemon Monkey), but his creations are serious and well balanced.
Don’t overlook the option of hanging around in the bar area sampling cocktails and nibbling from the bar menu, which, inspired by the Italian tradition of cicchetti (snacks), offers small plates, such as fried calamari and house-cured salumi meant to be enjoyed with a glass of wine or a cocktail.
All the antipasti uniformly impressed my guests and me, with the fungi crespelle a particular standout. The crespelle is a homemade crêpe filled with five different types of mushrooms, which are blended into a creamy filling with stracchino, Parmigiano-Reggiano and ricotta cheeses. The crêpe is then folded, seared in a cast-iron skillet, and served with radicchio, lemon vinaigrette, herb crema and aceto balsamico, all of which temper the richness of the dish. There was also a decadent platter of charred asparagus that I keep thinking about, the roasted spears snuggled into a bed of Italian-style sauce with stracchino, hazelnut brittle, roasted garlic, parmigiano-reggiano, breadcrumbs and chives.
The Insalata di Strappata is a Felice take on tricolore salad, a staple of Italian restaurants. The snowy, slivered one he created at Viaggio has become one of its signature dishes, but this one is different. It’s especially good, and I couldn’t quite figure out why. Is it the shavings of fontina? The delicate hand-torn lettuces? (Strappata means “torn” in Italian.) It could easily be the crisp fried chickpeas dusted with malt powder. Turns out, it’s the Calabrese vinaigrette. Calabrese refers to the style of Calabria, in the toe of the geographical boot, and in this case, to Calabrese sausage. That’s right, my friends, there is puréed salami in the dressing. Say it after me: salami salad dressing. That is the kind of innovation this world needs more of.
Seriously, though, this is just one example of why Felice is an outstanding chef. Something as seemingly obvious as a salad dressing becomes a lesson in flavor layering, as the sausage itself is rendered down with a tomato vinaigrette to deepen the flavors. Maybe you won’t notice the drizzle of saba that gives the salad it’s tangy finishing pop or the savory lemon gel atop your soft-shell crab. But the result is unmistakable: involving, invigorating food.
The menu offers several fine pastas. There are a farfalle with delicate little meatballs and a rich sauce made with kale, and a spaghetti with porchetta ragù. But the star—the one I wish I could eat every day—is the pasta allo scoglio, a seafood-rich dish that tastes as if Poseidon himself delivered it fresh from the ocean along with Aphrodite.
This seemingly simple dish of thin, flat chitarra noodles and seafood mounts layer upon layer of flavor. Felice and his staff make lobster stock from shells, boil prawn heads for prawn stock, and infuse both into a light tomato sauce that is then tossed with the pasta. Nestled in and around the noodles are mussels, seared scallops, clams and lobster—each tender and sweet. The dish is crowned with a giant red prawn and a pat of uni butter.
Diners may be shocked by prices on the per la tavola section of the menu. Even as a professional eater, $115 for a 36-ounce, 30-day house-dry-aged T-bone steak still manages to make my eyes bulge a little. When I asked Felice about the prices, he said: “Per la tavola sets us apart. There’s no other restaurant in the state that does this. People will ask why it’s so expensive, but it’s for everyone to share.” Felice hopes guests will share the grand dishes not only with their tablemates, but also on social media. (This is not as cynical a move as you might think. Many of the big culinary schools now teach social-media skills to their students.)
With only me and another guest at the table, I couldn’t bring myself to order the T-bone. A table of six nearby did get it, and it looked suitably like a Flintstones-size trophy, charred a deep brown and glistening with melted fat.
My table of two? We ordered what Felice and staff jokingly call the poor man’s dry aged. At $61, this tagliata (sliced steak) comes bathed in fat rendered from actual dry-aged meat. It was the one disappointing dish I ate over my three visits. The steak, ordered medium-rare, was cooked medium-well. Flavorless and chewy, it tasted as if it had been steamed instead of grilled.
Other per la tavola items were much better, including a whole grilled branzino topped with a tangle of spring greens that fed two, but no more. The flesh was delicate, moist and definitely ready for its Instagram close-up, with tiny pink alyssum flowers and yellow pansies sprinkled over the top.
One tip: Be sure to bring a dining companion with expressive facial features, or eyes so inviting you feel no need to speak. The clamor and clatter of the kitchen and the exuberant guests ricochet off the large plate-glass windows and wood ceilings. We were reassured by a server that the restaurant would be installing noise-baffling materials soon.
Desserts were well executed but a bit wan in flavor. My favorite was the olive-oil cake served with strawberry jam and strawberry frozen yogurt.
The menu changes frequently. Felice says he prints his menus on paper so he can change the selection as his mood (and the market) dictates. So make your way to Crescendo with an open mind, an appetite and some friends who like to share.
A dozen top New Jersey chefs will showcase their specialties at a gourmet tasting event Sept. 16 at Battello, chef Ryan DePersio’s modern Italian restaurant that sits on the Hudson River offering heart-stopping views of the Manhattan skyline.
All proceeds will benefit Eva’s Village, the Paterson-based nonprofit organization that provides care and support for people struggling with poverty, hunger, homelessness and addiction.
Eva’s Village also has a culinary school, launched five years ago, that offers job training and placement for underserved members of the community, including graduates from Eva’s addiction recovery program.
Esther Davidowitz, North Jersey Record Published 7:41 a.m. ET Aug. 7, 2019
I would be hard-pressed to name a new Italian restaurant in North Jersey that’s better than Osteria Crescendo, chef Robbie Felice’s inviting 4-month-old restaurant in downtown Westwood. Actually, I would have a hard time naming any Italian restaurant in North Jersey that’s better than OC.
And I mean Italian restaurant, not Italian-American restaurant. Just as you wouldn’t find chicken parm, penne alla vodka, calamari in marinara sauce or garlic bread in Italy — dishes that no patriotic nonna or self-respecting capocuoco would make — you won’t find them in Osteria Crescendo or, for that matter, Viaggio, Felice’s rustic near-3-year-old BYOB in Wayne.
Felice aims for the real thing: the food that Italians in Italy eat.
The menu, even, is written mostly in Italian. It may charm some, but consider bringing along your smartphone or an Italian-English dictionary if you don’t want to spend valuable time grilling your server on what, say, “cozze al forno,” “involtini di pollo,” or “fungi crespelle” mean…