New Owners Do Justice To Filomena's Italian Fare
Originally Published in The Norwich Bulletin
By Joan Gordon
Filomena's sits at one end of a busy strip center on the Boston Post Road in Waterford. When it opened a few years ago, neither its offerings nor its service were up to par. Happily, however, it is now under new ownership and there has been a complete turnaround in both categories.
Local entrepreneurs, brothers Mike and Bill Buscetto (whose family was long-time owners of Michael's Dairy) and Bruno Trombino, builders of the strip center, took over the restaurant just about a year ago. Mike was there on our visit, greeting customers, chatting them up and justifiably glowing with pride. He said one of the three is usually on hand.
On the evening we went, the joint was really jumping. The bar was full and a private party filled the overflow dining room.
The area on the left, which once housed an Italian food market, has become the main dining room. It's large, inviting and provides a semi-open view of the kitchen's hustle and bustle. Dark reddish paint gives the room a warm feel. Colorful banquettes flank the walls.
Fortunately, we had an early reservation and were promptly seated. A basket of mixed grain foccacio arrived. We soon needed seconds; ditto for the accompanying dish of balsamic vinegar with garlic and olive oil.
Our evening flowed with nary a hitch. Stacy, our server, certainly contributed to that. The food overall was very good, enough to make us want to return for more.
The restaurant takes a somewhat unusual approach to crab cake. Our appetizer cake was flattened out, very crispy, and covered most of the plate. The large size made it easy to share. An elegant lobster and tomato sauce with a hint of cream was pooled around and nicely complimented the crab.
Onion soup, full of caramelized onions in a rich beef broth, was capped with melting gruyere cheese. It would have pleased any French chef.
A generous dish of nicely crisped, lightly battered calamari was in need of some seasoning. It was served with a ramekin of warm tomato sauce. What I liked most was the banana and cherry pepper strips accompanying this traditional preparation were also battered and fried. Actually, I would have loved them all by themselves.
Gnocchi, totally hand made (how special is that?), was offered in two different combinations. The simplest was a la pomodoro, tossed with the house-made red sauce, mozzarella and Parmigiano. The other was a wonderful, far more assertive and dazzling mélange incorporating crumbled sausage made specifically for Filomena's by Westerly Packing. Added to the mix was wilted spinach, chopped plum tomatoes and Parmigiano.
My Stonington scallops were exceptional, pan seared and sweet as could be. They sat on a bed of creamy risotto replete with spinach and al dente asparagus cuts finished in a light garlic broth. Michael enjoyed a large, beautiful piece of salmon over a pillow of an altogether-different type of risotto. His was finished with tangy sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts and a sprinkling of Italian herbs.
The evening special included a dish of two moist and tender, pounded chicken breasts topped with sun-dried tomatoes and prosciutto. Lovely haricots verts, the accompanying vegetable, were finished perfectly. A classic white wine and lemon sauce enrobed the dish.
Desserts were generally good, even though for the most part not made in-house (two local shops prepare most of them). We did try the house-made Tiramisu. A small martini glass with protruding savoiardi, a ladyfinger biscuit, held a skimpy portion of mostly whipped cream. Little of the classic tiramisu essence was evident. A very moist and not overly-sweet chocolate mousse cake (from one of the outside vendors) was exquisitely decorated. The dark, almost black cake was layered with a whipped dark chocolate mousse.
Joan Gordon writes a restaurant review every Thursday in GO. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org