By Cristina Marcos - 05/11/11 11:52 PM EDT
Looking for something a bit different from traditional, belt-busting Italian food? Save a table for you and your familia at Fiola da Fabio Trabocchi in Penn Quarter for a modern take on Italian cuisine, where you can experience the chef’s homeland like never before, complete with foam and edible 24-carat gold.
The meal begins with flaky rolls resembling croissants that are served with olive oil for dipping. The servers bring them fresh from the oven, and it’s hard for anyone’s taste buds not to water at the sight of the still-steaming crust. Wait for your main courses to arrive with a tagliere of imported Italian cheeses and prosciutto with leafy mixed greens and grilled country bread. Served on a wooden platter, the creamy cheese is especially delicious atop the bread with a generous dollop of a homemade rhubarb spread.
It’s hard to decide whether or not to touch the visually striking entrees once they arrive. One of the chef’s top recommendations, the Maine lobster ravioli looks as divine as it tastes with its perfectly red and orange lobster tails. Soaked in olive oil overnight and poached it as soon as it has soaked up as much oil as possible, the lobster is unbelievably succulent and juicy. The ravioli is surrounded in ginger foam, giving a visual effect reminiscent of the crustacean’s origins in the sea.
The Marche region-inspired lasagna has succulent chunks of beef and veal shoulder with zesty onions, celery and hints of rosemary and thyme. And don’t come looking for any wholesome chunky tomato sauce here — instead, bianchetto truffle sauce made with parmesan cheese and cream reinvents the entire idea of lasagna.
The veal chop, inspired by a family recipe, is divine — wrapped in a layer of wild mushrooms, Jerusalem artichokes and blanched Alba hazelnuts, the perfectly tender meat cuts like butter.
Save some room for one of their must-order side dishes. Piselli — peas with prosciutto and mint — is the best thing to ever happen to peas. As one dining companion commented, “This makes eating vegetables actually fun.”
After having your daily serving of vegetables, it’s necessary to indulge in dessert. While Fiola serves complimentary petits fours in chocolate chip cookie, lemon rhubarb, and chocolate hazelnut crunch varieties, you won’t have had your fill until you have one of their sumptuous desserts.
The affogato with ice cream, chocolate cake and a shot of espresso is one of the chef’s favorites, as well as the gianduia, which is a chocolate lover’s dream. A decadent chocolate ganache cake with a generous dollop of cream on top makes it easy to close your eyes and pretend you’re in heaven with each bite. The gianduia is also embellished with tiny flakes of 24-carat gold, literally making it the jewel of the dessert menu.
After experiencing Italy the Fiola way, there is no turning back. Trabocchi’s flair for the avant-garde trumps tradition in every dish and completely redefines exquisite Italian cuisine.
Fiola da Fabio Trabocchi is located at 601 Pennsylvania Ave., NW (http://www.fioladc.com).