City Lifestyle

Want to start a publication?

Learn More

Featured Article

Journey of a Lifetime

Viaggio's James Beard Nominee Robbie Felice Brings A World of Culinary Experience to Wayne

Article by Don Seaman

Photography by Steven Wagner

Originally published in Wayne Lifestyle

Imagine the breathless anticipation that you feel watching a world-class athlete competing at the Olympics as they deliver a historically flawless performance. Words can’t capture the moment, the artistry, the skill, the training, the everything that went into this moment.

Now imagine all of those emotions, only the payoff isn’t for your eyes. It’s on your plate.

That’s what happens at Viaggio.

Chef-owner Robbie Felice gives off a rock star vibe, the passion for what he does dripping off every word. But it comes with a well-earned pedigree, like the Beatles honing their skills in the clubs of Hamburg before becoming a culture-changing force. 

After graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, Robbie began criss-crossing the globe at major Michelin-starred restaurants in NYC, Las Vegas, the Netherlands, Belgium, the UK, France, Italy, and Spain. Along the way, he was included in North Jersey’s 2017 “People to Watch” list, along with people like Yoenis Cespedes of the NY Mets, John Degnan, Chairman of Port Authority, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark, and future NJ Governor Phil Murphy.

Although they’d approached him, Bravo ultimately decided that he was simply too young to be on Bravo’s “Top Chef”. Now, he might just be too good.

In 2016, he took a big career risk. He was working in a 2-Michelin star restaurant in Manhattan that simply wasn’t working him hard enough. “I was looking to get into one of those hard kitchens that really beat you up and turn you into a really good chef, a good businessperson. Their chef at the time told me that if you leave, this could ruin your career. I told him that was a chance I was willing to take.”

This is not a man who takes the safe route for his passion.

Afterwards, as he was in LA interviewing in top restaurants there, Robbie received a text from his father, also a chef, who simply said “Rest up.” He knew what that meant.

Sure enough, Joe Felice had signed a deal for a space in a strip mall in his hometown of Wayne. It was far from the food meccas that he’d grown in, but it would be his own. 

Robbie came home and Viaggio was born. Within two years, it was named one of New Jersey’s Top 30 Restaurants, earning a 3 ½ star review from the Bergen Record, their highest rating in nine years. His success led him to open Osteria Cresceno in Westwood. After five months, Osteria joined Viaggio on that list. 

Viaggio literally means “the journey.” It comprehensively sums up his professional path, traveling the world and becoming the world-class, James Beard nominated chef he is today. (To read more of his accolades, go to

Now, he’s continuing that culinary journey, opening pop-up speakeasy-style pastaRAMEN restaurants across the country. He’s stunned that he’s integrated Asian food into his repertoire, but it’s part of his odyssey. 

A bigger surprise might be his passion for Dutch food. “Holland was my main base for quite a while in Europe. They’re so passionate about their food. There’s definitely a lot of inspiration there. It was mind blowing. Biting into a strawberry there is a life-changing experience.”

That’s also why he took the time from his busy schedule for a rooftop event in Brooklyn to cook with Tala Bashmi, named Best Female Chef for the Middle East and North Africa’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022. Seeing what people around the world are doing in their kitchens inspires him further.

But Viaggio remains his home base.

So what do you do with a trove of undiscovered diamonds right at your doorstep, or finding that Shakespeare reincarnated is in town, writing new plays with a local theater troupe? You run out and grab a bucket, buy a ticket, and claim your share of history and riches. In this case, you reserve a table where you can experience authentic Rustic Italian cooking 4,000 miles closer to home.  

Don’t wait — soon enough, culinary enthusiasts from around the world might begin to wonder what authentic Wayne cooking is all about. And Robbie, in this simple shopping center, will be ready to make their viaggio an inspired one.

Viaggio is located at 1055 Hamburg Turnpike in Wayne.