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.
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!