by Dipa Mehta
I had the great pleasure of chatting with Fabio Trabocchi, the mastermind chef behind three of DC’s dining hot spots – Fiola, Casa Luca and Fiola Mare. Soon, Van Ness will welcome Trabocchi’s next and perhaps most distinct culinary passion project – an Italian pasta house. During our chat, Trabocchi previewed his plans for Sfoglina, why he chose Van Ness, and how Sfoglina differs from his other restaurants.
Sfoglina (sfoal-yee-nah) is named for the female artisans that carry on the tradition of rolling sheets of pasta by hand with a rolling pin, a technique passed down through generations. For Trabocchi, the craft of pasta making is deeply personal. He grew up in a modest farmhouse in the Le Marche region of Italy where food was a central feature of his traditional upbringing.
He recalls with pride the Sunday dinners prepared by his father, who built a pasta-making board that fit over their kitchen table since their kitchen was too small for a dedicated pasta table. Trabocchi’s parents took great care in practicing the sacred ritual of hand-making pasta and passed on the treasured skill to Fabio. Sfoglina, dedicated to the craft of pasta-making, is inspired by Trabocchi’s upbringing.
Why Van Ness?
Many are wondering why Trabocchi choose Van Ness for his flagship pasta house. So, I asked him that very question.
He paused, smiled and said “Well, you know my friend Mark Furstenberg called me and said ‘You should look at this space in Van Ness,’ so I looked. Mark is a good friend and I respect him very much.”
Trabocchi was immediately drawn in by Park Van Ness’ street-facing presence and brand new facility that offered both indoor and outdoor seating. But, he said, he had to “test” the idea of establishing a restaurant in a residential neighborhood – a new concept for Trabocchi. After talking with friends, colleagues and, perhaps most importantly, guests of his other restaurants, he realized that opening Sfoglina in Van Ness was a sort of “coming home.” This is because so many of the guests at his other restaurants live in Van Ness and the surrounding neighborhoods. They urged Trabocchi to come to Van Ness.
Trabocchi marvels at the warm reception and big “neighborhood hug” he is receiving from the Van Ness community, noting that this is a somewhat new experience for him because it’s his first neighborhood place. And this makes him happy because he wants the neighbors to view Sfoglina as an extension of their own family kitchens. Indeed, Sfoglina will be casual and family-friendly with a warmth and ease that Trabocchi hopes will have people coming back regularly.
What can we expect and when?
The floor is down, the furniture is in place and the paint has dried. If DC’s permit gods permit, Trabocchi is hoping to open Sfoglina’s doors during the first half of December. Then, the reservation system will go live. The menu will feature buffalo milk burrata, prosciutto pio tosini, handmade pastas such as tortellini, curligionese (a Sardinian specialty, served mostly at weddings), rigatoni and malfade (a wide ribbon pasta), short ribs, black bass, a vegetarian entree and a gluten free pasta. Tempting finishes will include soft serve ice creams, coffee cake and a chocolate fix.
Remember the pasta board that Fabio’s father fitted over the family kitchen table back in Italy? In the north corner of the restaurant, visible through the floor-to-ceiling windows, will be Trabocchi’s pasta table. It will be a daily tribute to the spirit that inspires his pasta house. During the day, passersby can watch cooks specially trained in the art of hand-making pasta practice their skills at the pasta table. At night, as in Fabio’s childhood home, the pasta table will be converted to a dining table.
Sfoglina will have approximately 80 seats indoors, another 20 or so outside in an enclosed, climate-controlled space, and an additional 30 seasonal outdoor seats. Food will also be served at the bar. Sfoglina will be open every day, including for brunch on Sundays.