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The Gossiping Gourmet: After three months, Filomena's feels like family

December 04, 2013|By Terry Markowitz
  • Champagne chicken with white wine risotto at Filomena's Italian Kitchen in Costa Mesa.
Champagne chicken with white wine risotto at Filomena's… (SCOTT SMELTZER,…)

Finding Filomena's Italian Kitchen was like finding an old friend. This neighborhood restaurant in Costa Mesa brought back memories of the small, family-owned Italian places in New York's Little Italy.

The cozy, welcoming atmosphere, the warm, friendly staff and the classic Italian food all added up to a very pleasant evening. The restaurant opened in September, but it was clear that many of the customers were already regulars.

I saw lots of hugging going on, but new customers were also welcomed like family. This is the goal of chef and owner Linda English — to recreate the feeling in her grandmother's kitchen.

The restaurant is small, but the noise level is low and conversation is easy. The room is attractive, featuring wood floors and tables, a nice bar area and soft lighting. All that was missing were the straw-covered Chianti bottles with dripping candles.

Our charming waiter, Hector, brought us the glasses of red wine we ordered accompanied by a little dish containing two very good pieces of dark chocolate. The breadbasket included delicious garlic bread knots made from the Kitchen's pizza dough. The women at the next table were raving to their waitress about them, and when they were leaving, she gave them a little bagful on the house.

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Beginning our meal with some calamari and an order of bruschetta, we were impressed by the generosity of the portions and continued to be throughout the meal, especially considering the prices.

Three large, thick slices of toasted Italian bread were topped with sweet marinated red peppers, pine nuts and raisins — a fortuitous marriage of flavors, but too much to eat before an entrée. We enjoyed the rest, along with a few other leftovers from our dinner, the next day for lunch.

The calamari fritti was lightly breaded and served with a house-made marinara sauce. I was hoping for more garlic or more heat from the dipping sauce.

My guest had the house-made ravioli and meatballs. The ravioli were large and stuffed with four different cheeses. They were good but a little overcooked; we like our pasta al dente. Two large beef and pork meatballs sat on top, and a slightly spicy version of the Kitchen's marinara sauce cloaked the entrée. Next time, I'll request the spicier tomato sauce to go with my calamari.

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