The Caesar salad and mesclun baby field greens salads are equally impressive. The field greens are tender, and lack the bitter taste that spoils many similar salads. The olive oil vinaigrette is sweet and light. Crispy croutons make the Caesar salad above average as well.
Filomena stakes its reputation on its pasta, as well it should. Sitting in the window on Wisconsin Avenue N.W. are two middle-aged women whom Filomena calls its "Pasta Mamas." They dress in red-and-white kitchen uniforms, cranking pasta through a press and making ravioli by hand.
The Pasta Mamas do not disappoint. Perhaps the best items on the menu are the ravioli. A friend called the veal ravioli, "one of the best things I have ever put in my mouth." It is also a presidential favorite. The chicken ravioli with red sauce is equally flavorful.
In addition to these, there is a vegetarian ravioli with cheese and spinach in cream sauce - penne with sausage, and green and red peppers are also a great choice.
As with the pasta with meat and poultry, Filomena serves wonderful seafood. Linguini with lobster is a particular treat. Large chunks of lobster, including the tastiest claw meat, are served in a somewhat heavy cream sauce. (This dish is not recommended for light eaters or for Speaker Newt Gingrich's (R-Ga.) diet.)
For those not partaking in the Pasta Mamas' creations, Filomena serves veal cutlet, roasted quail, filet mignon and several kinds of chicken.
Though it may be difficult, I recommend that you heed the words on the menu and "leave room for dessert and finish with a flourish!" (Filomena sends this strong message by displaying whole cakes and pies on a large table near the entrance.)
Filomena makes chocolate and fruit desserts equally well. The three-layer mousse cake with shaved chocolate was smooth and not too rich. The mixed fruit tart was equally tasty, one a light crust with peaches, pears, kiwis, and blueberries, strawberries, raspberries and a sweet glaze. Filomena also prizes its tiramisu.
At the end of the meal, the waiter brings what he calls the symbol of Filomena's hospitality: two decanters of after-dinner drinks, amaretto and anisette, as well as a glass of coffee beans. Putting three beans in the anisette represents life, health and wealth, the waiter explains. The only downside to this symbol of hospitality is that since the waiters take the decanters from table to table, they are quite sticky.
Prices at Filomena are relatively steep, but worth it. Appetizers range from $6.95 to $10.95, pastas from $12.95 to $23.95, and meat, poultry, and seafood from $13.95 to $25.95. The restaurant also offers a weekday lunch buffet of pasta, pizza and salads, which is $7.95, and a weekend brunch for $9.95.
The decor at Filomena is cozy and - like the rest of the restaurant - theatrical. For example, the coat check is decorated to look like an old-fashioned candy store.
On a recent visit just before Easter, the White House Easter Egg Hunt paled in comparison to Filomena's festive decorations. Two four-foot stuffed bunnies, as well as an equally large pink Easter egg basket, sat next to the walls. And stuffed bunnies and Easter baskets with pink tinsel hung over each table.
Though the Easter festivities were marked with a few dozen stuffed bunnies too many, Filomena remains nevertheless an excellent spot to celebrate special occasions, or just go for a flavorful meal.
The restaurant's management sometimes receives several days' notice when Clinton or Kohl are coming, but sometimes get barely six hours. If you go, be prepared to run into two VIPs munching calamari.