Fabio Trabocchi to open Fiola in spring 2011

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010; 11:59 AM

As long expected (and hoped) by Washington food enthusiasts, Fabio Trabocchi last week announced he was leaving New York for Washington, where he plans to open Fiola in the former Le Paradou space in Penn Quarter. The acclaimed chef describes his new venture as "a more casual approach to what I was doing before at Maestro," the late ode to high-end Italian cuisine he presided over for six years at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.

The tucked-away location for the chef's first restaurant of his own, 678 Indiana Ave. NW, is considered cursed by some. But it is special to Trabocchi, 36.

"It's the first place I worked as a chef when I put foot in the U.S.," he says, referring to the late Bice and the mid-1990s. It's also where he met his wife, Maria, who worked in the restaurant's office.

"Fiola" is a term of endearment that Italian fathers might use with their daughters, says Trabocchi. In his native Marchese dialect, the word is akin to "sweetheart," he adds.

The menu at Fiola will change daily and will highlight the flavors of the Marches. Trabocchi is calling his ideas "gourmet but accessible." They are also a continuation of "the democratization of gastronomy" that he sees in the restaurant market.

Trabocchi left Maestro in 2007 to open Fiamma Osteria in New York; despite a three-star rave from the New York Times, the restaurant closed in January 2009, an early victim of the recession. The Four Seasons subsequently tapped him to helm its kitchen, but that arrangement lasted a brief three months. Since September, Trabocchi has been consulting on Villa Pacri, a combination cafe, lounge and restaurant in New York's Meatpacking District.

Construction at Fiola is planned for January; the chef aims to open the 140-seat dining room in spring 2011. He also aims to succeed in a spot where others haven't, and he's taking no chances: "I'm going to have it blessed three times before we open the door!"

- Tom Sietsema

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