“It’s the nature of Italians to live life with a positive tone and to celebrate the invitations that come along in life. Italian food is so conducive to all of that.”—Lidia Bastianich
Caroline, Courtney, and **Emily–three of the friendly faces at La Famiglia. **Emily has since left La Famiglia in order to focus on her studies at MU Medical School!
“Hi Mrs. Hill! We’ve got seats for you!” The young lady exclaims as we pass her. Her name is Caroline, and she is one of the many staff members at La Famiglia, 1327 6th Avenue in Huntington, WV, who makes John, my husband, and me feel right at home. Caroline’s face glistens in the evening sun as she rushes about taking care of the outside patio customers.
Entering through the front door, John and I are further greeted by Courtney and Selena, the latter of whom also happens to be one of my former Kindergarten students from what seems like a lifetime ago.
Entrance to La Famiglia’s beautiful private event room–ready to book your next special event.
“Hi guys! How are you?” greets Selena.
“I’m going to check right now and see if the guys have gluten-free pasta in the back for you Mrs. Hill,” adds Courtney as she hustles away and disappears into the kitchen area.
“Hi! Mrs. Hill. How’s Maddie? I feel like I haven’t seen her in forever!” greets and asks another former, but much more recent, student named Sophie.
“Hi guys, good to see you!” gently and softly adds one of John’s former students, Hayley.
“Hey! Hi again!” chimes in Sam, a fairly new waitress with a youthful grin.
Tyler and Emily are ready to serve drinks from behind the bar.
As the evening sun made its westward descent casting a warm, ripened- peach-hued glow overhead during this recent visit, John and I enjoyed talking with former and current students and/or their parents, fellow staff and/or church members, and even Rev. Monsignor Dean Borgmeyer, our parish pastor, before, during, and after our scrumptious dinner. Additionally, La Famiglia owner Ralph Hagy, and his sons, Joe and Jordan, each spent time, not only talking with us, but also making their rounds throughout the restaurant conversing with all of their customers. This is one of the reasons why dining at La Famiglia has the feel of eating at home with extended family and friends; and, it is that very atmosphere, as well as made-from scratch food, that keeps “mi famiglia,” my family, returning again and again.
The interior and exterior of La Famiglia is comfortable and inviting. Just look at that porch swing!
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that La Famiglia is located directly across from the school in which John and I teach as well as our home church, St. Joseph Catholic School and St. Joseph Catholic Church respectively. Since John and I tend to work late on Friday evenings, it’s not unusual for us to walk directly from school to the restaurant where we know our end-of-the workweek-fatigue will be assuaged with made-from scratch food—including the pasta, sauce, pizza, and yes, cheese, as well as gregarious conversation and a wide variety of appealing “adult beverages,” including house crafted specials, such as limoncello and figcello to name a few.
Jordan, Ralph, and Joe Hagy are seen most nights circulating among customers ensuring they feel at home and welcome!
While I was already well aware of how very much my family enjoys dining at La Famiglia, I fell even more in-love with it after experiencing a sneak-peak behind the scenes!! Ralph, Ramon, and staff invited me to not only take pictures of their wood-fired oven and kitchen area as the staff recovered from a weekday lunch rush and prepared for the dinner crowd, but also to observe the cheese-making process. I was pumped to say the least!
Check out the wood-fired oven and busy kitchen! Ramon Urbaez gets the water hot for the curds!
Arriving around 3:30 one afternoon, I found the dining area abandoned, except for one lone salad and water sitting on the bar. (Later, I would learn it was Ralph’s lunch for which he did not have time to eat.) As I walked toward the kitchen, I could hear Ralph talking. Rounding the corner, I watched as Ralph deftly navigated between a call on a cell phone and a call on the restaurant phone. I could tell from the conversations that both calls were regarding acquiring fresh ingredients for the restaurant’s current menu and upcoming weekend specials.
Across from him was a box chock full of fresh produce that Ralph later explained to me had just arrived from a nearby WV farm-based business. In return, Ralph was sending the farm-business a few products from his restaurant to use and sell. Ralph explained that sometimes the barter system was still the best way for local businesses to help one another.
Garden fresh produce at La Famiglia!
Meanwhile, as Ralph talked, water was being heated over a stove in an enormous pot, seemingly big enough to bathe a large dog, to a precise temperature in order to make fresh cheese. Nearby, was another large pot filled with salted curds ready to be made into fresh mozzarella cheese. Ralph explained that the staff goes through the cheese making process nearly every business day! The water must be heated between 160-180 degrees in order to create the best consistency and bring out the most flavor. Once Ramon stated the temperature was correct, both men went to work.
Salted curds await to have hot water poured over them in order to make fresh mozzarella balls. Two pans of ice water baths await to cool the fresh cheese. Additionally, a paddle is ready to help stir these curds along!
Gloves were donned, due to the high temperature of the water, curds were dropped in the water, and Ramon began to work his magic on the curds using a large wooden paddle that looked very much like a paddle used to maneuver a canoe. Ralph was at the ready holding the pot steady. It was hot work that Ramon said felt, “really good to do in the winter, but not so much in the summer.”
Ralph pours the hot water over the curds as Ramon is at the ready with the paddle.
Once the correct consistency had been reached, both men plunged their gloved hands into the hot water in order to knead and form fresh, warm mozzarella balls between the size of a baseball and softball. Each of these freshly formed mounds was then placed on a large metal baking sheet to cool.
As the cheese begins to bind and reach the right consistency, Ralph and Ramon begin making the fresh balls of mozzarella.
Ralph was kind enough to allow me to taste a bit of the warm, ooey-gooeyness. Wow! Did my taste buds ever light up and dance a mambo in my mouth. I tried to imagine, as Ralph suggested, how good the warm cheese would taste if drizzled with a bit of quality balsamic vinegar and olive oil served up with fresh garden basil and tomatoes. Oh my! No wonder La Famiglia’s Fresh Caprese Platter and Margherita pizzas are two of their biggest sellers in the summer!
Margherita Pizza, Caprese Capri, and Caprese Platter are three dishes at La Famiglia that feature their daily-made, fresh mozzarella cheese!
Watching the intense focus that went into their cheese making, I could only imagine the attention to detail that goes into each of their made-from-scratch menu items and weekly specials. In fact, Ralph further explained to me that they make all of their pasta and pizza dough fresh from flour imported from Italy. Additionally, I was privy to see the first class, organic meats and tomato products they purchase from an Italian wholesaler. Clearly the restaurant does not skimp on quality when it comes to the ingredients for their menu items. No wonder my family feels like we are sitting down to a homemade meal when we go to La Famiglia, because we are!
Fresh, quality meats from an Italian wholesaler.
Whether you are dining in or taking out, the next time you want a home cooked, family meal that is truly made-from-scratch from fresh whole food ingredients, but don’t have the time or energy to cook, give La Famiglia a try! From hand-cut steaks to fall-off the-bone, slow-cooked ribs; from fresh, tasty salads and soups to made-from scratch pasta and pizza; from grilled-to-perfection fish to savory appetizers, including their family recipe for hand rolled meatballs; and from one-of-a-kind gelatos to over-stuffed cannolis, and-oh-so-much more, you are sure to walk away from La Famiglia feeling like a well-fed part of their family!
From my home to yours, I wish you healthy, happy, and homemade meals!
Appealing appetizers, including Diavolo Horn . . .
Farm-fresh salads . . .
Fall-off-the-bone Diavolo Ribs and Short-rib Dinner Special . . .
Fill-your-mouth-with-comfort Lasagna Calabrese . . .
Unique seasonal specials, i.e. stuffed, grilled eggplant . . .
Phenomenal made-from-scratch (including the crust) wood-fired pizza . . .
Perfectly cooked to your request, hand-cut steaks and other weekend specials . . .
Steaming platters of made-from-scratch-pasta—notice how one platter fogged my camera lens! (with gluten-free option available) . . .
Unique and homemade desserts . . .