The following review appears in The Washington Post’s 2017 Fall Dining Guide.
A waiter in a crisp cream-colored jacket underscores the breezy charm of one of the best Italian restaurants in Washington when he asks me at lunch, “Tea? Soda? Are we allowed to misbehave today?” A meal at the most senior of Fabio Trabocchi’s dining destinations begs for something luxe, spurred not just by lobster ravioli and squab saltimbocca on the menu, but by iridescent tile floors, plush seating and famous faces nearby. While it was fun to learn that the Burgundy snails in a little skillet of gnocchi and Iberico ham came from the same source used by master chef Daniel Boulud in New York, the supposedly “hay-smoked” gnocchi were faint on fumes and a little doughy. A fluke? Alluring as ever is the three-course “Maria menu,” named for the chef’s wife and business partner and designed with good health in mind. Curls of dewy raw golden snapper on a circle of sliced tiger figs, monkfish loin in a thin band of sopressata and labneh panna cotta tweaked with coins of Meyer lemon look rich, taste sumptuous and feel like a steal at $32.
Fiola: 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 202-628-2888. fioladc.com.
Prices: Prix fixe $90-$145.
Sound check: 70 decibels / Conversation is easy.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2016 Fall Dining Guide.
Five years old in April, Fiola is the eldest of the trio of Italian restaurants created by chef Fabio Trabocchi. It’s also the most glamorous place in the city to twirl pasta, even if it’s just you sitting at the limestone bar at noon on a workday. The music is jazzy, the light fixture suggests bubbles and the bartender in his crisp white jacket looks as if he just stepped out of a movie — say, “Roman Holiday.” One look at the chef’s chic wife, and you, too, may tell the waiter “I’ll have what she’s having”; the “Maria menu” is a low-calorie, three-course menu that serves as an antidote to the restaurant’s extreme richness. Light turns out to be lovely. A cubed watermelon salad that could pass for art and olive oil-poached cod brightened with squash blossoms are followed by a celestial mango foam decked out with shards of lime-flecked meringue and glinting champagne granita. If you wish to throw caution to the wind, however, the kitchen is happy to accommodate you, with dishes including tortellini stuffed with osso buco and capped with rich duck prosciutto. The sting of the typical bill is mitigated by gratis warm cornmeal cookies laced with pine nuts and rum-steeped currants. All of which is why I give Fiola an “F,” for fabulous.
The following review appeared in The Washington Post’s 2016 Spring Dining Guide.
Chef Fabio Trabocchi’s biggest competitor is himself. When it comes to haute Italian cooking in Washington, there’s Fiola Mare in Georgetown and his original Fiola in Penn Quarter. For a few years now, I’ve been talking up the former. But guess what? Senior is out-cooking junior right now, the evidence arriving with a treat from the kitchen that’s as much architecture as “benvenuto”: a candle-lit tower supporting a delicate cup of warm prosecco zabaglione and gingery oysters, the richness of the frothy custard cut with lemon zest. There’s no more arresting seafood carpaccio in the city than Fiola’s pink brick of Himalayan salt carpeted with sliced Maine scallops, pansies and a smear of ramp pesto. And I can’t stop dreaming about winey osso buco tucked into tender tortellini and garnished, grandly, with glazed sweetbreads. Or a sunny duck egg atop a forest of buttery mushrooms staged in a copper pan. Or, for that matter, the prettiest spring dessert now playing, the pink-and-green strawberry-pistachio-rhubarb torte created by pastry chef Brandon Malzahn, whose satiny chocolate-caramel bar and tuile-bound tiramisu are equally exquisite. This is not Italian food you could eat every day. The unrelenting decadence begs for levity. (Besides the richness, it’s probably not so healthy for a 99 percenter’s budget.) But for the duration of your stay, attended to as if you’re royalty in a room as chic as Milan, Fiola is ecstasy in the capital.