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Fabio Trabocchi in New York City


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I so respect Chef Trabocchi and know that New York will receive him with open arms because he is so talented.

I'm not sure they're so open with their staff that's not as talented. When I worked at Blue Water Grill when it first opened in grad school in in 1997/98, I did not have a warm experience. If my clothes weren't tight enough, for example, I was sent out to buy a new shirt with my own money. As if that would make a difference with Calvin Klein and his entourage or Wall Streeters. The yelling and the environment was brutal. They took mug shots of the female staff before they were hired.

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Besides the fact that I didn't love his food at Maestro (I only had one meal), I can't imagine that the environment at Fiamma will be any less stifling for him creatively. It isn't like he is going to an environment where the goal will be to produce cutting edge Italian cuisine. He's just moving from one chain restaurant to another. Maybe this will be a way to set up opening his own restaurants in NYC at some point.

Opinionated About Dining

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He's just moving from one chain restaurant to another.
Jean Georges - Just another Chain Restaurant in a Trump Hotel! Le Louis XV - Part of the SBM Hotel Conglomerate!!!

Maestro is owned by a hotel, but that hardly makes it a chain restaurant. ;)

Best of luck Fabio - enjoy NYC and everything it has to offer your family, and a world-class chef such as yourself! We here will look forward to your return to Washington DC in a couple of years.

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Besides the fact that I didn't love his food at Maestro (I only had one meal), I can't imagine that the environment at Fiamma will be any less stifling for him creatively. It isn't like he is going to an environment where the goal will be to produce cutting edge Italian cuisine. He's just moving from one chain restaurant to another. Maybe this will be a way to set up opening his own restaurants in NYC at some point.

This is a D. C. board. I would suggest taking your NYCentric opinions about Fabio who is coming in AS an owner and "chain restaurants" elsewhere.

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Besides the fact that I didn't love his food at Maestro (I only had one meal), I can't imagine that the environment at Fiamma will be any less stifling for him creatively. It isn't like he is going to an environment where the goal will be to produce cutting edge Italian cuisine. He's just moving from one chain restaurant to another. Maybe this will be a way to set up opening his own restaurants in NYC at some point.

I don't think Maestro is a chain restaurant. Who is this guy?

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Gosh, that didn't take long. ;)

This bit is interesting:

Trabocchi hinted that he might be back in Washington in two years, which is when B.R. Guest Restaurants and Starwood Capital Group, Fiamma's owners, plan to install an Italian restaurant in a yet-to-be-built, eco-friendly hotel in the city's West End.
Work in NYC for a couple of years, then get a place actually in DC instead of Tysons? Why not? I hope it works out for him.
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Jean Georges - Just another Chain Restaurant in a Trump Hotel! Le Louis XV - Part of the SBM Hotel Conglomerate!!!

Maestro is owned by a hotel, but that hardly makes it a chain restaurant. ;)

While I would agree with you that Jean George runs a chain of restaurants, his namesake restaurant is run as a stand alone operation and it's a different type of restaurant than anything Steve Hansen has operated to date. It's JG's flagship, and because he leverages his entire brand around it, he runs a Michelin 3 star and NYT 4 star operation so he can spread the goodwill around to his other locations. That dynamic simply doesn't exist at Hansen's restaurants.

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I've eaten many meals at Maestro over the last 4 years, and while not every dish has been perfection on a plate, I have loved the total package of his food. He has grown and progressed over that time, not content to keep things the same. I hope that he has much success in NYC, and that he will return to DC soon.

Tysons isn't as prestigious a location, perhaps, but they managed to keep the restaurant busy most of the time. Many of us who live in Virginia are very happy to have restaurants of this caliber on our side of the Potomac. Why should we always have to shlep into DC for a decent meal?

Fabio will be a tough act to follow at the Ritz-Carlton, but that company has a good track record with restaurants in their hotels, so I have some hope of there being another great place to dine in Tysons before long.

Chain? No way.

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You miss my point. I haven't said that Fabio will be forced to cook like a chain restaurant at Fiamma, what I've said is that from experience, Hansen runs a chain of restaurants and that dynamic will hold back Fabio the same way cooking at the Ritz seems to have held him back. In fact more than one person told me that his cooking at Maestro was more adventurous at the beginning. In fact when I was there and he spoke with us, he literally told us as much and he suggested that the next time we were coming we call in advance so he could prepare an off-menu meal for us.

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You miss my point. I haven't said that Fabio will be forced to cook like a chain restaurant at Fiamma, what I've said is that from experience, Hansen runs a chain of restaurants and that dynamic will hold back Fabio the same way cooking at the Ritz seems to have held him back. In fact more than one person told me that his cooking at Maestro was more adventurous at the beginning. In fact when I was there and he spoke with us, he literally told us as much and he suggested that the next time we were coming we call in advance so he could prepare an off-menu meal for us.

So, you got all this from one meal? ;)

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You miss my point. I haven't said that Fabio will be forced to cook like a chain restaurant at Fiamma, what I've said is that from experience, Hansen runs a chain of restaurants and that dynamic will hold back Fabio the same way cooking at the Ritz seems to have held him back. In fact more than one person told me that his cooking at Maestro was more adventurous at the beginning. In fact when I was there and he spoke with us, he literally told us as much and he suggested that the next time we were coming we call in advance so he could prepare an off-menu meal for us.

Opinionated About Dining

Steve,

Other than the fact that you're probably violating Fabio's trust by revealing what he said in a private conversation, I suspect people here won't have much problem with what you say in the above paragraph.

But it's this one sentence that people are calling into question:

He's just moving from one chain restaurant to another.

You imply here that Maestro is a chain restaurant. Is that what you wish to say? If so, then please provide supporting detail to assert your position.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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I'm not using chain as in Red Lobster, I am using chain in the sense that his food and staffing costs as a percentage of sales used to be at Maestro, and still will be at Fiamma, governed by people with a chain mentality and they are not going to give him leeway to create a restaurant that is proportionate to his talent.

When I went to Maestro it was with Janet Cam and another friend of mine. Fabio knew Janet, and he knew we weren't completely happy with the meal. After the meal he came over and spent a good ten minutes with us, telling how he had to make the menu less adventuorous for the Northern Virginia clientele. He told us to call in advance the next time we were going to be there, and he would prepare a more contemporary menu for us. In that discussion, we talked about the type of restaurant he aspires to run and we spoke of Le Calandre in Italy as a prime example of a successful restaurant in a contemporary Italian style. And I don't undertand why any of this would be confidential. I am sure Fabio would be glad to discuss any of this with anyone who bothered to ask him about it.

So with that as a backdrop, I believe he will face the same issues at Fiamma because it's part of a chain. It might be a fairly good chain, but if you look at the other restaurants that Steve Hansen operates B.R. Guest Restaurants, the guy isn't running locations that aspire to multi-star Michelin status, something that Fabio aspires to. So to me, if he is leaving Maestro because he feels stifled creatively, I predict he will face the same limitations at Fiamma and he will not be allowed to create a restaurant that is the equivelent of his ambitions. Of course I could be wrong, but from my perspective and I know a fair amount about dining in NYC, I would bet someone a meal at Fiamma that this turns out to be the case.

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Fabio's departure is a blow to DC dining and yet I still feel grateful that we had such a great chef in our midst for quite a long time.

The issue that comes to mind is that DC still has a long way to go to approach the level of restaurants that are in NYC. Yes, we've come a long way. But though we have the disposable income to compete with New York, as we see from the comments by the Chef himself, the tastes of the general population in this area are not as well developed.

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On the other hand, there's the countervailing wisdom that today a chef must be in a hotel because it's not economically feasible to run a multi-star restaurant without the suppport of a chain eager to use a top-end restaurant as a loss leader. People of this opinion would point to Zeiboldt at the Mandarin Oriental and, of course, noted slacker ;) Michel Richard at the Latham.

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Fabio's departure is a blow to DC dining and yet I still feel grateful that we had such a great chef in our midst for quite a long time.

The issue that comes to mind is that DC still has a long way to go to approach the level of restaurants that are in NYC. Yes, we've come a long way. But though we have the disposable income to compete with New York, as we see from the comments by the Chef himself, the tastes of the general population in this area are not as well developed.

"After the meal he came over and spent a good ten minutes with us, telling how he had to make the menu less adventuorous for the Northern Virginia clientele."

Absolute bs. I refuse to believe that Fabio said anything like this. Those on this board reading this thread should understand the arrogance of Plotnicki and his chauvinistic bias towards New York. The tone of his comments, highlighted by the comment above, show real disrespect not only to Fabio but also to us. I am incensed that this effete, arrogant blogger would come here and write crap like this.

Maestro, Citronelle and CityZen (and Laboratorio when it was open) are on par with anything in New York. I'll put Roberto up against Batali, I think CityZen today will go one on one with Per Se and Fabio, at his best, is equal to Massimiliano at Le Calandre. Don't let Plotnicki intimidate you into believe that D. C. is below New York in sophistication, financial ability or anything else. He's on this board to stir stuff up and I strongly believe that anyone giving in to him is showing disrespect to Fabio.

I wish Fabio the absolute best in Manhattan and look forward to revisiting Emanuele and Vincent at the new Maestro in September. I also look forward to revisiting the NATIONAL BEARD AWARD WINNING CITRONELLE which also has the NATIONAL BEARD AWARD WINNING SOMMELIER, Mark Slater. Both of whom bested Manhattan contenders as will CityZen when it is eligible.

This will be my last post on this thread. I refuse to "reward" Plotnicki for his efforts to show disrespect to Fabio and to us. Plotnicki also has an angle: create a stir on a DC website for a star chef coming to New York. (Do it discretely, casually inserting comments like "chain" and "less adventurous Northern VA clientel" among responsible observations.) A thread that could run to 100 or more posts and notoriety that gives numerous mentions to his blog as well as a mention in the New York Post. Don't indulge him.

We were fortunate to have Fabio here-he was a gift. Plotnicki's posts are not a gift. They are best ignored.

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Hotels are particularly problematic in that they want the restaurant to appeal to gourmands as well as the clientele that is staying in the hotel, who are likely not to be very knowledgable about food. This is why you don't see many avant garde restaurants in hotels. Can you imagine El Bulli in Las Vegas and some high roller gets comped there and he walks in and he is served lamb brains with carrot foam? The Per Se/shopping mall model is somewhat better in that the restaurant helps bring a certain type of clientele into the mall that it normally wouldn't attract (jazz at Lincoln Center does the same thing,) rather than a hotel which needs a high end restaurant as an amenity for its own clientele.

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Fabio's departure is a blow to DC dining and yet I still feel grateful that we had such a great chef in our midst for quite a long time.

The issue that comes to mind is that DC still has a long way to go to approach the level of restaurants that are in NYC. Yes, we've come a long way. But though we have the disposable income to compete with New York, as we see from the comments by the Chef himself, the tastes of the general population in this area are not as well developed.

One could argue if New Yorkers palates are so refined why are Jeffrey Chodorow’s restaurants and places like Spice Market packed to the gills?

Costumers dine out for many reasons and unfortunately I doubt exceptional cuisine is rarely top priority. The higher the population the more knowledgeable diners per customer base. Generally I suspect demographics are rarely the reason.

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One could argue if New Yorkers palates are so refined why are Jeffrey Chodorow’s restaurants and places like Spice Market packed to the gills?

Costumers dine out for many reasons and unfortunately I doubt exceptional cuisine is rarely top priority. The higher the population the more knowledgeable diners per customer base. Generally I suspect demographics are rarely the reason.

Robert you know from discussion on OA it has nothing to do with refined palates but the proximity of business diners to a restaurant. If DC had the population, and as many business visitors to the city as sNew York and Chicago, it would have a completely different restaurant environment.

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Robert you know from discussion on OA it has nothing to do with refined palates but the proximity of business diners to a restaurant. If DC had the population, and as many business visitors to the city as sNew York and Chicago, it would have a completely different restaurant environment.

Exactly what I was trying to express. Not that demographically DC people are less knowledgeable about quality restaurants.

Edited to add. Not sure about Chicago though. I tend to think knowledgeable diners and quality restaurants in DC can hold there own next to Chicago.

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Hotels are particularly problematic in that they want the restaurant to appeal to gourmands as well as the clientele that is staying in the hotel, who are likely not to be very knowledgable about food. This is why you don't see many avant garde restaurants in hotels.

And that's why, in Maestro's case, the Ritz-Carlton at Tyson's operates a steak house in the hotel in addition to Maestro.

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I have to agree with Steve in a lot of respects on this one, although my opinion of the current Maestro is quite a bit higher than his. (Not that Steve ever needs anyone to express his argument for him or really cares if anyone else agrees with him.)

First off - Maestro is by far my favorite restaurant in this area and ranks with my two or three favorites anywhere. My anniversary dinner there in late May was one of my all time most over-the-top experiences with our original seven course dinner turned into a sampling of nearly every dish on the menu and our order of ice creams and sorbets as a "light finish" turned into another sampling of eight different deserts in four more courses.

But Steve isn't really denigrating Fabio's abilities, in fact he is saying that he has been held back a bit A.) at Maestro because it is in a hotel and that he expects the problem to continue or be even worse at B.) Fiamma because it is catered to a more mass audience and is not trying to turn out Washington Post or New York Times 4-star or Michelin 3-star food. I don't agree with his use of the term chain to describe Maestro, but we have talked here and elsewhere about chefs being tied down and limited because they are working in a hotel - see Wabeck and Power, both of whom have left or are leaving to get away from the hotel world. Granted, Maestro is several steps above Firefly and Corduroy and the Ritz is several steps above the Hotel Madera and the Four Points. But it is a fairly conservative hotel with a pretty conservative clientele.

As for the "dumbing-down" of Maestro, I have admitted before to being a little intimidated by the original menu at Maestro. Now, that was partly due to my inexperience as a high end diner at that point in my life, but I do feel that the original menus, especially the Creazione, were maybe a bit more ambitious than they are now Not necessarily more experimental but more "unusual" ingredients and preparations. It could be argued that the new menu is more "accessible". Some might look at this as a negative while some might look at it as a positive. It is up for interpretation.

I like Fabio's cooking and style and I hope that he succeeds in New York, although I do wish for selfish reason that he was staying in the area. But when I originally read the news I was surprised he would go to an established restaurant with a lesser reputation and lower aims than Maestro. I really do hope he is really allowed to turn this into his star vehicle.

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But Steve isn't really denigrating Fabio's abilities, in fact he is saying that he has been held back a bit A) at Maestro because it is in a hotel and that he expects the problem to continue or be even worse at :angry: Fiamma because it is catered to a more mass audience and is not trying to turn out Washington Post 4-star, New York Times 5-star or Michelin 3-star food.

Correct. When I went to Maestro, it didn't live up to its billing. I was expecting cutting edge Italian cuisine. So I would have hoped that if Fabio came to NYC, he would be moving to a restaurant that encouraged him to get a NYT 4 star rating and I don't expect that is going to happen at Fiamma.

Pardon the interruption, but people should know that receiving your promotional materials is not free: the cost is giving you a full name and a personal email address, to do with whatever you want. Caveat Lector

Yes and an email address as well. Otherwise how would I send you the download? B)

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Joe, Why isn't it what you expected to hear?

"Impressed as I am, so much intricacy is not my favorite way to eat. And at times a too-intense sauce sabotages an otherwise brilliant notion, as it does the veal two ways with silken potato purée and hazelnut tuile. Roasted turbot with cipollini and housemade pancetta showily draped in thin slices of raw mushroom would be splendid rescued from the nuggety swamp it sits in. Once he relaxes, I suspect Trabocchi will be fine."

"so much intricacy is not my favorite way to eat....a too-intense sauce sabotages...would be splendid rescued from the nuggety swamp it sins in...I suspect Trabocchi will be fine."

Frankly, I'm shocked. For all of the dinners that I had at Maestro over the years I always reverently appreciated his intricate, intense presentations that were never less than outstanding with him in the kitchen. New Yorkers have to let him know that now he is "on the big stage." Criticizing one of his absolute strengths seems to be the tact that Gael Greene is taking. Remember Fabio brought TWELVE people from his kitchen with him: this IS Maestro's almost complete staff there preparing this with him directing. I sincerely hope that he does not let a New York critic have him consider making his creations any less intricate, intense or showy. Or smoothing out textural triumphs that are rarely experienced on this side of the Atlantic. Or believing that "being fine" is acceptible. He is one of the great chefs of the world. Being "fine" would be underneath what he long ago accomplished in London and here.

Several posts on both Chowhound and eGullet from those who dined here at Maestro and now at Fiamma confirm that he is still at the top of his game. And a rave from The Martini Boys blog: http://www.martiniboys.com/NYC/Fiamma-review3.html

Of course on the other hand if others chime in with similar criticism perhaps he'll return home-here-sooner.

Don't change, Fabio.

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Frankly, I'm shocked. For all of the dinners that I had at Maestro over the years I always reverently appreciated his intricate, intense presentations that were never less than outstanding with him in the kitchen. New Yorkers have to let him know that now he is "on the big stage."

Joe, I doubt the New York critics are just trying to put him in his place. Note the following excerpt from this article in the Washingtonian:

On Gourmet magazine’s blog Choptalk, editor Ruth Reichl says the chef is “off to a running start” with dishes that are “small, pretty, and precise.” Remember those Maestro signatures, lobster ravioli and carpaccio-wrapped tofu? They’re both here, the ravioli “cooked to gossamer lightness,” the carpaccio made from “adorable slivers of Wagyu.” Still, she wonders whether “New Yorkers, who have never been kind to fancy Italian food, will take to his style.”

It appears that while Fabio is bringing some of his signature dishes with him, he's not trying to transplant Maestro in NY. Relax a bit and see what happens.

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It would seem that he would/should try to transplant Maestro, after all this is where Michelin stars are given and chef's reps go international. Why would he settle for anything less than a Maestro like experience? That would not be a step up. I believe he is every bit the equal of Per Se. He should not settle for anything less than what he is capable of-especially in Manhattan.

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I'm inferring a difference in perception between "Italian" and "French" or "New American" or whatever the latest trend is being called, on the part of some folks (not in this thread), in terms of their expectations regarding ingredients and presentation. I'm not at all familiar with the NYC restaurant scene, but are we seeing a little discrimination here? This isn't "traditional" Italian (or Italian/American) cooking, so it must be inferior, no matter how wonderful it really is?

I agree that Fabio and his staff should continue to do what they do best and not try to conform to what the critics expect of "Italian" cuisine.

Tomorrow will mark three weeks since their soft opening (and a little over six weeks since his last night at Maestro). It's way too soon to draw any conclusions. He does have 92% of his kitchen staff from Maestro, including his wonderful sous chef, Nicholas, so he is surely off to a great start.

And maybe he'll return to his faithful following here if he finds himself unappreciated in the Big Apple.

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Congratulations to the GM (and Director of Restaurant Operations) of the newly reopened Fiamma, Jarad Slipp.

We'll miss you down here, Jarad. I'm happy for you!

Wait a minute! This is the Jarad from Nectar and then RTS? I thought he was off in Europe selling wine. Maybe he'll put his creme brulee (with the secret ingredient) on the menu.

Wow! Now Mrs mhberk and I will have to take a field trip up there!

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New York is easier for me to navigate than Tyson's Corner, and so I had my first taste of Fabio Trabocchi's cooking a week and a half ago at Fiamma. They were still in soft opening, I believe, full prices but only one floor open for dining, but given this thread, I wanted y'all to know that he seems to be doing damn fine.

We ordered the tomato salad with a triple cream mozzarella, a risotto, and the lobster ravioli between the two of us. Everything tasted as it should, only better: The sweet/acidic tomatoes perfectly cut the creamy cheese; the risotto was both brothy and chewy at once; and the lobster ravioli was just plain _good_. There was an amuse of tomato water to begin the meal, and a small assortment of petit fours to end it.

(I'm sorry for the lack of details: Notwithstanding the light food, there was a full bottle of wine involved.)

The front of the house was mostly marvelous. They've invested money in good people, and it shows, notwithstanding soft opening hiccups. There was a wonderful sommelier they'd hired from L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon and a beloved server from Picholine, and if the above-thread mention of Jared is true--and it's coming from Don, so I guess it has to be--then I think BR Guest is pulling out all the stops to present a showcase worthy of Fabio's food.

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