Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fiola in Review

 After much anticipation, Fiola is open.  While it doesn't officially open until Monday (and isn't yet on OpenTable), they are running through everything this week and giving customers a 10% discount for dealing with the kinks.  PQ Insider was there last night, and there were very few kinks.
A TV screen displays the day's menu

Tucked in the old Le Paradou space on Indiana Avenue, Fiola is unassuming, and without the valet parking outside, you may not even notice it.

Once you get closer, however, you realize that the glimmer in the window is really a TV screen, which displays that day's menu--and yes, it changes every day.  Underneath, fresh flowers are planted in a flower box. 

You grab the door handle, a custom-molded scripted "F," and walk into the bar. 

The bar is lively and beautifully decorated.  Large chandeliers hang from the ceiling, the columns are gilded in gold and imprinted with drawings of leaves.  Around the bar are several nooks and crannies where small bar tables make for the perfect environment for meeting a friend for a drink.

Behind the bar are some stairs that lead down into the recessed main dining room.  The dining room is simple and elegant.  The tables don't have table cloths, but are made from eye-catching laminated wood.  The chairs and booths are fashionable and comfortable.

Windows look into the kitchen
Certain walls are made of stone.  One of those walls has two small windows in it, and the windows look into the kitchen.  Instead of the loud and hectic nature of an open kitchen, this gives you a view inside the kitchen with enough distance to keep your meal peaceful.  Every once in awhile, Executive Chef and Owner Fabio Trabocchi peeks out of the windows and into his restaurant.

The restaurant is loud, however.  With hardwood floors, an open layout, and metal columns, sound definitely travels.  But the atmosphere is not one of a quiet restaurant, the place is very lively.

The staff is incredible.  Even though they have only been open for days, the service was among the best we have seen in Penn Quarter.  The wait staff was knowledgeable on every dish, not only describing it, but telling you its Italian history and Fabio Trabocchi's take on it.

Warm bread with homemade olive oil
The food is fresh, intriguing, and delicious.  Each item on the menu is interesting, and you can tell a lot of thought went into it.  There are a host of pastas, as well as meats.  It includes items like Cacio & Pepe, which, the waiter told me, was a peasant's dish in Italy, but Fabio puts a lot of effort into it because it has to be cooked "just right."  The Ahi Tuna & Tomato Tartar looked incredibly popular and included grapefruit, a delicious addition.  The Maine Lobster Ravioli obviously takes an incredible amount of effort to prepare, and from looking around the room, is very popular.

Fiola is nice, but not overly fancy and stuffy.  It is not pretentious, yet you can count on exceptional service and good food.  Many Penn Quarter residents will probably be regulars there, both in the restaurant and the bar.  We look forward to seeing you there. 

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