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Sfoglina, Pastaria by the Owners of Fiola, Now in Several Area Locations

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Really enjoyed lunch today and think its a great location for business lunches. Appreciated the "Maria lunch" which is 3 courses. My  "date" who I did not know before lunch, had pasta but didn't eat all of the red sauce. It took all of my self-control (and a little germ phobia) to not sop it up with bread. Also, it's picturesque. 

Maria today featured a quinoa and arugula salad lightly dressed. Perfect. I followed it up with an arctic char. At first, I thought that the acid was too acidy (lemon) but as I ate, everything melded together nicely. I didn't have maria's dessert instead opting for their fruit of the day (plumbs with picturesque mini flower pedals and a little sugar, but I was told that, couldn't taste it. 

Stopped at the Calvert Woodly on the way back. Got some cheese, bread, chocolate and would have gotten wine but was too afraid I'd drop it on metro. 

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Had a great dinner celebrating a birthday last Tuesday. There were 6 of us and we were seated in the pasta room- quiet and private . We had great service and really enjoyed the pastas- I had white truffle with mine! The soft polenta with mushroom appetizer and grilled calamari and octopus were highlights!

Happy to return!

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Any other recent experiences? Is one location better (foodwise) than the other now?  Any dishes that are must-orders or musts-to-avoid?

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15 minutes ago, Marty L. said:

Any other recent experiences? Is one location better (foodwise) than the other now?  Any dishes that are must-orders or musts-to-avoid?

I've only been to Van Ness.  The tortellini was the best of the pastas I've had recently.  In general, I've found that the sauces / proteins are not treated with anywhere near the care and refinement you'd expect at Fiola or Fiola Mare: the lobster in the squid ink linguine was tough and overcooked, the lamb ragu over salty.  

Given what I expect the margins are on these pastas, I can see why they converted Casa Luca to another Sfoglina...

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8 minutes ago, Simon said:

I've only been to Van Ness.  The tortellini was the best of the pastas I've had recently.  In general, I've found that the sauces / proteins are not treated with anywhere near the care and refinement you'd expect at Fiola or Fiola Mare: the lobster in the squid ink linguine was tough and overcooked, the lamb ragu over salty.  

Given what I expect the margins are on these pastas, I can see why they converted Casa Luca to another Sfoglina...

This is certainly a theoretical problem with the expansion of Sfoglina - it doesn't take a lot of training to cook good pasta; it takes a *lot* of training and experience to consistently execute good sauces (the saucier is an *extremely* important component in a traditional restaurant brigade).

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40 minutes ago, DonRocks said:

This is certainly a theoretical problem with the expansion of Sfoglina - it doesn't take a lot of training to cook good pasta; it takes a *lot* of training and experience to consistently execute good sauces (the saucier is an *extremely* important component in a traditional restaurant brigade).

Yes, this is a completely valid point, but I'd also say that I've observed these issues with the sauces from the earliest, pre-expansion days of Sfoglina.  Finesse in the sauces has never been there, even as the pastas themselves have often been excellent.

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16 minutes ago, Simon said:

Yes, this is a completely valid point, but I'd also say that I've observed these issues with the sauces from the earliest, pre-expansion days of Sfoglina.  Finesse in the sauces has never been there, even as the pastas themselves have often been excellent.

Do you know how Sfoglina gets their sauces? They could be made at the individual locations (which doesn't seem to make much sense, especially if they have plans of further expansion), in a central location, or they could purchase them - the latter two options would almost certainly involve sous-vide reheating at the individual locations.

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Not sure where I put my previous pasta class review, Don, if you want to move this, maybe their pasta classes should be their own thread in shopping and cooking?  I know I reviewed the color pasta class, but can't find that.  Anyway, I did the semolina pasta class, and I REALLY enjoyed this one.  I would highly recommend it.  I found it much easier to do than pasta you make to roll out with a pin.  This is something I could do on a weekend no big deal.  (And maybe if I use my stand mixer and roller machine, the other would be easier and I would do it more often, but that is another matter.)  I thought the shapes were explained well, with different sauces you might use for them.  You were taught a bunch of different shapes- troffe, orcchiette, macherroni, etc, etc.  It wasn't nearly as hard on my back and arms as the pin rolling.  There were less things people were passing around, and less steps that it seemed needed to be reviewed as thoroughly, so it seemed to go more smoothly.  They had the equipment, and there weren't as many people in this class so you had a little elbow room.  The tasting at the end had a nice orcchiette with broccoli rabe, parm, garlic, anchovy and a few pepper flakes.  I would recommend this class highly to people.  I also met a few people at the class who were foodies and trying to get into the egg pasta class (I told them they should join DR.com because I thought they would be a good fit, and also we may have a few spots in our class.)  I liked this a lot better than the colored pasta class and just feel I will use this knowledge a lot more often.   I like taking classes, because I am a SUPER visual learner, and I felt this really gave me useable skills I won't forget.

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Being nosy I watched the buildout for Sfoglina in Rosslyn over time, and watched it closely as it approached opening.  Being extra nosy I spoke with some of the staff over the last two weeks before opening;  a significant number of staffers were present as the construction was finished and the staff added the final touches plus training on site and two nights of soft openings.  Its a lovely space.  Interestingly the Trabiocchi restaurants have a sizable level of corporate level staff doing a number of functions.  They are built to handle multiple sites.  That also means they carry a "heavy overhead" that you compensate for by opening multiple restaurants and having them do well.  Hence Del Mar, the Miami, and Italian restaurants plus Sfoglina Rosslyn all having been opened over the relatively recent past.  That is a lot of corporate work.  The fine touches at Sfoglina exemplify what a significant level of staffers can accomplish.

After being so nosy I couldn't help but stop by on opening night.  Over the years I have visited both Fiola's and Casa Luca a healthy number of times.  I have yet to visit Del Mar and this was my first visit to Sfoglina.  Casa Luca was one of my favorite restaurants in the region.  I visited while the menu was extensive and then in its final period when the menu shrank in anticipation of being converted to a Sfoglina.  The visit on opening night was spur of the moment.  I will return, though for some reason I was more struck by overhead and the feel of extensive costs, even as I never felt that concern at either Fiola or Casa Luca--even as they were more expensive, (for their time periods) then Sfoglina.   (Hmmm.  Go figure).

In any case the food is good.  The first visit was on my own and I opted to sit on the "outside bar" sitting in the lobby of the office building at 1100 Wilson Blvd.  I'll return and dine inside.  It is attractive and I'll get a better look all around from the inside.  I stopped by early...really early but it filled up rapidly both inside and outside. 

Sitting on my own I opted for the meatball app.  It reminded me of the meatballs from Casa Luca, which were a revelation for their taste and softness.  I asked if they were "the same" which was a stupid limited question.  I believe they were, but the Sfoglina version came in a sauce that was very strong and included a healthy portion of parmigiana.  Still the softness and tastiness of the meatballs were apparent if somewhat overwhelmed by the sauce.  I also chose the pasta in olive oil.  A simple but tasty dish including a very healthy amount of EVOO plus chilies and whatever.  A good dish.  Together they were both satisfying and ample.  OTOH, there is nothing utterly remarkable about Sfoglina's pasta that is that different or spectacular over other hand made pasta's from other places.  At $19 it appears a bit overpriced as did the meatball course.  The big overhead cost came with two shots of Ameretto.  I didn't see the brand.  The shots were neat and I assume one ounce each.  At $13/shot that is expensive.  If it was Disaranno that runs $30/750 liter at Virginia's ABC stores and there are 25-26 ounces in a bottle.   At 25 ounces that is $325 in shots per bottle.  (that is how you make a killing).  Bread with olive oil came with the meal and I finished it with a $4 cup of coffee.  (not great but okay coffee.   The meal was filling and it was of good quality.  I'll return.  Unfortunately I don't believe it will be in my regular rotation but it will be a place I visit over time.

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