For the last few months, Robbie Felice has been dropping all sorts of hints about his latest culinary venture. Known for his creative Italian fare, could the chef be entering into the world of Asian-fusion?
In case you’re not familiar, Felice has been a name every New Jersey foodie has come to know these past few years. While the 30-year-old chef earned a James Beard-nomination just last year, he first rose to local prominence in 2016 after opening his Wayne, NJ restaurant, Viaggio. A product of his former Michelin-star restaurant experience as well as natural ingenuity, Felice’s Viaggio exhibited a creative, modern flair on traditional Italian dishes. The Wayne venue’s immediate success proved the chef had what it took to compete with the top restaurants in New Jersey, and even those in the rest of the country.
Felice’s sophomore project—a Westwood restaurant aptly-named Osteria Crescendo–opened in April 2019. Still fresh when COVID struck the following March, Felice used the obstacle to demonstrate yet another example of his innovative prowess. First, he transformed Viaggio into a marketplace and adapted his menu with take-out compatible sandwiches. Then, he began offering a private, informal tasting table at Viaggio on Tuesday evenings–one which Digest food writer Peter Candia had the pleasure of experiencing firsthand. Both intimate and luxurious, this response proved the perfect solution for New Jersey’s current restaurant climate.
And yet, with the magic of these previous endeavors still lingering in our minds, it seems as though the chef already has another trick up his sleeve. We took to Instagram to investigate the culinary expert’s anticipated next move. Here’s everything that we have found so far.
Felice dropped hints about his next venture in November 2020.
Back when Candia dined at Viaggio in November, Felice’s seasonal menu was replete with Asian-inspired pasta dishes. Among these creations were a mind-blowing mushroom ravioli in a mushroom ramen broth, followed by ramen noodles adorned in a miso-bolognese sauce. In response to his raving reviews, Felice playfully teased a similar influence in his future creations; “Let’s just say it’s a hint at what’s to come.”
He has been teasing a “Secret Location” on Instagram for months.
Felice often uses Instagram to introduce his latest ideas, as previously done with his Underground Tasting Dinner promotions. Recently, Felice has been posting pictures of ingredients outside of his culinary repertoire. For example, one of the latest of these posts included a reference to kinmedai, a fish made popular in sushi. He has additionally shown himself using dishware from Keikopots, a Japanese pottery company by Keiko Inouye. Accompanying all of these references is the geotag title “Secret Location.” How very cryptic…
A new Instagram @pasta__ramen has popped up.
And so the plot thickens! Last week, we (totally nonchalantly) came across an Instagram account named @pasta__ramen, which made references to both Keikopots AND the same “Secret Location” used by Felice on his personal Instagram. According to the account, the Pasta Ramen business will operate in the mode of an invitation-only speakeasy, with the dinner location announced the morning of. See it here with your own eyes:
@pasta_ramen has an uncanny mutual follower.
The icing on the cake? The @pasta_ramen account is followed by New Jersey food photographer Peter Bonacci (@foodfoodanddrink). Bonacci has previously worked with Felice, as well as the popular New Jersey restaurant, Ani Ramen. All of these pieces are shaping up to be almost too coincidental, if you know what I mean.
Pleased with ourselves? Maybe a little bit. But still, so many questions remain: What is chef Robbie Felice truly up to? Is Pasta Ramen his latest culinary project? Is there the possibility of an Ani Ramen collaboration? More importantly, how does one score an invite? It seems that all of these answers will be arriving very soon. Whatever awaits, we are sure that Chef Felice and his masterful plates won’t disappoint. If you need us, we will be practicing our chopstick skills until further notice. We reached out to both Felice and Ani Ramen, both declined to comment.