Tucked in an unassuming strip mall on Hamburg Turnpike is a reimagined Tuscan farmhouse with an industrial vibe that’s home to some of the state’s most exciting and assured Modern Italian cooking. #HipNJ has the scoop on Viaggio Ristorante in Wayne, and on the masterful Chef Felice.
Viaggio, which means “journey” or “travel” in Italian, received the highest rating for a Passaic County restaurant in years from The Record. “Felice’s best dishes bear intense, soulful flavors that evoke those of the acclaimed Babbo in Manhattan, where Felice was once an extern,” reviewer Elisa Ung noted.
Chef Felice describes his cooking as “the way food is eaten in Italy — super fresh, meant for sharing, simple and straightforward.” A Sussex native, the 26-year-old Chef Felice owns Viaggio with his father, Joe, a seasoned restaurateur.
Viaggio’s menu is structured as it would be in Italy, with Antipasti, Primi and Secondi courses. Must-have starters include an earthy, sophisticated salad of Roasted Beets with Pistachio and Mint; Calamari Fritti in a lush Lemon Butter Sauce; and hearty Eggplant Caponata or Roasted Pepper Bruschetta.
A centerpiece of the Viaggio experience is an impressive selection of salumi, most house-cured and the rest imported from Italy. “In order to be truly authentic, I knew I had to make my own,” Chef Felice says.
The Primi course is just as exceptional, with all but two pastas made in-house. Standouts include a fragrant Farfalle with Shrimp, Fennel and Leeks; rustic, classic Kabocha Squash Capellacci with Sage Brown Butter and Hazelnuts; and Gnocchi with local Jurgielewicz Farm Duck Ragu and Ricotta Salata.
This winter entrées feature what Ung called an “unforgettable interpretation” of Chicken alla Cacciatore, made with Lancaster Amish chicken stuffed with herbs, cheese and breadcrumbs; Branzino al Cartoccio with Fregula, Tomato and Olive; and a hearty Piemontese Tagliata w/Rosemary Smashed Potatoes and Cippolini Agrodolce.
Dolci, such as a moist, flavorful Rosemary Olive Oil Cake and house-spun gelato, hit just the right complementary note.
Viaggio Ristorante brings an Italian coursed menu to Wayne. To learn more, check out their website.