Though Fiola is new to the DC dining scene, its chef/owner Fabio Trabocchi is not. The James Beard award winner is back after leaving the area to run Fiamma in New York’s SoHo. Before that, he ran the kitchen at Maestro in Tyson’s Corner.
It’s safe to say DC diners are happy that he has returned, as Fiola is already being touted as one of the best Italian restaurants in the District. After my dinner there this summer, I’m not surprised. While I didn’t love the fact that so many tables shared a common banquette that runs the length of the dining room, making the quarters a bit cramped, I did like the Tuscan villa ambiance. It has a pleasant vibe, one where everyone realizes they are in a happening place.
My table mates are big into pasta and, as is often the case, they opted to order pasta for their appetizer as well as an entrée. Not a bad move, as that is definitely a specialty here.
Two of us started with Spaghetti mare with lump crab, sea urchin and spicy controne chiles. It had a decent kick to it, but not enough to overwhelm the seafood. It was one of those dishes that grows on you–the first bite was good but not awesome, by the time I finished the bowl, I wanted more. (I also wanted the bowls; they were gorgeous.)
Ricotta gnocchi is on the menu as a side dish, but it was filling enough to be a full appetizer. Instead of using potato to make the gnocchi, it was made with ricotta and then tossed with fresh pesto.
The winner of the group was probably the lobster ravioli, not only in terms of taste but presentation as well. There were chunks of lobster floating on top of the pasta, with a lobster foam capping it off. `
I had grilled langoustines for my entrée. The plate came with half a dozen of the crustaceans, and a small fork was all that was needed to pull the meat from the shell. The shrimp tasted more like lobster, but they were a bit mushy.
The bread was interesting, basically a cross between a popover and a croissant. I prefer something yeasty and chewy to mop up pasta sauces, but if you like buttery goodness, this wasn’t a bad alternative.