Metairie Gem Ristorante Filippo

Written by Mary Ann Fitzmorris May 19, 2024 10:27 in Dining Diary

We had a shockingly not great meal at Ristorante Filippo this week. It was not shocking in the degree of goodness. It was shocking because it was ordinary. And there is no ordinary at Filippo. What is usually shocking at Filippo is how spectacularly delicious everything is there. We dine out a lot and it is rare to see this type of excellence consistently.

It was an odd evening for us personally, and maybe I hoped that the food would lift us from that, but the reality is that nothing could. And that is an unfair burden to place on a restaurant.

I was glad we could get in because I had Italian on the brain. We tried the rebooted Fausto’s but that is reservation only for a while. When Filippo popped into my mind I was delighted. This is to our taste in the top handful of Italian restaurants in town.

We made our way through an unusually crowded bar to a tiny two-top in the corner. Perfect. The bar at Filippo’s is our preferred dining spot. It is one of those places where the bar and restaurant could be two separate restaurants. The whole place looks the part of a mid-20th-century American Italian restaurant, which could also sub for a restaurant in Italy. No glitz here. It is comfortable and welcoming.

We ordered immediately because I knew we would be getting Oysters Al Oreganate for Tom, and when I saw meatballs and spaghetti on the menu I decided I needed that. It would be a quick meal so there wasn’t time to think about menu choices.

My only decision was the Alfredo and chicken prepared in some way, or the meatballs and spaghetti. Chef/owner Phil Gagliano is a masterful Italian chef who makes comforting Italian food sophisticated, so there are great dishes to be savored on this menu. Just not for us. We eat and run.

I started to get Oysters Oreganate as an app and then realized we could not make it through a coursed-out dinner. The oysters would be Tom’s entree. We changed from the small version to the large one. And I was curious to see what Phil would do for a pedestrian dish like meatballs and spaghetti. Tom has always decreed meatballs and spaghetti as “kid food,” but this dish has gotten some respect in the last few years on menus, probably because so many people other than kids want to eat it. Prices are now commensurate with popularity. The $20 price here was on the low side around town.

And I needed something immediately for Tom so I ordered a small Italian salad. I was surprised that the small one was $12.95. At that price, it seemed like it would be large enough to split. It was, but it still turned out to be smaller than expected, and not especially interesting. Balsamic vinegar was part of the mix, along with black olives, tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and pepperoncini. I have mixed feelings about Balsamic vinegar, but this evening it worked very well with the other ingredients. A heavy dusting of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese blanketed the top, which is never a negative to me.

Tom’s oysters arrived, looking drier than I remembered. The Oysters Al Oreganate here is the best version of the olive oil/garlic/breadcrumbs oyster preparation in town, even slightly better than the famous Oysters Mosca. The olive oil saturates this dish, incorporating the breadcrumbs as it blends the flavors of the garlic, Italian herbs, and Romano cheese. Sublime.

But this was the least good of this dish we’ve had here. It was fine, but not transporting, as it usually is. The oysters were large, and all the other components were here, but maybe the lack of olive oil saturation threw it off. We took some home, and that never happens.

It was the meatballs and spaghetti that really surprised me, but it shouldn’t have. Maybe asking a chef like this to do food like that is a mistake. The meatballs were clearly handmade, misshapen, (I find this desirable), and soft as they should be. The sauce was surprisingly sweet (I find this very undesirable) and it separated into thicker in places but mostly red water at the bottom. The angel hair pasta was cooked perfectly. There was nothing catastrophic about this plate of food. It is, after all, meatballs and spaghetti. It was just ordinary, and they don't do ordinary here. But I found myself wishing I had opted for the Alfredo instead.

Since I’ve never been anything other than thrilled with the food here, I found myself remembering something Tom has always said: Any restaurant, even great ones, can have a bad night.

Before leaving I asked them to see if Phil could come say hi and I was told he wasn’t there. Mystery solved. But a chef should be able to take the evening off, huh? We'll just need to go back for a do-over, and soon.