New on Oyster Locals Blog…Dining in D.C. at Filomena

December 20, 2010
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DSCN5290For my husband’s birthday dinner, my parents offered to take our family out to Filomena, a Georgetown institution. We readily agreed. It’s funny how you can live in a city for years and think you know every landmark, museum, restaurant, or tourist spot. I was anxious to see what I had been missing all these years.

Filomena looks tiny from the outside. As we walked in to Filomena, I got that old country feel. I could see Tony Soprano and his crew heading there for a fancy dinner. Definitely the kind of place famous for Mama’s meatballs, I was certain.

As I peered through the window to see what the restaurant was like, I spotted a pair of ladies in white aprons hand rolling and cutting pasta. Wow. I was amazed at the trays and trays of gnocchi and tortellini. How did these ladies hand-make pasta that looked so much like store bought? Each piece was perfectly shaped by hand before being placed on a large tray. Filomena must go through trays and trays of pasta each day.

Once I descended the stairs I saw how large the restaurant really was. As a tuxedoed manager greeted us at the bottom of the stairs, I spotted the dessert counter to my right. Scrumptious! My children squealed when they saw the life-size Santa Claus in the downstairs lobby. It’s an understatement to say that Filomena decorates for the holidays. I spied more than a dozen Santas — vintage Saint Nick  rather than the Santas of today — displayed on shelves in the main dining room. Numerous Christmas trees were dotted about the restaurant. Our kids were largely silent during the early part of the meal as they observed and then mentioned the different Christmas decorations they saw.

Oh, I should mention for families contemplating a meal at Filomena that there is no kids’ menu or crayons and coloring sheets. We NEVER eat at fancy restaurants with the kids, so we prepared the children in advance by telling them:

  • to choose a dish closest to what they eat at home — we asked the server to recommend several dishes the kids might like. My teen is a veteran at ordering from the “big” menu, so I focused on helping my kid and tween choose. My son had spaghetti with meat sauce on the side. My tween had fettucine alfredo, as it was most similar to mac-n-cheese. Both good choices.
  • to dress appropriately for a nice dinner — my daughters wore skirts while my son wore a jacket and tie. The restaurant does not have a “No Jackets” rule, but I observed that the dress choices of diners ranged from business casual to semi-formal. If planning to sightsee before dining at Filomena, leave the shorts and tees in the hotel room.
  • to enjoy the evening.

And enjoy Filomena they did. The food was spectacular. I have never had better Italian home-cooked food. The portions were so massive that we ate the rest of the food for lunch the next day. I sampled some of the pasta handmade on the premises — it was so good, and better than any pasta I have ever eaten.

My kids eyes widened as the food was brought to the table. All of us chose tomato soup as an appetizer. The server poured each person’s soup from a separate silver jug. It was homemade I am sure; the tomatoes were just so fresh and juicy. A couple of us even squeezed in dessert. Two desserts worth noting: tiramisu and cookies ‘n cream. My dad, who lived in Italy in the ’80s, said it was the best tiramisu he had ever eaten. And the meal was not over with the desserts. A bottle of Sambuca with a coffee bean for each glass and another carafe of Amaretto added a final decadent touch to the meal. I told the kids that when I last drank Sambuca, the Italian waiter set the alcohol drenched coffee bean alight. No such fireworks at Filomena, but our meal was spectacular!

The food, ambiance, service, and decor were top-notch. My only complaint was that the tables were quite tightly packed. Was it because it was a Saturday night with reservations maxed out? Or is the restaurant always crowded? Getting in and out of our corner table and not touching the table next to us was impossible, but we managed.

Filomena is located a half block south of the intersection of Wisconsin and M Streets, a stone’s throw from that other D.C. hotspot…Georgetown Cupcakes. The traffic — pedestrian and vehicular — was intense on the Saturday we visited, typical for Saturday night in Georgetown, D.C.’s busiest shopping and entertainment area. Parking was not easy as there is no parking lot for the restaurant patrons. We parked across from the restaurant in the lot underneath Georgetown Park Mall.

In need of more holiday spirit while visiting D.C.? Try

Other solid choices for a stay with or without family…

When not fussing about her children’s table manners, Jill blogs at Musings from Me.

Photo credit: Jill Berry
Check out this post and my other DC posts over at Oyster Locals Blog!

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