Culinary Institute of America graduate Chef Robbie Felice is the Chef-Owner of several popular restaurant concepts on the East Coast from Osteria Crescendo in Westwood, NJ to Viaggio Ristorante, Wayne, NJ.
Chef Felice staged at numerous Michelin-Starred restaurants across the globe, including Sergio Herman’s 2-Michelin-Star Pure-C in The Netherlands, and 2-Michelin-Star The Jane in Belgium, before heading back New York City in 2015, joining 2-Michelin-Star The Modern.
More recently, the chef has been traveling around the United States from Miami to the West Coast with his inventive Wafu-Italian omakase concept, pastaRamen, which melds Japanese and Italian ingredients and flavors such as sesame uni pasta carbonara. The buzz around these ‘underground’ invite only events is akin to trying to get into a night club or score tickets to Hamilton. The lucky 16 or so people that make the cut each night enter a secret location for a multi-course communal meal paired with sake and an R&B meets rap playlist that seem to be choregraphed with the wait staff’s every move. There is also a unique open kitchen concept where you can walk right up to the chef and ask questions or take photos – welcome to a new age of fine dining that’s approachable and fun. Due to its wild popularity, Chef Felice and his team are currently opening a brick-and-mortar more causal version also in the Garden State and hopefully, Los Angeles in 2023.
Ahhh the golden question! Honestly it was a perfect mix of timing. I was at a weird point I had just opening my second Italian restaurant by the age of thirty and being that both where in NJ I never really would get the hype I wanted to on National level. For about a year I thought about ways to stand out or be different. I love to be different or not follow the crowd. I started doing research on Wafu Italian cuisine and Wafu pasta. What I loved most about it is it’s not really a fusion it’s a real cuisine. After researching more and hearing about how common it is in Japan and Italy, I knew I was on to something.
What made me grow to it even more was the fact that there was less than 5 restaurants in America doing it. Unfortunately, right around the time that I was finally talking to the right people about potentially doing a Wafu Italian Project the Pandemic hit. I had to really put all future projects on hold because it was time to make sure my restaurants could survive and thrive. Both Viaggio and Osteria where able to mold and adapt during that time and about 5-6 months into the pandemic I was able to put my foot back on the gas pedal. I went to a great friend and now my business partner Luck Sarabhayavanija explained to him everything Wafu Italian. He loved the concept and cuisine. While Viaggio and Osteria where shut down in the beginning of the pandemic, I created my “Underground” Tasting Tuesdays where I’d invite guests into my closed restaurant through the back door and closed curtains. I’d cook them some really cool tasting menus. People loved it so much that I had to make “Underground” Tasting Tuesdays and Mondays a thing. (I ran out of Tuesdays.) I used this time to get feedback on what people thought about Japanese Italian flavors. This is what eventually led too Luck and I finding some of the coolest locations across the state of New Jersey to do a speakeasy, prohibition style, invite only, omakase experience. PastaRAMEN was born. My new baby where I would be serving a max of 24 diners a night Wafu Italian. Since we have tackled New Jersey, NYC, Miami, and Los Angeles.
Honestly all of them. As a Chef and an entrepreneur, the ability to travel goes away. As a young cook I was lucky enough to be able to cook all around the world and live in so many different places. Once you decide to settle down and open your own places it’s hard to do this. So, by creating this Pop Up that we took to so many different cities it gave me the ability travel live and cook my new cuisine. I was able to not only take it to my favorite cities and live there but also put a little Robbie Felice pastaRAMEN mark on each.
Traveling to anywhere in my opinion opens my mind and gives inspiration for the kitchen. I lived in Holland for a while and that place really touched me and inspired me more than most places. Obviously, all my time in Italy did wonders for me. Traveling to new countries and experiencing new cultures and cuisines is so important.
Both Viaggio and Osteria Crescendo are my first two restaurants that are both already open and both in New Jersey.
We are opening our Flagship pastaRAMEN in Montclair, NJ. This will differ from the traveling Omakase pastRAMEN. This will be a more casual version. I like to tell people imagine going to an “Italian Ramen Shop.”
I usually don’t like to give these out! I never want to be one of those people that says all these things and does not deliver. But I definitely have some of my biggest plans for 2023. Let’s just say lots of new restaurants, new concepts, and new cities. Huge plans for pastaRAMEN and a few other things I have in the works. As for traveling, I’m sure I will be traveling a lot with all these new projects but hoping I can make it to Japan. Maybe even for the first time in a long time take some sort of pleasure vacation.
Serve this Wafu Italian Style pork ragu with your choice of pasta. If you can get your hands on some cavatelli, Chef Felice’s first recommendation, rigatoni is a great second choice.
Receive the latest stories, event invitations, local deals and other curated content from Paradise.