Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Recipe Corner: Ravioli di San Leo

Ravioli with Fresh Herbs & Greens in Lemon Butter
Ravioli di San Leo

If I asked you to picture a medieval village, I think something like the little town of San Leo, in the northern part of Le Marche (now actually part of Emilia Romagna), would come to mind. Rising up from a rocky cliff, it is so inaccessible that it was used for centuries as a high security papal prison. 

A better claim to fame for San Leo, however, are these luscious ravioli, made with chard, spinach, and fresh ricotta. They have always been a favorite of my family, particularly because of their use of lots of fresh herbs including the mint-like nepitella, which is popular all over Italy. If you can’t find it (which will probably be the case unless you grow it in your own garden), you can substitute mint, which is stronger, but close enough. Use the best quality fresh ricotta you can find.

San Leo

For the Filling
1⁄2 pound spinach
1⁄4 pound Swiss chard
4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1⁄3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 cup fresh ricotta
2 large egg yolks, beaten
1 1⁄2 cups finely chopped mixed herbs, such as Italian parsley, marjoram, nepitella, mint, tarragon, basil, and/or chives

Semolina flour for dusting
1 pound fresh pasta dough
1 large egg, beaten

For the Sauce
1 2⁄3 tablespoons (5 1⁄3 ounces) unsalted butter
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 4 ounces)


For the Filling
Remove the tough stems from the spinach and Swiss chard and discard. Place the leaves in a large bowl of cold water and swish to release any dirt, then lift out the leaves. If the leaves seem very dirty, repeat. Dry in a salad spinner.

Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add one-quarter of the spinach and chard and toss with a fork, lightly coating the leaves with butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper and cover tightly. Let the spinach and chard steam for about 2 minutes, or until wilted.

Transfer the greens to a colander and drain well, pressing with the back of a spoon to eliminate excess water.

Repeat the process three more times with the remaining spinach and chard, using another tablespoon of butter for each batch.

Transfer the greens to a cutting board and coarsely chop. In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, ricotta, and yolks.

Add the greens and chopped herbs and mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or until ready to use.

For the Ravioli
Sprinkle a baking sheet with semolina and set aside. Dust a counter or other work surface lightly with semolina.

Divide the pasta dough into 4 pieces. One at a time, flatten each piece of dough under the palm of your hand and then roll it through a pasta machine, working from the largest setting to the smallest and passing the dough through each setting twice. Lay the completed sheets of pasta on the semolina-dusted counter and keep covered with a slightly dampened kitchen towel as you work.

If necessary, trim the sheets of pasta so that they are all the same length.

Place 1 sheet of pasta on the semolina-dusted work surface. Working quickly, place heaping teaspoons of filling down the center of the dough, starting 1 1⁄2 inches from one end of the sheet and spacing them 3 inches apart. Brush the exposed dough around the filling lightly with the beaten egg, then carefully drape a second sheet of dough over the sheet with the filling.

Using your fingers, press down around the mounds of filling to force out any air bubbles. Using a pasta cutter or a sharp knife, cut around the mounds of filling to form 3-inch square ravioli.

ress the edges between your thumb and forefinger to seal. Transfer the ravioli to the semolina-dusted baking sheet, and repeat with the remaining pasta sheets and filling. Cover with a slightly dampened kitchen towel.

If not cooking the ravioli immediately, refrigerate, covered, until ready to proceed.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the ravioli and lower the heat to maintain a gentle boil, so as not to damage the ravioli. Once the ravioli have floated to the surface, cook for about 3 minutes longer, or until the pasta is just cooked.

Meanwhile, for the Sauce
Melt the butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Add the lemon zest and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep warm over very low heat. When the ravioli are cooked, using a slotted spoon, transfer them to a colander and drain well. Gently fold the ravioli and Parmigiano into the sauce.

Serve the ravioli on a platter or in individual bowls.

(This recipe and more can be found in Fabio's cookbook, Cucina of Le Marche, also available at the restaurant.)

Monday, January 28, 2013

Vivi in Colori! Carnevale at Fiola

Vivi in Colori ("live in color")! Paris may be the City of Lights, but Venice has long been the City of Color, and nothing exemplifies this quality of the city quite like Carnevale! The provocative vibrancy of Venetian commedia dell'arte masks and costumes, the play of light and reflection of palazzi on the canals .... and of course, the food!

On Tuesday, February 12, we invite you to Fiola to indulge in the sensual pleasure and decadence of ... 

A Venetian Masquerade 
4 Course Tasting Menu including Wine Pairing

Artichoke Hearts Venetian Style
Calamari Vicentina & Baccalà
Radicchio Trevisano Lettuce & White Prosciutto

Wine:  Le Vigne di Alice, ‘Ose’ Spumante Brut Rosato,  NV

Risotto of Mussels & Clams Chioggia Style
Bigoli Pasta & Thiene Style Duck Ragu

Wine: Gini, Garganega, Soave Classico 2011

Adriatic Coast Mullet Murano Style
Guinea Hen, Luganega Sausage, Amarone

Wine: Bussola, “Ca' de Laito”, Valpolicella Superiore, Ripasso  2008

Torta Sabbiosa
Fritole de Pomi Apple Fritters

Wine:  Maculan Dindarello

$60 per person
exclusive of tax & gratuity

Live Entertainment Provided
Masks Optional!
Call 202-628-2888 or make your reservation online. We've got a table waiting for you.

Taste the Simple Sophistication of Tuscany at Fiola

Throughout February and March we are highlighting the exceptional flavors and the simple sophistication of Tuscan cuisine with a 4 course prix-fixe menu and wine pairing. 

$60 per person
exclusive of tax and tip

Monday through Thursday in Fiola Bar and Lounge Only
Starting February 4


Pappa al Pomodoro
Tomato Soup + Grilled Pecorino Sandwich
Wine: La Spinetta, Vermentino 2010

Bavettine Livornese
Linguine + "Frutti di Mare" = Fisherman Style
Wine: Felsina, "i Sistri" Chardonnay, Tuscany 2010

Guance di Vitello alla Fiorentina
Slow Cooked Veal Cheeks Florentine Style
Wine: Brancaia, Tre, Siena 2010

Ricciarelli di Siena
Siena Classic Almond Cookies
Wine: Le Figure, Vin Santo, Chianto Classico 2005

Reserve now at 202-628-2888 or book online.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Recipe Corner: El Presidente

Rum gives the El Presidente a rounded smoothness, while white, semi-dry French style vermouth lends earthiness. Cointreau provides the sweet notes, tempered by the tart vibrancy of real grenadine.

1.5 oz El Dorado Light Rum
0.75 oz Dolin Dry Vermouth
0.5 oz Cointreau
0.25 Grenadine

Garnish with a thick lemon twist.

Though President Obama still has 4 more years in office, the "El Presidente" will only be available until Tuesday, January 22. 

The "El Presidente" at Fiola

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Ask the Bar Man, Jeff Faile

Part of my job is to describe certain liquors and answer questions about how people should make drinks at home.  If we're busy at the bar, it's hard for me to go as in depth as I'd like to. A new feature in the bar newsletter allows you to ask any and all questions you'd like. Fire away! Send your questions to

Q: I always seem to end up hosting impromptu cocktail parties or gatherings at my place, what should I always have on hand to entertain?
-Nicole, Glover Park

A: I always recommend concentrating on the basics in situations like this. There's no need to go out and grab a bottle of the hottest new liqueur that is used in only one cocktail. You should stick with the classic ingredients and cocktails. Think of it this way, they're classics for a reason. Plus, do you really want to pour out your expensive single barrel bourbon for creepy Ken the copy boy? No.

So, what should you always have?  For gin, let's go with Plymouth. It's easy drinking, easily mixable, and makes one great martini. Vodka? If you must stock vodka, go with Boyd and Blair. It's a potato based vodka out of Pennsylvania. Simply put, it's the best unflavored flavored vodka. Bourbon? Maker's Mark. Not overly pricy, and it's what I use in my Manhattans at Fiola. For rum there's many options. Track down a bottle of El Dorado Spiced rum as a nice alternative to Captain Morgan. For a sipper try Zaya 12 year from Trinidad. Tequila? Track down Milagro; inexpensive and half the price of some of the more overrated tequilas out there.

That's the base spirits for you. For mixers, there's plenty of inexpensive options. I think everyone should have a bottle of Campari and Cocchi Vermouth di Torino at home. These two knock out the Negroni (with gin) and the Manhattan (the vermouth plus Makers). You should probably have a bottle of dry vermouth for your martini drinkers as well. Grab a bottle of Dolin Dry for this and you'll see what vermouth should be added to your next martini. What else? Fever Tree produces a great tonic water for a mixer as well as a ginger ale. Of course, there's some obvious selections like club soda and a cola of some sort.

Think of this way. It's a cocktail party with friends. You're not setting up the latest speakeasy in your house. Keep it simple and people will be happy with the options. They're getting some free booze and hanging out with friends and coworkers...oh, and creepy Ken. Who invited him anyway?

- Jeff

Build a Better Bar IQ

Sometimes people will ask me why I am stirring this drink or shaking another. There’s a simple rule of thumb to it all. If it’s a cocktail such as a Manhattan or Martini or in other words nothing but sprits/liquor, you should stir it. The purpose of the addition of ice to a cocktail is to dilute the drink to make it easier to consume. If you stir a Martini, for instance, you’ll still get the true flavor of the gin or vodka in the drink. Since it’s stirred, however, the dilution is over the moment it’s left the mixing glass, and you’re left with an almost silky texture to the drink. Now, if you shake your Martini you’ll not only have ice chips in the drink which will continue to dilute both the drink and flavor, but you’ll also have air bubbles in the cocktail that take away from the texture and flavor as a result.

So, when should you shake and why? When your cocktail has a spirit and a mixer such as a citrus juice of some sort, shake it. Sure, it’s going to give your drink a “cloudy” look to it, but that will settle down in no time. Also, the acidity of the citrus will have already taken away from any silky texture of the drink. Shake away! The extra dilution from the shaking will take that acidity. An example? Let’s talk about the gimlet; gin, lime juice and simple syrup. Sure it’s a basic recipe, but it’s so delicious. This drink should be shaken. You should shake it until you see condensation on the shaker. After that, strain the drink through out of the shaker through a tea strainer before it reaches your favorite martini glass. This captures any chipped ice preventing any further dilution of the drink.

There you have it; two examples of when to shake and when to stir. While some of us bartenders are eccentric, there is a reason to our madness sometimes. Try a shaken and stirred martini next to each other at home and see which you like better. All science and reasons aside, it’s all about which one you think tastes better.


Jeff Faile
Bar Manager & Mixologist

New Year's Drinking Resolutions

I fully admit I’m a creature of habit. That can come from the need to have everything in exactly the right place behind the bar so I can get your drinks out faster, the rapid onset of OCD because of the aforementioned need for placement, or perhaps it’s just, well, I’m boring. This year, I promise to expand my drinking horizons.
  • Drink more brown spirits: See, this is where it gets tricky. I’ve always fancied bourbon and scotch, but it’s time to branch out. I have my usual rotation of bourbons at the house or when I go out. It’s time to spice things up. Let’s drink rye this year! A nicely aged rye can compete with any bourbon out there and even add some spice to the mix. For scotch? Well, I admit I like the peaty Islays. Let’s go to the other side of the world and make it the year of Japanese single malts! Has anyone had Nikka, yet? It’s new to DC, and I think it could be my single malt of choice this year.
  • Drink lighter alcohol cocktails/spirits: Part of my job is to go out and drink. Sounds tough, doesn’t it? When you’re at a function with people of importance, you certainly don’t want to have more than you should of the potent drinks. This year when I go out, I’m going to start having more spritzes. The Aperol Spritz is perfect for this. You get tremendous flavor of orange, rhubarb, and gentian from the Aperol with the alcohol content no more than a glass of wine. Add some prosecco and club soda and you have yourself a refreshing cocktail that won’t make you the, um, life of the party. Another good way? Try some vermouth on the rocks with a twist of citrus. I’m not talking about your parents’ 6 year old bottle of Martini & Rossi that has 2 inches of dust on it. Splurge on a bottle of Carpano Antica or even go with Cocchi Vermouth di Torino at half the price. Want something lighter? A Dolin Blanc with a slice of orange is perfect in the summer.
  • Invest in a good tequila: We’ve all had the moment with tequila in college. That harsh shot with lime and salt was the cause of far too many rough mornings in the world. Tequila has undergone a renaissance, however. Even a silver tequila from Milagro provides a taste that doesn’t need lime and salt to make it palatable. My goal this year is to own a beautiful anejo. Anejo tequila is aged in oak barrels from 1 to 3 years and can be as elegant as a sipping whisk(e)y. They can range anywhere from honey notes to tropical notes depending on the producer. 
There you have it; 3 ways I plan on drinking better this year. Let’s all make it a point to branch out and try new things. Let me know what some of yours are.


Jeff Faile
Fiola Bar Manager & Mixologist

Drink This Now.

For those who have followed the Fiola newsletter or have spent any amount of time at the bar with me, you know I'm a fan of the brown spirits. I will drink them year round, but with the cold in the air I tend to enjoy them more this time of year. 

My favorite to sip on at the house is from the folks at Willett. Now, Willett is a different sort. Up until recently, their distillery wasn't operational. They have tasters who go around to other distilleries and handpick single barrels to label as their own. This offers up an endless variety for them. 

Sadly, it also means you're not likely to be able to stock up on your favorite sampling from them either.

Willett offers up both bourbon and rye, and I'm enjoying the rye more than anything else right now. The rye is aged 4 years and comes in at a healthy 120 proof. It's not for the faint of heart, but even with that alcohol content the rye shows through. There's nice caramel notes to it and the wood certainly shows through in it. 

Oh, and 120 proof will certainly warm you up on a cold winter's night. If you see it at your local store, pick it up!


Fiola Bar Manager Jeff Faile

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Valentine's Weekend at Fiola

Valentine’s Day is only a month away, and we hope you and your special someone will celebrate the combined power of love and food with us at Fiola. 

For the entire Valentine's Weekend, starting the evening of Thursday, February 14 and ending Saturday, February 16, we are offering an exclusive aphrodisiac dinner tasting menu inspired by the senses that is sure to culminate in … well, you know.  

Book your tablenow, and start the seduction.

A seduction meal inspired by the senses.

White Truffle Festival!

This month we kick off our second annual white truffle promotion, providing you with an exclusive opportunity to treat yourself to this rare luxury at cost. For a limited time only, you can choose your own truffle from our daily selection of different sizes, and we’ll shave it over your dishes tableside. This is a special chance to experience the nutty, funky aroma and flavor of white truffle at an exceptional price! Ask your server for details, and check our menu for a host of "truffle-friendly" dishes.

A selection of white truffles from Fabio's home region of Le Marche!
Chef Fabio first tasted white truffles when he was 18; his father, Giuseppe was 50 when he first tried them! And what did he say at that moment? "Bestiale!" he exclaimed, which is hard to translate, but means "pretty darn great!" We know you will think so too.

Sweet Simplicity

Babà al Rhum is a classic Neapolitan pastry with Polish roots that came to Naples by way of Paris. Confused? Such is Italian, and Neapolitan, history. The babà was invented by a Polish king whose daughter Marie was married to Louis XV of France. According to the legend, this former king dipped a slice of kugelhopf (an Austrian pastry, half-brioche and half panettone) into a glass of Madeira, and what would become the babà was born.
Baba al Rhum
Pastry Chef Tom Wellings' Babà al Rhum.

Variations in the dough technique and the liquor used to soak the pastry evolved the Babà from the courts of Versailles to the streets of Naples into what we know today; a yeasted buttery cake soaked in rum. 

Fiola Pastry Chef Tom Wellings' version of this iconic dessert is a plump dome, which is proofed, baked, then soaked twice in a sweet syrup flavored with lemon and orange zests, vanilla bean and dark rum. Finally the Babà are dipped in blood orange glaze. 

To accompany the Babà, Chef Tom makes a caramel flavored with Szechuan peppercorns, which is combined with juicy pineapple rounds and then cooked slowly for approximately 40 minutes. Spicy, sweet and somewhat acidic, Szechuan peppercorns impart an intoxicating hint of pine and cedar.

Pastry Chef Tom Wellings

Recipe Corner

Passatelli all'Urbinate

Passatelli are short round noodles formed by pressing dough through a potato ricer into simmering chicken stock. In Emilia-Romagna passatelli are made from a simple dough of bread crumbs, eggs, Parmigiano, lemon zest and nutmeg. In Urbino, in Le Marche, they throw in meat, such as the beef tenderloin here, and truffles too.
Passatelli all'Urbinate
Passatelli all'Urbinate, with black truffles

½ pound fresh spinach
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) unsalted butter, softened
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 cups chicken stock
1 ounces beef marrow (optional, but recommended!)
¾ pound beef tenderloin, cut into ½ inch dice
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
¾ cup dried bread crumbs
5 large eggs
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 ounces white or black truffles

1.       Remove and discard and large stems from the spinach. Place the spinach in a large bowl of cold water and move gently to dislodge any sand or dirt, so it falls to the bottom of the bowl. Lift out the spinach. If necessary, repeat with fresh water, then dry in a salad spinner.
2.       Melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the spinach, season lightly with salt and pepper, and stir gently until the butter coasts the spinach. Cover the pan and cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the the spinach has wilted. Transfer to a colander and drain, pressing the spinach against the colander with the back of a spoon or spatula to eliminate excess water.
3.       If using the marrow, bring to a boil in a small saucepan enough chicken stock to cover the marrow. Remove the pan from the heat, add the marrow, and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Let the marrow poach for 2 minutes, then transfer to a small plate. Reserve the stock.
4.       In a food processor, combine the beef tenderloin, spinach, marrow (if using), Parmigiano, bread crumbs, the remaining 1 tablespoon butter, the lemon zest, eggs and nutmeg. Blend until very smooth, up to 4 minutes, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed to ensure even mixing. Transfer to a bowl and season lightly with salt and pepper. To check the seasoning, bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer. Add a small spoonful of the mixture and cook until it rises to the surface. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Cover the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 day.
5.       Carefully clean the truffles (if using) with a brush, removing any dirt on the surface. Set aside.
6.       Bring the chicken stock (including the marrow poaching liquid, if any) to a boil in a large saucepan. Reduce to a simmer and season to taste with salt and pepper.
7.       Working over the saucepan, press the passatelli mixture through a food mill fitted with the coarse disk, using a knife to cut off 1 ½-inch lengths of dough and letting them drop into the pan. Simmer until the noodles rise to the surface then remove from the heat.
8.       Ladle the broth and passatelli into warm bowls. Shave the truffle, if you have it, over the soup. Serve immediately.

Note: To prepare the marrow, soak 8 marrow bones in hot water for about 10 minutes to soften the marrow. Drain, and push the marrow out of each bone. Put the marrow in a small container and add 3 tablespoons white vinegar, a pinch of kosher salt, and enough cold water to cover. Refrigerate overnight then drain before using.

(This recipe and more can be found in Fabio's cookbook, Cucina of Le Marche, on sale at the restaurant.)

When it Comes to Wine

Gaja Ca’ Marcanda “Promis” Maremma, 2010
Gaja Ca'Marcanda Promis
Gaja Ca'Marcanda "Promis" 2010

At the start of a new year we have expectations and hopes about what’s to come.  This blend of Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese from one of Italy’s premier winemaking families was given the propriety name “Promis”, denoting the promise of quality along with the reward of excellence and diligence. 

The grapes are sourced from vineyards lying in the terre brune, or brown soil of the 250-acre estate in the Maremma region of Tuscany, where the mineral content yields wines with a more pronounced tannic structure and character. Promis is a medium bodied, fruit-forward wine with aging potential but also very drinkable in youth. 

It exhibits the supple and round flavors of Merlot along with a delicate hint of crushed black pepper you expect from Syrah, with the dried fruit on the finish characteristic of Sangiovese.  It’s a perfect wine to accompany those New Year’s resolutions …

I’ve got a bottle waiting for you,

John Toigo
Wine Director and Assistant General Manager

John Toigo

Fiola Resumes Maria's Light Menu

Overindulge this the holiday season? We are happy to announce that we have resumed the wildly successful Maria’s Light Menu for lunch.  This 3-course menu features low-calorie, low sodium options for appetizers and main courses, and includes a refreshing fruit “sgroppino” for dessert. It’s guilt-free indulgence. For our daily selections, click here for the Lunch Menu.

Maria Trabocchi

Cocktail Corner

President Obama’s second term will be inaugurated on January 22 so for a limited time we’re mixing up a classic rum cocktail, El Presidente, to mark the occasion.  The El Presidente is a Prohibition-era cocktail of Cuban origin (though accounts differ as to exactly where and by whom), created for Americans who wanted to drink legally during Prohibition in an exotic locale. 
Jeff Faile's El Presidente Cocktail
Jeff Faile's El Presidente cocktail

Aged rum gives the El Presidente a rounded smoothness, while white, semi-dry French style vermouth lends earthiness. Curaçao provides the sweet notes, tempered by the tart vibrancy of grenadine.

No matter what your political persuasion, there are plenty of reasons to celebrate with this colorful cocktail classic.  The El Presidente will be available from Thursday, January 17 through Tuesday, January 22 for Democrats, Republicans and Independents alike – this drink is nonpartisan!


Jeff Faile
Bar Manager & Mixologist
Jeff Faile 

Inauguration Sunday at Fiola

If you’re not lucky enough to have garnered a seat at an official inaugural table, dine with us on Sunday, January 20. We will be open for dinner, and we guarantee you’ll get our Presidential treatment.  Our Bar Manager and Mixologist Jeff Faile will be stirring up a special rum cocktail, El Presidente, that you will have no trouble "swearing in" to your repertoire of libations.

Call us at (202) 628-2888 or book online at