In the vertebrate central nervous system, exploratory filopodia transiently form on dendritic branches to sample the neuronal environment and initiate new trans-neuronal contacts. While much is known about the molecules that control filopodia extension and subsequent maturation into functional synapses, the mechanisms that regulate initiation of these dynamic, actin-rich structures have remained elusive. Here, we find that filopodia initiation is suppressed by recruitment of ArhGAP44 to actin-patches that seed filopodia. Recruitment is mediated by binding of a membrane curvature-sensing ArhGAP44 N-BAR domain to plasma membrane sections that were deformed inward by acto-myosin mediated contractile forces. A GAP domain in ArhGAP44 triggers local Rac-GTP hydrolysis, thus reducing actin polymerization required for filopodia formation. Additionally, ArhGAP44 expression increases during neuronal development, concurrent with a decrease in the rate of filopodia formation. Together, our data reveals a local auto-regulatory mechanism that limits initiation of filopodia via protein recruitment to nanoscale membrane deformations.