Power dining has existed in Washington since politicians first started consorting in taverns, but few embrace its modern incarnation better than Fabio and Maria Trabocchi. Their trio of restaurants—Fiola, Casa Luca, and Fiola Mare—are favorite stops for both serious food lovers and Hill and Hollywood elite. Still, the couple say another category—“FTDs,” or first-time diners—is equally important. Each day, the restaurants’ management teams identify a few fresh faces among their customers and give them VIP treatment: a glass of Champagne, an extra course, or the “dessert bomb,” a final blitz of sweets.
That level of care and attention—seen in smart sommeliers, gracious servers, and welcoming hosts—extends through all three restaurants, each of which has a place in our top 15 this year. What keeps us wowed, though, is Fabio’s luxurious Italian cooking, whether we’re eating soulful tortellini in hen consommé at the more casual Casa Luca or dining on some of the country’s finest seafood at Fiola Mare, which put Georgetown back on the culinary map.
The Trabocchis’ first restaurant, Fiola, is approaching its fourth anniversary—and is where the couple met 20 years ago in the sceney downtown space then called Bice. Fabio, who was raised along Italy’s Adriatic coast, had just taken his first kitchen job in America at age 21; Maria was managing the books after finishing college away from her native Spain. The young cook’s profile rose quickly—he went on to become executive chef at the opulent Maestro in Tysons and then took over the stoves at Fiamma in New York (where he garnered a Michelin star).
When Fiamma shuttered during the recent recession, the Trabocchis returned to DC. That the lofty Bice space was available when they decided to open their first restaurant in 2011 was serendipitous, but it also reaffirmed that Washington was home. They’ve since brought their young children—Aliche, 13, and Luca, 11—into the hospitality fold—Luca has been cooking in the eateries since he was eight. “There’s not an on-and-off button,” Maria says. “We’re all in it together.”
What’s next? The Trabocchis say there will be another venture—they’ve opened a new spot every year and a half so far—but that the expansion will be deliberate so their restaurants can grow together as a “family.” Bring on another round of dessert bombs.
This article appears in the January 2015 issue of Washingtonian.