Last Thursday night CiaoDC and one of its favorite italophiles ventured to try out DC's most promising new Italian restaurant, Fiola da Fabio Trabocchi. Back in February, CiaoDC chatted live with Fabio and his wife about Fiola and Fabio's work at the National Gallery of Art in Caffe' Italia. You can read the live chat transcript here.
I have to apologize for the lack of pictures of our antipasti. I was so excited about them that I forgot to take pictures. We had the grilled calamari with red peppers marinati in an agli-oglio sauce. The calamari was done perfectly so that it was not an overpowering fishy taste but had a great texture - not tough, and it made me think that some chefs may be underestimating the versatility of squid, by just trying to fry it with different flavors or serve it fried with different dipping sauces. We also ate an incredible burrata dish with pesto and two different types of tomatoes. If you've never tried burrata, you really need to, even if, like me, you don't usually like soft cheeses. It has the flavor of mozzarella but almost literally melts in your mouth.
Now, I'm sure there is plenty of dispute out there as to whether it is appropriate to term a plate of pasta as your main course, but I don't know how anyone could eat an antipasto, a primo and a secondo in a restaurant in America. The portions just aren't made for most people to be able to eat all three and then go on to a dessert. So putting that digression aside, here are the pasta dishes we ate:
Housemade Penne with Baby Octopus
This dish was incredible. Although it is difficult to explain, you know when you're eating housemade pasta as opposed to pasta that comes out of a box, and this dish was no exception. The penne were delicious and cooked to al dente perfection. Like the calamari, the baby octopus were grilled but mild in flavor, and they were tossed with the pasta in a light tomato, basil mixture. The combination was excellent.
Fiola's menu describes this dish as Neapolitan Maccheroni, Tomato Braised Oxtail, "Vaccinara" Style. A completely different type of dish from the penne, but just as good, if not better. Again, unquestionably pasta fatta in casa, cooked just right. The oxtail and tomato combination was perfectly balanced, neither flavor overpowered the other, they just came together extremely well. These two dishes exemplify authentic Italian cooking because they take simple ingredients and put a flavor combination together that doesn't need a lot of butter or cream or other oil to make it delicious. Bravo, Fabio!
Gianduia Cake - If you don't know what gianduia is, or you've never had it, or both, don't waste your time researching because it's really not important. Just go eat this at Fiola! It has to be one of the best desserts I've had in the last year since I haven't been in Italy.
Affogato - This is the Italian version of a "float" - it usually involves gelato and a shot of espresso. This one was wonderfully constructed with straciatella flavored gelato and little chocolate cake bits tucked into the glass. The chef was also kind enough to give me espresso to have left over for myself after the gelato was finito!
Zuppa Inglese - translates best as "English trifle" - this is a layered dessert that begins at the bottom with a sponge type cake, and then the layers in this one are a special light, but not whipped, cream, and then strawberries. The top is a wonderful twist with lemon granita and a mint leaf. Fiola's pastry chef finishes it off with a super slim, wafer-style cookie. A great part about this one was that we didn't order it, but it came out of the kitchen with our desserts, and I'm not really one to say "No" to free dessert!
Fine - just when we thought we were too stuffed to eat anymore, these lovely dolcini came out with our check: