In Boston, where I am originally from, the holy grail of Italian food is found in a neighborhood we call the North End, also known as Boston’s Little Italy. As you head 400 miles south to Washington, D.C., however, you’ll discover the epicenter of charming Italian cuisine lies in none other than the scenic Georgetown locale.
On any bustling night, dozens of pedestrians roam Georgetown’s own Little Italy — and it sure is little — filling the streets and restaurants with cheerful, buzzing chatter. The twinkle lights sprinkled down the street are aglow and warm ambiance fills 31st Street NW. The mouthwatering smells of stone-fired pizza, freshly tossed pasta and sauteed herbs waft out of restaurant windows.
Yet, the finest Italian restaurant in the Georgetown area isn’t found on 31st Street with its bounty of Italian restaurants, but rather on the adjacent street of Wisconsin Avenue. It’s known as Filomena.
Founded in 1983 by JoAnna Filomena, Filomena has provided an exceptional Italian dining experience to Washingtonians and tourists alike for over 30 years and is known especially for its adherence to traditional styles of Italian food, alongside its fine wine and extraordinary service. Although months have passed since my last visit, I still sometimes dream about the Burrata Mozzarella Di Caprese, which says a great deal, as I have hated eating tomatoes my entire life. This time was different.
Unlike most caprese salads, this plate was very purposefully arranged, comparable to a stack of pancakes. The dish had three distinct layers: farm-fresh tomatoes, fluffy burrata mozzarella and basil leaves, all drizzled with a sweet and tangy balsamic dressing. The mozzarella was fresh, chewy yet melt-in-your-mouth delicious, with just the right hint of a cheese flavor. The tomato slice was juicy and crisp, and best of all, the tomato skin wasn’t soggy. Altogether, the caprese tasted exactly how I imagine the scene from “Ratatouille” in which Remy marries the flavors from the cheese and strawberry together and fireworks ensue.
Unfortunately, in a return to reality — and to quarantine, where most of us remain confined to our zip code — it will most likely be months before any of us are able to step foot in Filomena and sample its expansive, flavorful menu. On the bright side, however, quarantine leaves us with plenty of time to experiment in the kitchen.
Consequently, this column will review memorable dining experiences while also offering easy and adapted recipes to recreate at home. Eventually, you might be able to give the originals a try. But until then, I hope my attempt at mimicking those flavorful bites might hold you over.
When the need to go grocery shopping arose last week, I jumped at the chance. Shopping for fresh ingredients to transform into delicious dishes has always been a passion of mine, outside of basic cooking, baking and gastronomy. With the abundance of time currently on my hands, I have had the opportunity to get back into the groove right where I left off with my cooking endeavors, and I have spent hours each week devising and trying all sorts of recipes. I won’t say my alternative to Filomena’s Burrata Mozzarella Di Caprese is perfect, but it does the trick.
This week I decided to make caprese skewers to satisfy my craving. These skewers make for the perfect quick, fresh and healthy snack or appetizer, especially in the summer months to come.
Cook Time: 10 minutes
● Cherry tomatoes, 1 carton
● Presliced Galbani fresh mozzarella, 1 roll
● Fresh basil leaves, 1 packet
● Balsamic vinegar, to taste
● Toothpicks or skewers
1) Thoroughly wash and dry cherry tomatoes and fresh basil leaves.
2) Slice cherry tomatoes into halves or leave whole, according to your preference.
3) Cut each slice of presliced fresh mozzarella into quarters.
4) Place tomato at the base of the toothpick or skewer.
5) Place one piece of mozzarella on the toothpick or skewer above the tomato base.
6) Take a single basil leaf and fold the leaf in half.
7) Place the folded basil leaf on the toothpick or skewer above the mozzarella.
8) Repeat steps 4 through 7 for all toothpicks or skewers.
9) Finish with a balsamic vinegar drizzle.
Isabella Xu is a rising junior in the McDonough School of Business. Homemade Gourmet appears online every other week.