Sicily in Somerville, New Jersey….Really.


After a long day of traveling, my husband knows me well enough that I need a bowl of macaroni to set me right again.  In Somerville, New Jersey, in the dead of winter, we stumbled upon Da Filippo’s Restaurant.  Located at 132 East Main Street, it’s “autentica cucina.” Right from the moment we pulled up to the cozy burgundy awning adorned with tiny white lights, it felt like coming home.  We were greeted immediately at the door by Filippo’s beautiful Swiss wife, Berti.  She shook hands and introduced herself as she took our coats, chatting amiably like an old friend.   It was early on a snowy Monday night so it was quiet, but  the fireplace was inviting.  There was a man in the back polishing each glass to match the twinkle in his eye.  He made menu suggestions and smiled broadly, like a favorite uncle.  It was only after Berti suggested something “per cominciare” that we discovered he was Filippo Russo himself.Pennette con Piselli

She suggested “La Rustichella”:  a flat bread panino with mortadella, arugula, provolone cheese, tomatoes and onions grilled to perfection.  This dish alone is worth the trip to Somerville, and we were just getting started.  I ordered the “antipasto caldo” (hot antipasto.)  Again, arugula was featured, making it one of those magical foods that can go with anything.  This Frittelle di Rughetta was arugula dipped in a batter and fried with anchovies and garlic melted into a parmigiano reggiano cream sauce.   So different.  So delicious.

There is something at once complex and simple in good Italian cooking that makes it so wonderful.  Simple ingredients and a creative mind can work wonders in the kitchen.  There really is nothing like a good dish of pasta.  I was not disappointed in the pennette with peas in a meat ragu.   It’s comfort food at its finest.

I look forward to returning to Da Filippo’s to see the Russo family once again.  They were as charming and delightful as their restaurant, from the front lobby with portraits of their four beautiful grandchildren to the photographs of Filippo’s hometown of Carini, Sicily hanging on the wall.  It’s a night well spent, trust me.  I hope to return again soon!

Review: Union Street Inn, Nantucket, Massachusetts

Union Street Inn, Nantucket, Massachusetts

Union Street Inn, Nantucket, Massachusetts  Photo by Cynthia Dite Sirni

Photo by Cynthia Dite Sirni

Photo by Cynthia Dite Sirni

Nantucket in the summer is a perfect place to idle away the hours.  A small island, originally a hub for whaling, it’s about four miles wide and sixteen miles long.  It has just about everything you’d need for a perfect get away; shops, beaches, bike trails, restaurants and lovely inns.  I was able to spend some time at the Union Street Inn, located right in the Downtown district near the shops, the harbor, the restaurants and most importantly, the ferry.



Union Street Inn is a lovely building, circa 1770, that has been renovated into the quintessential New England inn.  True to the building zones, it is encased in the beautiful shake shingles that patina to that lovely grey.  It looks immediately restful with its creamy yellow screen door and white and silver flowers in the window boxes.  It feels much like returning your rich great aunt’s summer home.

Room #1 Photo by Michael J. Sirni

Room #1 Photo by Michael J. Sirni

We stayed in Room #1.  It was an escape of pale slate blue and whites.  The fireplace was adorned with frames of sea shells, and the entire suite was an immaculate sanctuary from the bustle of the town.  The wavy glass in the windows added to the charm of the whole room.  Sensational chocolates were waiting for us from Ken and Deborah Withrow, the owners of this lovely boutique inn.  It was a place to retreat and relax.

Kitchen Seating Area

Kitchen Seating Area Photo by Michael J. Sirni

One of the nicest things about staying in small, cozy inns is the breakfast.  The grounds include a beautiful shady patio with umbrellas and tables where you are greeted with a smile from Jocelyn and a side bar of coffee, teas and juices.  The breakfast menu includes daily choices of bagel or toast with fruit as well as a full hot breakfast.  Eggs are available every morning as well, so you are fueled and ready for your day.  One thing I love about this inn is that all the tables are designed for separate seating.  At a bed and breakfast, there’s always that make-small-talk-with-strangers-while-you-try-and-eat syndrome.  I kind of, sort of, don’t like that.  Do you?

This inn is literally located right off of the Main Street.  It’s the perfect setting because while you can walk right to the quintessential Main Street, you don’t have all the pedestrians in front of the inn.  They have a parking lot to accommodate any vehicles you may have, bikes, cars, rentals etc.  It feels very much like your own summer home.

Returning back from exploring the island, be sure to sample some of the afternoon snacks.  Carrot cake cupcakes and triple fudge brownies are my personal favorites.  It feels like coming home to take a rest, have a snack and prepare to go out for dinner and a night on the town.  It’s a cozy, lovely place.  The housekeeping staff were lovely women who bustle through, including little touches such as a beach bag with towels, water and a magazine in your closet.  The bathroom was immaculate, but as with old buildings, it had little nooks and crannies that could make it difficult for wheelchairs, (at least in the room I was in.)

Some of the staff live on site.  We never actually saw the owners, Ken and Deborah, or if we did, they didn’t introduce themselves.  I thought that was a little strange given the homey atmosphere.  The staff we did meet was helpful and professional.  I have to give kudos to Jocelyn.  She was helpful with information such as bus schedules, bike rentals, restaurant reservations, etc.

Overall, I would highly recommend this inn for the perfect vacation on Nantucket.  It’s everything you imagine when you begin to plan for this New England island getaway.

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Follow Up Review of The Downeaster Sport Small Canvas Bag at L.L. Bean Signature

So, I bought the  L.L. Bean Downeaster bag a week ago, and as promised, I am doing a review.  This bag has tons of pockets.  The front one is the perfect size for a cell phone or a passport.Image It is definitely designed for being out and about all day.  There are two side pockets on the exterior of either side.  They zip and keep keys, etc. easy to find as well as secure.  There is another pocket in the front behind the zippered one, this can hold a work I.D. or such.  Inside, I was able to keep a ton of stuff!  I switched out from my usual work bag and everything fit into this!  I didn’t think it could do it, but it did.

Inside, there’s only one pocket, which would be one of my draw backs.  It would be really easy for L.L. Bean to add a line of interior pockets in the front….just a suggestion.  My other issue is that the strap is about two inches too short to be a perfect cross body.  I can use it as such, but it really is designed as a shoulder strap.  For women taller than average height, it might be a bigger problem.

It wasn’t heavy and it looked much cuter than my old bag. I love the classic colors, sailcloth, blue and red.  Each season, they update color trends, so there’s something for every taste.   I absolutely love the shape of a Speedy satchel.  It looks and feels stylish.

This bag would be perfect for a trip.  It has enough of a street chic look to it that you don’t scream out “American Tourist” but also has enough zippers and gadgets to keep your belongings secure and easy to reach.  You could easily use this as a carry-on.  It could hold a pair of shoes and a change of clothes along with all the other paraphernalia we need.

Right now, it’s on sale for $44.99.  Regular price is $59.00.  I used L.L. Bean coupons, but I don’t think I would pay the full price.  (However, I don’t pay the full price for ANYTHING so I’m not a good judge for that.)

Overall, I’d give this bag a 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  It really is beautiful.  I love the feel of the canvas, and it makes a pair of jeans and a simple shirt look Yacht Ready.