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Fiola, Penn Quarter in the old Le Paradou Space - Now with Several Locations Worldwide


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As mentioned upthread, we celebrated my daughter's birthday at Fiola on a Saturday evening. We typically save Fiola for special occasions, since the cost, while justified, is not something we can affo

Fabio Trabbochi's restaurants have become a bit of birthday tradition in my family, so my wife's request for a birthday dinner at Fiola was an easy choice. Fiola remains a top choice in DC; the food,

We went for dinner last week and were thoroughly impressed. The food was outstanding and the service was impeccable. The balance of flavors, textures and temperatures on all of our dishes was perfect.

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Is Penn Quarter about the greatest concentration of high-end fare this side of New York? I can't think of another 'neighborhood' that can top Penn Quarter for close-by quality eating, with maybe Old Town a distant second....

I believe that Dupont tops Old Town and with just 3 restaurants gives Penn Quarter a run for best 'neighborhood' for eating - Komi, Eola, Sushi Taro

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Is Penn Quarter about the greatest concentration of high-end fare this side of New York? I can't think of another 'neighborhood' that can top Penn Quarter for close-by quality eating, with maybe Old Town a distant second....

Penn Quarter would be among of the best neighborhoods for restaurants in New York if it were there (and maybe then it would have a bodega, which it sorely lacks). To think that people thought Jose Andres was crazy when he moved into the Lansburgh. I think I'd pick Clarendon/Courthouse as second best in the DC area.

I hope Fiola attracts a crowd. That corner of Penn Quarter has always been pretty sleepy after the court closes, though the Source (which, I guess, is technically on the wrong side of the street to be in PQ) was pretty busy for a Tuesday the last time I was there.

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Penn Quarter would be among of the best neighborhoods for restaurants in New York if it were there (and maybe then it would have a bodega, which it sorely lacks). To think that people thought Jose Andres was crazy when he moved into the Lansburgh. I think I'd pick Clarendon/Courthouse as second best in the DC area.

I hope Fiola attracts a crowd. That corner of Penn Quarter has always been pretty sleepy after the court closes, though the Source (which, I guess, is technically on the wrong side of the street to be in PQ) was pretty busy for a Tuesday the last time I was there.

Damned Source had already squeezed me from Indiana onto Constitution. NOW what?

(That cold streak you see sprinting across the mall is cheap-fuck DonRocks.)

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Along with preparing his own space, the chef is on the scene in his new neighborhood. From a National Gallery of Art email....

"Chef Fabio Trabocchi and David Rogers (Restaurant Associates), created a signature menu of Italian dishes now being served in the West Building's Garden Café Italia in honor of the exhibition Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals, which opens February 20."

www.nga.gov/ginfo/cafes.shtm#garden

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Along with preparing his own space, the chef is on the scene in his new neighborhood. From a National Gallery of Art email....

"Chef Fabio Trabocchi and David Rogers (Restaurant Associates), created a signature menu of Italian dishes now being served in the West Building’s Garden Café Italia in honor of the exhibition Venice: Canaletto and His Rivals, which opens February 20."

www.nga.gov/ginfo/cafes.shtm#garden

I posted about my meal there here.

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According to Tom's chat today, the Chef has hired Miles Vaden, from Eventide, as executive chef.

These are other hires he mentions:

Hiring update from Mr. Trabocchi (and it's a doozy):

Federico Galeotti GM from VILLA PACRI NY

Adrian Reynolds Pizzeria Mozza LA WINE DIRECTOR

Megan Scott Central DC Restaurant Manager

Justus Frank Eventide Chef de Cuisine

Jeff Faile Palena Bar Manager

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From Tom's chat today:

THIS JUST IN: As he moves ever closer to a target date of (keep your fingers crossed) April 5 for his highly-anticipated Fiola, star chef Fabio Trabocchi tells me he's hired Miles Vaden, whose departure from the kitchen at Eventide was announced just yesterday, as executive chef for his forthcoming Italian restaurant in Washington.

Trabocchi says he selected Vaden, 33, whom he refers to as "a rising star," for his cooking skills and maturity. "I want to help him get to the next level," says Trabocchi, who dazzled Washington audiences with his four-star cooking at the late Maestro and New York audiences at the now-shuttered Fiamma. Trabocchi is also adding Jason Gehring, the former pastry chef at the esteemed Charleston in Baltimore, to his team.

Hiring update from Mr. Trabocchi (and it's a doozy):

Federico Galeotti GM from VILLA PACRI NY

Adrian Reynolds Pizzeria Mozza LA WINE DIRECTOR

Megan Scott Central DC Restaurant Manager

Justus Frank Eventide Chef de Cuisine

Jeff Faile Palena Bar Manager

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That's a lot of talent in one space...can't wait!

Evidently, we will not have to wait much longer. According to the restaurant, Fiola will be opening on April 18 and is taking reservations now. The phone number is 202-628-2888. If you happen to subscribe to UrbanDaddy, their opening date of April 11th is incorrect. I talked with the restaurant before posting this message and my starting date is directly from them.

Rob

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Evidently, we will not have to wait much longer. According to the restaurant, Fiola will be opening on April 18 and is taking reservations now. The phone number is 202-628-2888. If you happen to subscribe to UrbanDaddy, their opening date of April 11th is incorrect. I talked with the restaurant before posting this message and my starting date is directly from them.

. . . but I have (or so I thought) a reservation for April 16th, that my husband made on the phone. He just called back to check on that and was told that, indeed, the opening is April 18th. The person he just spoke with has apparently changed our reservation to April 23rd. I'm thinking I'd better call back tomorrow and confirm that. B)

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On Tom's chat today, he says: "The good news is, Fabio Trabocchi is opening Fiola (202-628-2888) for dinner this Friday, and the chef-restaurateur is offering a 10 percent discount off patrons' bills during the soft opening stage." (That included a link to a blurb Tom wrote for GOG.)

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On Tom's chat today, he says: "The good news is, Fabio Trabocchi is opening Fiola (202-628-2888) for dinner this Friday, and the chef-restaurateur is offering a 10 percent discount off patrons' bills during the soft opening stage." (That included a link to a blurb Tom wrote for GOG.)

I have to wonder why we weren't offered that when we called for reservations when we called yesterday to confirm the opening date, our reservation for April 16 was changed to April 23. B)

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I have to wonder why we weren't offered that when we called for reservations when we called yesterday to confirm the opening date, our reservation for April 16 was changed to April 23. B)

I saw that blurb on Sietsema's chat and was quite bewildered because the woman who answered the phone at Fiola told me the 18th! Someone needs to straighten things out.

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I have to wonder why we weren't offered that when we called for reservations when we called yesterday to confirm the opening date, our reservation for April 16 was changed to April 23. B)

I believe that Fabio considers the first week and a half to be a kind of trial run with the expectation that there will be a smoother operation afterwards. For those of us who visit in the first days it really doesn't matter if there is any discount. I am really glad to have him back and have missed his creativity and cooking. Besides, we'll reinvest our ten per cent in wine...

Welcome home, Fabio!

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I saw that blurb on Sietsema's chat and was quite bewildered because the woman who answered the phone at Fiola told me the 18th! Someone needs to straighten things out.

I called back yesterday afternoon and spoke to a woman named "TJ", who clarified the whole soft opening versus actual opening situation. It turned out that our original reservation for the 16th was still available, so we reinstated it. But why "Alex" simply changed our reservation without the whole clarification in the first place remains a mystery.

No matter, I can't wait! "TJ" asked if we were celebrating a special occasion, and I said, "Yes! The opening of Fiola!"

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I believe that Fabio considers the first week and a half to be a kind of trial run with the expectation that there will be a smoother operation afterwards. For those of us who visit in the first days it really doesn't matter if there is any discount. I am really glad to have him back and have missed his creativity and cooking. Besides, we'll reinvest our ten per cent in wine...

Welcome home, Fabio!

What Joe said!

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I too have missed Fabio's creativity, which makes me hope that the Thrillist menu posted is not actually what is going to be served. Braised short ribs? Tuna tartare? Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and Tuscan potato fries? Say it ain't so.

I might be alone here but I think 'grappa risotto' and 'stinging nettle pasta' when I think Fabio Trabocchi and was hoping that would be more along the lines of the fare he would be serving at Fiola.

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I too have missed Fabio's creativity, which makes me hope that the Thrillist menu posted is not actually what is going to be served. Braised short ribs? Tuna tartare? Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and Tuscan potato fries? Say it ain't so.

I might be alone here but I think 'grappa risotto' and 'stinging nettle pasta' when I think Fabio Trabocchi and was hoping that would be more along the lines of the fare he would be serving at Fiola.

Fear not David. You won't be disappointed by lack of creativity, and certainly not by any lack of execution and flavor. I loved Maestro but it was a once every six months kind of place for me. I yearned for a Fabio cooking on a more downscale and rustic basis. Someplace I could pop into every 2-3 weeks to sit at the bar for simple rustic fare with pristine ingredients and stunning flavor profiles at a reasonable cost. Think of the great Andrew Carmellini - Cafe Boulud was awesome, but as he became progressively more rustic, first at A Voce and ultimately at the wonderful Locanda Verde, my visits multiplied.

Based on the spectacular mock service meal I had last night, that is the direction Fabio is heading, and my guess David is that you and most other fans will be VERY pleased with it. The place looks great - the bar is stunning and the wall behind the bar was torn down, opening and energizing the entire room. Also, the basement like back room is gone, now leveled with the main dining room and thereby adding to the overall energy of the space. Fabulous outdoor patio that will seat 50+, I see myself spending a LOT of time at this restaurant. As for the timing - scheduled opening is the 18th but reservations accepted (and limited) starting this friday for "soft opening" during which period guests will receive a 10% discount.

I'm confident that the curse of this space is a thing of the past and that upon opening Fiola will be the best and most popular Italian restaurant in the city.

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I too have missed Fabio's creativity, which makes me hope that the Thrillist menu posted is not actually what is going to be served. Braised short ribs? Tuna tartare? Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and Tuscan potato fries? Say it ain't so.

I might be alone here but I think 'grappa risotto' and 'stinging nettle pasta' when I think Fabio Trabocchi and was hoping that would be more along the lines of the fare he would be serving at Fiola.

Um, wasn't the idea to open a lower cost casual Italian place? The menu sure reads along those lines. I for one am glad.

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I had the pleasure of dining for the soft opening last night and enjoyed every moment. It should be noted that the only time I was lucky enough to experience Chef's cooking was at Maestro was for a full "blow out" meal where the chef cooked off menu for us. The meal was a disappointment and even my benefactor for the evening felt bad that my one Maestro experience did not live up to the hype. Finally, last night I understood what the hype is about.

Note that menu listed above is much smaller than what is offered. None of the dishes I had last night are listed above so my descriptions are based on memory and may not be exact. I don't think there were many dishes over the $30 pp and most pasta dishes were in the mid-teens. Appetizers were in the $10-15 range and vegetable sides were around $7.

I began with a cocktail from Jeff Faile, previously of Palena. Jeff asked what I was in the mood for and concocted something fabulous. He is clearly having fun in his new home and his staff never missed a beat. There are a number of Italian and classic cocktails but Jeff is also creating drinks at the behest of his patrons.

My first course was bruschetta (I think) of roasted tomatoes and cod. The tomatoes were wonderful, full of flavor, but over powered the cod a bit. I also had what could only be described as the best Italian quesadilla I've ever had. I know there is an Italian name for it but I have no clue what it is. In between a special Italian bread were mozzarella, arugula and prosciutto. Yes, you could make this at home but it won't be as good.

From there I had the single best razor clam dish I have ever had. The clams were cut into bite sized pieces and I think marinated as you would ceviche. Again, I'm sure there is an Italian name for how it was prepared but I have no clue. All I know is that each bite of clam revealed buttery, succulent, creamy bites. This dish will bring me back sooner rather than later. My final course was pasta: spaghetti with crab, uni, and chillies. The spaghetti was cooked to a perfect al dente and while the chillies brought more heat than I would have liked, the crab and especially uni were a perfect balance.

For a soft opening the staff never missed a beat. Service was great and I saw no early opening nerves among the staff. When the patio opens this will be one of the best places in the city to sit outside and enjoy excellent food and drinks.

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Tuesday night six of us did our best to work our way through a significant part of Fabio's opening menu. Four hours, twelve plus courses and a belt button or two loosened later we left feeling that the excellence he created at Maestro is still intact. I believe this is one of the most exciting openings in the D. C. area in the past year.

Fiola does not have to be expensive; you don't have to eat a fraction of what we did. Every dish is priced a la carte-there is no tasting menu as such. The prices are also quite reasonable with main courses clustered in the $26-30 range, first courses 10-16, pastas 16-28 and a separate bar menu featuring tapas like portions. The "knowledgeably sourced" wine list was primarily in the range of $40 to 70 for reds with only a handful more. (i.e. some one drank a lot of wine to find so many good bottles in a reasonable price range!)

Yes, he still has his lobster ravioli and it is every bit as delicious as it was at Maestro. He's also added the best lasagna I have ever had which was a signature dish of his at Fiamma in New York, "Vincisgrassi"-described as a "Marche region classic lasagna, Bianchetto sauce." A great dish. "Il Branzino" was a fantastic "local striped Bass" on a bed of smoked "crushed potatoes and a brodetto of Razor clams." (I thought a great dish, also) "Laa Tagliuta" is a deeply flavorful "grilled prime rib eye, Puntaerlle salad, Proscuiotto Bianco and salsa verde." Think rib eye with balsamic, long grilled onions and a pesto like crust. "I Crudi" included deliciously succulent marinated razor clams with grilled garlic bread (reminiscent of Venice's Alle Testiere) as well as "Il Tonno"-thick slivers of Ahi tuna & cherry tomatoes with Meyer Lemon, described on the menu as "Fiola 2011." There was also an excellent buffalo mozz/burrata app that I should have taken notes on.

We had two desserts that are going to receive a lot of mention on boards: I am not going to do a very good job of describing either but one was a next generation of Citronelle's Kit Kat bar called "Gianduja." I say this believing that Michel Richard's is a real classic. This was just better, much better if you can believe. The second dessert was an incredible combination of flavors, textures and temperatures featuring sponge cake, foam, lemoncello, strawberries, heavy whipped cream and more. After eleven or twelve courses all of us were sated. Still, there was not a bite left in any serving glass. Both of these, for me, were classics. Thunderous (!) applause to the former pastry chef from Charleston who has taken a serious step in complimenting Fabio in D. C.

On Tuesday night, I think the third night that he has been open, Fabio had over 60 covers with only a handful that had reserved. These were mostly "walkups" knowing that he had returned and Fiola was doing a soft opening. At one point the fifty or so seat dining room was almost completely full.

Fabio's wife was not at Maestro. Maria is at Fiola (where they originally met when he was 20 years old and fresh off of a plane from Italy-he didn't speak English). She is also exuberant, passionate and truly outgoing. A wonderful hostess, an ambassador as well as his eyes in the front of the house.

Welcome home, Chef. You've brought us what will be one of the very best. Any city's very best. On either side of the Ocean.

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I am so pleased with the wine program here. Interesting, regional wines at reasonable prices, especially compared to the wine museum that was Le Paradou.

And the sea urchin/dungeness spaghetti is really good. Urchin funk and crab sweetness cut with just enough chilis to make you drink your wine a little bit faster than you thought.

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I too have missed Fabio's creativity, which makes me hope that the Thrillist menu posted is not actually what is going to be served. Braised short ribs? Tuna tartare? Gnocchi with cherry tomatoes and Tuscan potato fries? Say it ain't so.

I might be alone here but I think 'grappa risotto' and 'stinging nettle pasta' when I think Fabio Trabocchi and was hoping that would be more along the lines of the fare he would be serving at Fiola.

After a fantastic meal tonight, the last night of the soft opening, I can say with confidence that you will not be disappointed. All is not as it seems on paper. I'll try to post some details tomorrow. I'm too stuffed right now!

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I had the great pleasure to eat through a lot of the menu last week (thanks!) and didn't have a single disappointing dish.

There were some standouts, though. The razor clams made ceviche style was a wonderful twist on a dish I've had many times. The blood oranges with the cod carpaccio was light and fresh. I'm not normally a sea urchin fan, but the pasta dish with urchin and crab was delightfully complex range of flavors both fatty and spicy (and the pasta perfectly cooked). The rib eye was on the small side, but perfectly cooked (sous-vide?) The strip of lardo on the top melting like butter. Desserts were great, too.

And yes, the vincisgrassi lasagna was amazing. My favorite dish of the evening.

The room is beautiful: modern but not severe, beautiful photographs, too. Go!

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Last night, I asked the kitchen to cook me three courses, Chef's choice. I was greeted with a trio of starters: the panzanella was a light, refreshing salad topped with flavorful, but not overpowering, sardines. Il tonno (tuna tartare) was almost distinctive enough from other renditions to make me want to order it again. The burrata was rich and creamy, as one would expect (and perhaps a touch oversalted, but only just), well accompanied by roasted tomatoes and pesto.

The spaghetti with crab and sea urchin, as others have written, is a delightfully complex dish: the sweetness of the crab, the richness and distinctive sea urchin flavor, and the chili spice all come together in a harmonious whole.

But all that was to be expected: any self-respecting Italian kitchen should be able to turn out good antipasti and pasta. What was revelatory, however, was my main course: grilled turbot, with a "scafata" of artichokes and spinach. The turbot, meaty yet delicate, had a subtle smokiness that brought an additional layer of complexity to dish. The scafata, with a hint of spice, was the perfect accompaniment. It's the most satisfying main course I've ever had in an Italian restaurant.

Almost everything about the cooking was perfectly judged, with real sophistication to its rusticity and a wonderful sense of balance in its flavors. What was most surprising was the subtle yet insistent use of spice in several of the dishes.

Merely as a point of reference, the cooking here is both more complex and more consistent than at Galileo III.

The service was warm and attentive, though perhaps not expert. I will return soon and next time save room for dessert.

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