His studies have resulted in flawless plates of cacio e pepe with toothsome coils of tonnarelli; hearty piles of troife, with vibrant green pesto clinging to each turn of the twisted noodles; and masses of convex and chewy orecchiette gently tossed in a meaty sausage sugo. There's tubes of rigatoni all'Amatriciana so eye-catchingly wide that my dining companion and I gasped when a server walked by with a plate. "The big noodles! We have to get the big noodles," I exclaimed in a temporary lapse of memory.
Each pasta comes from one of four regions of Italy -- the north, the center, the south, and the islands -- arranged as the centerpiece of the menu in geographic quadrants. It's Funke's Tour of Italy, a version more flavorful and al dente than Olive Garden could ever hope to muster.
You will not find unlimited breadsticks at Felix either. Instead, small loaves of Sicilian-inspired focaccia called sfincione are delivered to tables. The airy, bubbly folds of bread dissolved in my mouth into a vapor of oil, salt, and rosemary. The recipe took Funke 10 years to master and tasting the denouement is nothing short of ethereal and addictive. "We sell out of it each night. I can make a hundred and it would just sell out," Funke says. It's not unheard of for tables of two to add four loaves of the sfincione to their checks -- a strategy I plan to employ next time.