WAYNE, N.J. — A star chef and his first-class restaurateur dad are rolling out the winter menu of their Wayne Italian bistro that opened in August to critical and social media acclaim.
Viaggio, owned by Chef Robbie Felice and his father, Joe, prides itself on house-cured meats, homemade pasta and locally sourced ingredients.
The first items on Viaggio's winter menu were unveiled Thursday, Jan. 12, Robbie Felice said.
"We're going to roll out four or five items a week so it's easier on the staff," he said.
The Mario Bartolli-trained chef who's honed his chops worldwide said fazzoletti or handkerchief pasta would be new for winter. Stuffed and garnished with herbs and flowers, it's flavored with a herbed lemon butter.
"We're using a citrus we've been preserving four or five months," he said.
The menu is mostly crafted from what's in season from neighborhood farms and Felice said locally-farmed animals are used in their entirety.
"When I got back from Europe I saw how nasty Americans eat. Pork doesn’t even look the same, because of all the crap, antibiotics, in it. The type of meat matters," he said.
He says he always tries to find the best products within the local community and has been to visit farms where he buys meat.
"I wanted to see if the pigs were being treated humanely, fed properly. It matters to how your end product will be," he said.
"I figured if I was going to make us a real Italian restaurant, it had to be the freshest and most local ingredients, or come right from Italy. The meats we cure in a chamber downstairs, or we buy from Italy," he added.
Located in a strip mall on the Hamburg Turnpike, Viaggio in Italian means "journey" or "travel" and pays homage to the seven countries Felice used as cooking incubators throughout his career.
Viaggio's is his father's third restaurant, having previously owned Gourmet Cafe in Parsippany and Casa de Amici in Denville.
"This is our thing," Felice said, adding his father no longer owns the other restaurants.
A popular dish at the 70-seat eatery is his unique interpretation of chicken cacciatore, a dish raved about by reviewers, Felice said.
People also love the octopus and seasonal pasta, he said.
Business is busy, with Friday and Saturday nights booked a few weeks out, he said.
Viaggio is BYO and open for dinner Tuesday-Sunday. Call (973) 706-7277 for more information or to make a reservation.