Just like grandma used to make
Filomena’s at Zach’s: Traditional Italian with variety
by Adriana Rambay Fernández
Reporter staff writer
Nov 13, 2011 | 7251 views | 0 0 comments | 92 92 recommendations | email to a friend | print
VEAL CHOP PARMIGIANO – A large portion served with gravy and fresh melted mozzarella.
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Patrons of Filomena’s Italian Deli in Secaucus who have enjoyed years of freshly-prepared mozzarella, home-cooked Italian dishes, and delicious desserts can now sit down to a cozy, comfortable dinner across the street at a restaurant called Filomena’s at Zach’s.

Just about anyone would be pleased to discover this hidden gem adjacent to Zach’s Towne Pub.

Filomena’s owner Patrick DeCesare partnered in January with neighbor Gary Bitterig, owner of Zach’s Towne Pub, to offer a unique dining experience.

The restaurant is conveniently located in the center of town on Front Street. Patrons to Zach’s Towne Pub enjoy a typical American menu of hamburgers, wings, and mozzarella sticks, while visitors to the separate, private dining room enjoy an intimate, formal dining experience prepared by Filomena’s.

“I started Filomena’s seven years ago. I always liked the food industry,” said DeCesare. “I cook at home constantly. I love having people over for dinner.”

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“[Filomena] was an excellent cook. She was the best.” – Patrick DeCesare

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DeCesare, a third generation Italian and lifelong Hoboken resident, switched careers to pursue his passion for cooking and desire to own a restaurant after years of working in the garment industry.

He took his inspiration from his grandmother Filomena, who the restaurant and deli are named after. “[Filomena] was an excellent cook. She was the best,” said DeCesare.

His grandparents were from Molfetta and Bari, Italy, and arrived in the United States in the 1920s.

“A lot of things on the menu are inspirations from her,” said DeCesare. The Chicken Tridi soup, for example, is made in a traditional Italian style with homemade pasta flakes. The cheesecake and tiramisu are both Filomena’s recipes.

Home-cooked touches

Chef Kim, who has known DeCesare for more than 30 years and has worked in the restaurant industry for the same amount of time, runs the kitchen and sets the menu. She said everything is prepared with fresh ingredients and is “made out of love.”

The appetizers range from $5.95 for a half-dozen clams on the half shell to $17.95 for the often-ordered Filomena’s antipasto for two, which includes prosciutto de parma, sopressata, homemade mozzarella, imported provolone, mortadella, capicola, roasted peppers, and olives.

Another popular dish, Mozzarella en Carozza for $7.95, is battered and fried Tuscan bread filled with mozzarella and prosciutto with anchovy sauce on the side.

Each meal is served with bruschetta and fresh bread for dipping in Filomena’s own olive oil, especially made in Bolgheri, in the Tuscany region of Italy. The olive oil is available for purchase in the deli across the street.

Sold out specials

“Specials are seasonal and what is available market-wise,” said DeCesare.

On the evening of the Reporter’s visit, the specials sold out. They included appetizers such as the escarole and white bean with ham hock soup ($4.50), a hearty, rich tasting dish, and fruti de mare ($11.95), which includes scungilli, shrimp, and calamari marinated in lemon, olive oil, and basil served on a bed of mixed greens. It offers a light but powerful taste with a kick. The beet salad ($7.95) is full of flavor brought on by the addition of blue cheese and baby arugula.

Other specials that evening included Pork Chop Filomena’s ($14.95) served with peppers, onions, and San Marzano plum tomatoes; a 16 oz. slow roasted prime rib ($16.95) served with baked potato and mixed vegetables; Filomena’s Sunday Dinner ($14.95) of rigatoni pasta served with meatball, sausage and brasiolo, and crabmeat stuffed flounder ($15.95) served with sauteed escarole and potato croquets.

It’s gravy, not sauce

Filomena’s at Zach’s features a rich, homemade style gravy – don’t make the mistake of calling it sauce. The pasta dishes range from $9.95 for penne a la vodka to $11.95 for Fettuccini Filomena’s, cooked in Alfredo sauce with prosciutto and peas. Cavatelli a la Andreas ($10.95), the most popular pasta dish, has a smooth, smoky flavoring and sautéed mushrooms, bacon, sausage, and broccoli in a light pink sauce.

Entrees include chicken, fish, pork, meat and specialties like eggplant Parmigiano ($10.95) and homemade meat lasagna ($10.95.) The portions are hearty, large, and filled with fresh ingredients.

The dishes range in price from $12.95 for Sorrentino chicken breast layered in prosciutto, eggplant, and mozzarella, to $18.95 for T-Bone Steak served with potato croquets and sautéed escarole. The Veal Chop Parmigiano, a restaurant favorite, comes in a large portion, covered in fresh homemade mozzarella, and served with great-tasting gravy and a side of pasta like rigatoni. The Eggplant Parmigiano, another popular dish, will leave you wanting more even if you finish the entire serving.

Leave room for dessert

Filomena’s at Zach’s offers desserts prepared by DeCesare himself. He dedicates time in the afternoon to baking the desserts, which are also sold in the deli. The cheesecake ($4.95) is amazing and so is the tiramisu for $4.95. Dessert prices range from ($1.75) for a mini-cannoli to $5.95 for tartuffo.

Mixing it up

While Filomena’s at Zach’s has a strong following and is known for its traditional Italian cuisine, DeCesare and Chef Kim like to mix up the menu and offer unique specials. Last month they had Oktoberfest items on Wednesdays and Thursdays such as kielbasa and bratwurst. The restaurant also offers full service catering and gives customers flexibility in choosing menu items.

Filomena’s at Zach’s is open Monday through Sunday and is located in the dining room adjacent to 146 Front St. Filomena’s Deli is located at 143 Front St. in Secaucus. For more information visit: www.filomenasdeli.com or call (201) 330-2811.

Adriana Rambay Fernández may be reached at afernandez@hudsonreporter.com.

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