Words By Logan Hollers, Photos By Jeff Martin
Let’s start with some undisputed facts: 1.) Fabio and Maria Trabocchi open outstanding restaurants; 2.) Fabio and Maria Trabocchi recently opened Sfoglina; thus, 3.) Sfoglina is destined to become an outstanding restaurant. After our first taste, it’s clear that the restaurant is well on its way.
The new eatery, located two blocks from the Van Ness/UDC metro, is designed to serve as a neighborhood pasta house in the Italian tradition. Done up in a gorgeous red and white color palette, the restaurant combines the comforting kitsch of classic red sauce joints with the charming service overseen by Maria. (In addition to a deep, white marble bar, perfect for preventing the overcrowding of plates that’s so often prevalent in bar dining.)
The name itself refers to the female pasta artisans that carry on the tradition of rolling sheets of pasta by hand with a rolling pin, a technique passed down through generations. Hence, the dedicated pasta rolling room and authentic pasta machine in Sfoglina’s kitchen that slices dough into rectangular shapes for certain orders. (This is in addition to the stunning [and $10,000, nbd] Berkel meat slicer prominently displayed in the open kitchen.)
That slicer is put to excellent use through a starter of luscious 20-month aged prosciutto, beautifully plated with thinly sliced persimmon and bright leaves of colorful flower petals. The prosciutto is only one of the small plates, which are divided into four $7 “nibbles” and four $14 small plates, the best of which is an impossibly tender and impeccably charred octopus, offset with a bitter radicchio salad.
Pastas (each of which are made-fresh daily, obviously) are similarly separated, with four “Classics” listed at $22 each, and four to five “Seasonal” pastas listed at $25 apiece. Tops on the current menu are a briny, oceanic squid ink casarecce with lump crab, clams, and espelette; and a heady hand-rolled tagliatelle, rich with umami thanks to the white Alba truffle shaved over the dish. Can’t decide? Not a problem: go with the pasta tasting, offering portions of three separate pastas for $60.
Mains aren’t given short shrift, either; choosing between roasted black bass and a braised short rib can be tough, but honestly, the best bet is the rosemary roasted Maitake mushrooms, both meaty and crispy.
Most surprising (to me at least) is the wine list, both tightly tailored and exceedingly affordable (unexpected for a Trabocchi restaurant); a focus on Italy, of course, extends throughout the $10-16 wines by the glass, while some bolder California reds sneak into the more expensive reserve bottle list.
I already submitted my end of the year food recap to BYT. That was a mistake. This food and this service for this price is incredibly impressive, and Sfoglina was easily one of the more enjoyable restaurant experiences I’ve had in 2016. The restaurant is destined to serve as both an affordable neighborhood haunt for Northwest DC *and* yet another feather in the cap for one of D.C.’s most impressive restaurant couples. Grazie to Fabio and Maria both.