Last November Adam took us out to Casa Luca (read post about our experience here) to celebrate my birthday. It is known as one of the best Italian restaurants in Washington D.C.. After our dining experience we can agree to that statement. Casa Luca remains one of our favorite dining experiences ever. Later we learned that Chef Fabio Trabocchi of Casa Luca had several other Italian restaurants in the area, one of them being Fiola Mare. Fiola Mare took part in Restaurant Week (where for one week some restaurants will have lower prices for a set menu) giving us a chance to dine at the restaurant without spending too much. This is our experience.
Fiola Mare is owned and operated by the dynamic culinary duo, Chef Fabio and Maria Trabocchi. This is one of their four Italian restaurants in the nation’s capitol and sits by the waterfront of the Potomac River at the Washington Harbour. Being new to the city, we were delighted to find a culinary power couple that can deliver authentic Italian cuisine in a welcoming ambience and execute every detail of a dining experience with precision. Chef Fabio is no stranger to the food scene as he is an award winning chef. His signature restaurant, Fiola, is a Michelin Star awarded restaurant, and in 2006 Chef Fabio received the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic. Recently he was nominated for another James Beard Award for Outstanding Chef. He is definitely a chef to be recognized with his continued flawless execution in food and service in each of his restaurants. It is why we keep coming back to his restaurants when we choose to dine out.
The food prepared at Fiola Mare is seafood which is inspired by dishes found along the coast of Italy and the Mediterranean Sea. The kitchen is led by Executive Chef, Brinn Sinnott, a native of the D.C. area with a prestigious resume. Chef Brinn executes clean, elegant seafood dishes with the freshest and locally sourced ingredients. The desserts are helmed by Corporate Pastry Chef, Brandon Malzahn. He turns simple, traditional desserts and adds a twist to enhance its flavor and presentation to create something sweet and delicious that guests have not experienced before.
As soon as you walk through the blue double doors you feel like you have been transported somewhere on the coast of Italy. The decor is both welcoming and elegant. Adam felt that we were out of place, that Fiola Mare were for businessmen and politicians, but I felt differently. Though it is elegant, it is also simple and inviting. Just walking through the blue double doors made me feel special because a staff member opened the doors for me and quickly asked to take my coat. In fact, everyone we encountered made us feel like we were being welcomed into their home.
The restaurant is bigger than the outside perceives. There are several dining rooms, the main one is in the open area with seating alongside the Potomac River. The main dining room allows guests to have a sneak peak into the open kitchen. There is a glass window that separates the guests in the dining room from the chefs preparing the fresh seafood.
There are also small dining rooms that are more private and could be used for special events. The small more private dining rooms are more elegant and sophisticated than the main dining room. During the more warmer days, guests can dine outside on the patio which sits alongside the Potomac River giving the guests a beautiful view.
And last, but definitely not least the bars, yes plural. There is one main bar that is designed to perfection in the shape of an U and then a smaller bar behind the main dining room that also leads to the outdoor patio.
Service was immecabble once again. Chef Fabio and Maria Trabocchi truly know the importance of service because they have once again given us a great dining experience because of the service and friendly staff. Between the service and food it comes to no surprise that Fiola Mare has been listed as the 5th Very Best Restaurants in the Washington D.C. area from the Washingtonian.
Restaurant Week Lunch
We came to Fiola Mare to enjoy a three course lunch for Restaurant Week. We were very excited to finally dine here, especially at Restaurant Week’s reasonable price. Though we did order off of the Restaurant Week Menu we also ordered a few extra things that we considered “a must”.
What’s lunch without a nice beverage?
I suppose it was not five o’clock yet, and Adam was in the mood for something other than water, but at the same time not a beer, so he ordered a mocktail. It ended up being a lovely choice because the mocktail was utterly refreshing. He had ed syrup and club soda. We savored every sip because we wanted it to last through our first course. It also took every bit of effort for me to not just steal Adam’s drink, it was that delicious. The drink was acidic, sweet and had just a hint of warmth and earthiness from the spiced syrup.
Oysters on the Half Shell
Once we saw the menu and our server explained to us that we could try every oyster they had on the menu we were sold, or I was sold. I LOVE OYSTERS! Since moving to the East Coast we had not had any oysters yet and we were dining at an Italian seafood restaurant, so I felt it was obligatory to order oysters… so we did.
The oysters offered at Fiola Mare are Kusshi from Vancouver Island, Canada, Pink Moon from Prince Edward Island, Canada and Hummock Island from Westport Island. I wanted to try all three so our server recommended the half dozen of raw oysters on the half shell with two of each oyster – brilliant. The oysters come with Fiola Mare condiments: pink peppercorn passion fruit puree and champagne mignonette. As much as I wanted to try these oysters without condiments I could not resist these amazing condiments! The champagne mignonette was my favorite of the two. It was clean with a little bubbly acidity and paired well will all three oysters.
Winter Vegetable Vellutata
This is THE perfect winter soup. It was almost two types of soups in one bowl and I will explain why soon. This soup was composed of butternut squash as the primary vegetable, truffle pecorino chantilly and an almond crumble. So why was it like two soups in one? Because when we tasted the vegetable soup it was delicious, rich in flavor of the butternut and a creamy, luscious texture. After a few bites we started to swirl the truffle pecorino chantilly and almond crumble till it was incorporated into every bite. The soup literally transformed and new flavors were surfaced. The truffle pecorino chantilly brightens and enhances the soup with a profound flavor and the almond crumble added earthiness and a great crunchy texture. We could not get enough of this soup as it was truly tremendous!
Sardinian Ricotta Cavatelli
Beautiful, hand made cavatelli with roasted cherry tomatoes, wild mushrooms, basil and formaggio di fossa.The cavatelli were perfectly made – cooked to al dente! Though this entree was fully carb loaded it was actually very hearty. The broth, tomatoes and mushrooms were seasoned well and every bite tasted good, both flavor wise and soulful. With the last bite Adam felt satisfied and fulfilled rather than stuffed. Overall an excellent entree for lunch.
Olive Oil-Poached Branzino Fillet
I love branzino and instantly knew I would be ordering it when I saw it on the menu. The components with the branzino were a wonderful Tuscan seafood farrotto with mussels and peperoncini. The branzino fillet was poached with skin on and was cooked perfectly. Sitting under the branzino was the seafood farrotto – farro cooked like risotto. To be honest I actually do not like farro, until this day when it was prepared with so much flavor. The seafood farrotto was delicious and paired well with the poached branzino fillet. Drizzled around the plate was olive oil and there was also some acidity throughout the dish. Both ingredients played well with the components in the entree – the olive oil kept the farrotto and branzino from being dry and the acidity brightened the flavors of every bite. Like Adam’s entree mine too was hearty and a good portion. I wish every lunch tasted and felt this good.
This bomboloni dessert was very similar if not exactly the same as the one we had in Casa Luca. We were not disappointed by this at all because these bomboloni are to die for and we love bomboloni! We can never have enough of them! The ricotta bomboloni were different from the ones we had in Italy – it was one of those creative twists from Chef Brandon. The ricotta bomboloni were small and more spherical than the traditional bomboloni in Italy and were extremely soft and light. They were served warm in a basket covered in sugar to enhance its sweetness. The only thing better than bomboloni is a sauce to dip them in. Served alongside the bomboloni was a toffee caramel sauce and it was divine. The ricotta bomboloni were great on their own, but as I said when they were dipped in the toffee caramel sauce it took the dessert to a whole other level! Adam had to fight me off to not take another one of his bomboloni (I’m just kidding Adam is really good at sharing).
Gianduja is chocolate with hazelnut and a budino is a creamy custard, together they make an unbelievable dessert! This gianduja budino was rich, light in texture and all around delicious! Covered in the gianduja budino were candied hazelnuts, tiny meringue chips and chocolate drizzled on top. Every additional component brought more texture and flavor to the dessert. The candied hazelnut added extra nuttiness and a crunchy texture, whereas the tiny meringue chips added a lightness and crisp texture. The chocolate drizzle was the final touch of richness to make this dessert standout.
A true dessert terrine masterpiece – a bottom layer of almond praline cake, followed by a layer of pistachio mint cake with Tuscan dark chocolate ganache on top. Piped on the ganache were droplets of pistachio cremeux, candied Sicilian pistachios, basil and lastly a delicate chocolate decoration. Dotted along the plate was a basil gel and a side of basil gelato to balance it all out. Phew, that is a lot of components, but every component plays a vital part to making this dessert amazing. This was the richest dessert of the three we had for lunch. Every bite was packed with flavor, even the hint of mint in the pistachio mint cake stood out amongst all the flavors. The ganache and cremeux were both creamy while the candied pistachios and layer of almond praline cake added a contrast of crunchy texture. The basil gelato helped cut the richness of the terrine. In fact the only flaw of the dessert was that the quenelle of gelato was too small to help balance the flavors until the last bite. Regardless, we loved this dessert, it was unique, well presented and most importantly, “delizioso”! Seriously though, is this not the most beautiful plated dessert you have ever seen?
We hope to come back for all meals of the day. We hear their brunch menu is one of the best in the city and of course we would love to have dinner here. So stay tuned for our next visit!
3050 K Street NW, Suite 101
Washington DC 20007
Enter at 31st St & waterfront
Lunch: T – F: 11:30am – 2:30pm
Dinner: M – Th 5 pm – 10:30pm
F – Sa: 5 pm – 11pm
Su: 5 pm – 10:30pm
Brunch: Sa – Su 11:30am – 2:00pm
Christina + Adam