House Bread with Olive Oil
Soft Polenta with Mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano
Potato Gnocchi with Porcini Crema, Foraged Mushrooms and Parmigiano Reggiano
Squid Ink & Paprika Cannelloni Curl with Baccala, Lobster and Peperoncino
Spaghetti Chiatarra Carbonara with Pancetta and Escarole
Pear and Dark Chocolate Swirl Gelato with Caramel
Tiramisu Panna Cotta with Zabaglione and Cocoa Nib Dentelle
Having expanded his empire significantly since the last visit to Washington DC it can safely be said that Fabio Trabocchi has now reached the level of all but Jose Andres in terms of culinary influence in the Capital, his downtown destination Fiola still doing great business and since joined by Fiola Mare along the water, Casa Luca and most recently Sfoglina in the Van Ness area not far from the National Zoo.
Opened in the waning days of 2016 and focused on Chef Trabocchi’s childhood memories of watching his father make Pasta in the kitchen, the name of the restaurant taken from the Sfogline who are considered to be the masters of Pasta making in Italy, Sfoglina resides at 4445 Connecticut Ave NW and like many of The Capital’s best restaurants is a marvel of interior design compared to much of the United States, the fresh Pastas made in a small room near the hostess stand and the rest of the space expanding lengthwise along an enormous kitchen and bar decorated with reclaimed wood and bold prints plus textural elements including padded banquets and drooping chandeliers.
Tapping Californian Michael Fusano as executive Chef, his Italian rearing and time at Casa Luna giving him the confidence and skills to run a Restaurant of his own in one of D.C.’s few remaining areas that lacks a true dining ‘destination,’ it was after checking in at that three diners were led across the lengthy space to a spacious four-top looked over by a young Hispanic man with good manners and knowledge of the menu, the daily specials explained at length but still apparently confusing to some elderly women at a table to the right who could not seem to grasp the idea of a $20+ plate of handmade Pasta.
Truly a pleasant environment, everything about the space rustic and comforting aside from a bit of over-branding with the word Sfoglina tattooed on both walls and light fixtures, it was after several moments indecision and the first of two baskets of Italian Bread with a robust Crust that decisions were made to focus largely on the restaurant’s pastas, a $10 bowl of Polenta listed under the “nibbles” section grossly undersold in terms of its portion as there was more than enough creamy Cornmeal and Mushrooms cooked in Wine to go around.
Offering three Classic and three Seasonal Pastas plus a few daily specials, the option to pair any Noodle with any Sauce also available for picky diners in addition to several Secondi and Salads, it was in the $66 “Pasta Tasting” that appetites were eventually invested, the first bites of Potato Gnocchi finding the dumplings soft and light beneath Mushroom Cream and grated Cheese, the flavors fairly bland compared to the Polenta but enjoyable enough that none of it went unfinished.
Expecting the two additional Pastas to be far more bold, the ingredients alone virtually assuring such, it was with a sunny-side egg stirred into hand-cut Spaghetti tossed with Pancetta and bitter Greens that the signature “Carbonara” made a lasting impression amongst all while the curled Cannelloni stuffed with shredded Salt Cod and topped with spicy Lobster Sauce was more of an acquired taste that is perfect for those who appreciate a little bit of heat and oceanic salinity.
Unfortunately informed that the daily Cookie Plate had not yet been “delivered” from Fiola, this the only item not made on-site, it was instead the Tiramisu Panna Cotta that was selected from the small Dessert Menu, the base silky and just sweet enough to balance a Cocoa Nib Crisps and a dusting Powder while the complimentary bowl of Soft Serve Gelato performed the very Italian task of pairing Pears with Chocolate and Caramel quite well.