Chef Robbie Felice To Host Acclaimed DC Chef At pastaRAMEN

by Peter Candia

A can’t-miss pop up is coming to Montclair. 

PastaRAMEN is already the hardest reservation to get and on March 4, it will be even more difficult to secure your spot. That’s because acclaimed Chef Robbie Felice—owner and visionary behind pastaRAMEN’s Wafu-Italian concept—is hosting fellow Wafu culinarian, Chef Katsuya Fukushima of Tonari in Washington DC. 

Like pastaRAMEN, Tonari is its respective city’s first and only Wafu-Italian restaurant, a Japanese-style Italian cuisine that first formed in the late 1940s and early 1950s when Japan was introduced to things like spaghetti and tomato sauce by American soldiers. Wafu-Italian cooking was essentially pioneered by a restaurant called Kabe no Ana, which opened in Tokyo in the early 1950s. Kabe no Ana rose to popularity because of their use of Japanese ingredients to make Italian dishes—a concept that, in turn, appealed to the masses. By the 90s, Wafu restaurants took off in Japan, but here in the states, the merged cuisine is not as easy to come by. 

Wafu Pizza, nori-laced pasta and more at Tonari | photo by Rey Lopez

Before joining Tonari, Fukushima worked in world-renowned kitchens such as Spain’s El Bulli and DC’s own Minibar by José Andrés. Additionally, Fukushima is a two-time winner of Food Network’s Iron Chef America.

For many in New Jersey, pastaRAMEN was the first glimpse into the world of Wafu cooking and in DC, Tonari the same. So, it makes perfect sense that Felice and Fukushima would team up for a one-night-only dinner together. Tonari’s owner Yama Jewayni ate at pastaRAMEN late last year and knew what had to be done.


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A post shared by Chef Robbie Felice (@robbiefelice)

On March 4, Fukushima will make his way to Montclair to collab with Felice for an exclusive dinner. The meal will have two seating times at 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. The dinner features four courses and is BYO. On April 8, Felice heads down to DC to cook at Tonari alongside Fukushima. 

“Collab dinners are so cliché these days but there is no one else doing Wafu-Italian food and these guys have been around and doing it since we started this project!” Felice tells me. “It’s going to be really epic to have them here in Montclair cooking with us. I’m really excited to cook with Chef Katsuya!”

pasta ramen

Diners can’t get enough of pastaRAMEN’s innovative Wafu bites | photo by Pete Bonacci

Chef Fukushima expressed a similar sentiment to that of Felice, excited to spread the word about Wafu-Italian cooking. “We love telling the story of Wafu-Italian cuisine through our restaurant Tonari, and when we had the chance to collaborate with pastaRAMEN, we couldn’t wait to cook together and continue to spread the message of Japanese-Italian food,” he says. 

Wafu cooking is undoubtedly a niche cuisine in the US, but thanks to chefs like Katsuya Fukushima and Robbie Felice, the message has begun to spread on the East Coast. Diners love it for its seamless combination of two of the most celebrated cuisines in the world. Whether it be pastaRAMEN’s chashu porchetta bao buns or Tonari’s arrabbiata ramen, Wafu cuisine has made its debut in DC and Montclair—and it’s here to stay. 

For updates on ticket availability and more, follow @pasta__ramen, @tonaridc and @njdigest on Instagram. 

About the Author/s

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Peter Candia is the Food + Drink Editor at New Jersey Digest. A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Peter found a passion for writing midway through school and never looked back. He is a former line cook, server and bartender at top-rated restaurants in the tri-state area. In addition to food, Peter enjoys politics, music, sports and anything New Jersey.

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