by Kim Sperduto
Few can pronounce it. None can resist it. In Sfoglina (it’s pronounced Sfo-lean-a), Maria and Fabio Trabocchi have created a neighborhood classic and a Van Ness landmark virtually overnight.
The Michelin award-winning chef and his wife Maria have created a warm, intimate – even cozy – neighborhood pasta house that transforms dining in our neighborhood. The name is the Italian term for pasta maker, frequently the respected matriarch of the family as well as an actual profession; the pasta is the Italian form of heaven, usually among the tastiest in the nation.
As talented as the Trabocchis are, they left nothing to chance, “importing” Simonetta Capotondo from the Le Marche region of Italy to train Sfoglina’s pasta-making staff. Capotondo was runner-up in the 2011 Sfoglina d’Oro international pasta-making competition in Bologna. Capotondo’s training aids Executive Chef Michael Fusano’s efforts in creating new pastas every day at the restaurant.
The pastas vary by shape, form, region, season and ingredients. When this writer visited, the pappardelle with truffles was extraordinary. The squid ink casarecce transports you to the Mediterranean, and melts in your mouth. My wife swore by the Ligurian corzetti, a coin-shaped pasta. Find your favorite, and find new discoveries every visit.
Sfoglina offers much more than pasta. The ‘nduja salami and grilled spicy calamari are favorite appetizers. The fisherman style octopus small plate is healthy and succulent. For those who love soup, the stracciatella is a fragrant starter this time of year. The entrees offer a variety of specialties ranging from branzino to short ribs. And at lunch, one can always opt for “Maria’s Menu,” an ever-changing set of healthy choices that cut back on the calories, fat and sodium.
General Manager Gian Mario Cabbidu, along with Restaurant Manager Sam Lindenberg have created an atmosphere and staff that match the warm décor and ambience. The friendly (but not overbearing) waiters approach your sofa-style seating with smiles and suggestions. They seem to know that they are part of something special, and they treat their patrons that way too.
If you are lucky enough to catch a pasta maker at the pasta table, they will patiently explain what pasta they are making and the tricks they perform after it emerges from the extruder that make it taste so good. The wine list is comprehensive but not intimidating (about 80 to 90 choices by the bottle), aimed at matching the elegant simplicity of the pasta. For example, both the white LaVis da Fabio Trabocchi (pinot grigio) and the red Einaudi Dolcetto are wines that match a wide variety of palates and an even wider variety of wallets.
From the pasta-rolling table in the entryway, to the dishes and overhead lighting, Sfoglina exudes comfort, charm, warmth and taste. The wall fabrics are custom made in Italy; the chandeliers are from Spain. Still, the ambience is more rustic than high-brow, more homey than contrived.
The restaurant has table seating for 78 and marble bar seating facing the kitchen. Taste for yourself at this new landmark in Forest Hills. It transforms dining in our neighborhood.
Sfoglina is located at 4445 Connecticut Avenue NW in the Park Van Ness. Parking is available.
Hours: Open Monday 3 to 10 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.; Saturday 10:30 to 11:30 p.m.; and Sunday from 10:30 to 9 p.m.
For reservations, call 202-450-1312 or visit sfoglinadc.com.