By Amelia Reuben
It’s not everyday that you walk into a restaurant with a sign telling you how to pronounce the name of it. Sfoglina or sfoal-yee-na is one of the few. Any foodie who has lived in the DC area long enough is probably familiar with Fabio and Maria Trabocchi, if not by name by their other restaurants in DC- Fiola Mare, Fiola and Casa Luca. While these three restaurants are all located downtown and formal, Sfoglina, their newer restaurant, might look a little out of place. It’s location in Van Ness, a much quieter neighborhood than the rest, is slightly more casual and was created with one goal in mind: to create a more familiar and casual feel than their other three restaurants. (Although, keeping in mind that casual is relative-especially for the Trabocchis’ whose regular customers are state politicians, presidents, and global dignitaries.) Having been a fan of the Trabocchis’ restaurants since their inception (and mine) I was excited to try a restaurant of theirs thats dress code was “casual”. That's not to say that the food was anything less than first rate, in fact it’s some of the best pasta I’ve had in DC.
If a restaurant were a person, the bread they bring out before your meal is like a first impression. It’s important because it sets the tone for what's to come and they’re impossible to undo. In this regard, Sfoglina’s first impression was poor-the bread was dry, stale and minimal. Although I didn't have high expectations for what was to come, I was pleasantly surprised with what did.
We decided to skip out on appetizers because we weren't that hungry and didn't want to fill up before the main meal. I ordered spaghetti chitarra and my dad ordered the Australian black truffle pappardelle.
The spaghetti chitarra was akin to carbonara but it was better- and I didn't think carbonara could get better. Similarly, it was made with egg and pancetta, but unlike carbonara, it had a small fried egg on top and was topped with escarole. Whereas carbonara is usually topped with pecorino or parmigiano, this dish was made with a cheese called “cacio de Roma” which has a creamy and tangy flavor. I cannot recommend this pasta enough.
The showstopper was the Australian black truffle pappardelle. The truffle was on par with French and Italian truffles and the pappardelle was cooked perfectly al dente. Although on the pricier side, as anything with truffle usually is, we thought it was well worth the $65.
For dessert, we ordered the italian soft serve. If I could best describe the soft serve, it would a higher quality, sophisticated take on a treat synonymous with dairy queen. We got the swirl which was strawberry and vanilla and I could see the vanilla bean and the strawberry bits- a telltale sign of a good soft serve.
All in all, I though Sfoglina was great- the food was good, and the service even better. DC (and especially Van Ness) are lucky to have a piece of Italy on Connecticut Avenue. I walked out with a sense of satisfaction- Trabbochi had done it again, and I had found a new favorite restaurant.
***UPDATE: I’ve been to Sfoglina a couple times by now and here are my recommendations:
DO get: soft polenta, octopus, foods listed above, panna cotta, mocktail
DON'T get: buffalo mozzarella, sourdough bread, beet stained tortelloni (looks can be deceiving), lemon and hazelnut cake