Grove Stand: Fiola Miami’s Chef Fabio Trabocchi Serves the Flavors of Florida
This hospitality super duo has created a fine dining restaurant empire that stretches from Coral Gables to Washington to Venice, Italy.
If you’ve been wise enough to reserve an upcoming table at Fiola in Coral Gables—this is the high season, after all—you’ll be rewarded with delicacies that Fabio and Maria Trabocchi’s jet-setting customers in Venice, Italy, and Washington, D.C., may never have the pleasure of enjoying: fresh Florida triggerfish dressed in local coconut, Key lime and avocado; Key West royal red shrimp arranged with Florida citrus and basil; a tangle of delicate greens from Palm Beach County’s Swank Farms, topped with ripe strawberries.
Ah, winter in Florida. This is why we’re here, right? To bask in the sun while other parts of the country endure frigid temps, and to relish in the bounties of a robust growing and fishing season while many U.S. fields and streams are covered in frost.
It’s also why the Trabocchis, a former husband-and-wife hospitality super duo with eight restaurants to their name, decided to open a branch of their Michelin-starred D.C. flagship restaurant, Fiola, in Coral Gables. And it’s why their stunning dining room, with floor-to-ceiling glass walls displaying wine bottles and crisp white tablecloths that seem to make every plate of food more colorful, remains a destination for power lunches, celebrity stop-ins and romantic special-occasion dinners a little more than a year into its run.
“Miami has been even more magical than Fabio and I had hoped,” Maria said. “We love how people there have welcomed us, embraced us. Literally, hugging us whenever we’re there.”
A SPRAWLING EMPIRE
When it opened in late 2018, Fiola Miami was their first restaurant outside of the nation’s capital. They’ve since added a Fiola in Venice, Italy, and just this fall a location of their more-casual Sfoglina Pasta House in Arlington, Virginia. They run two other Sfoglinas in the District, as well as Del Mar, which features coastal Mediterranean cuisine, a nod to Maria’s Spanish upbringing.
“We always said to each other that if we were going to open a restaurant beyond Washington, it would be in Miami,” Maria said. “It’s beautiful, and the Latin culture feels very welcoming and comfortable to me, being from Spain.”
But, as countless out-of-town chefs can attest, succeeding in Miami’s competitive restaurant scene requires more than a proven track record and national awards. To make it work in South Florida, the Trabocchis combine their formula for success—he runs the kitchen with intrinsic Italian culinary prowess, and she keeps the front of the house humming with graceful hospitality—with a hyper-local sensibility that gives Fiola Miami a sense of place.
ITALIAN WITH A FLORIDA SPIN
Fiola Miami in many ways mirrors its siblings in D.C. and Venice with its fine-dining approach to seasonal Italian cooking. But Fabio empowers his chefs to add local ingredients and cooking techniques to their menus. In Coral Gables that sometimes means a bright ceviche with locally caught bass and a Peruvian-inspired leche de tigre marinade or a salad with Florida-grown lettuces, oranges and avocados. For extra Miami swagger, you can work your way through “Italian French toast” with Key lime mascarpone at the Sunday jazz brunch, where the “Bloody Mary Royal” features a jumbo tiger prawn hanging over the rim.
“There’s nothing more Italian than to showcase the cooking and ingredients of whatever area you’re in,” he said. “In Miami, we’re working with local farmers, but we’re also welcoming Latin cooking influences into our dishes.”
That menu variety is a perk for the Trabocchis’ most loyal customers, who frequent their restaurants here, in Washington and abroad. They come for his earthy bison tartare, his comforting tiramisu and his exquisite pastas, like his signature lobster ravioli. (“Always, always the lobster ravioli,” Maria said.). In that dish, perfect pockets of lobster-filled dough swim in a rich pool of ginger-enhanced lobster stock that props up even more lobster meat. It’s a dish Fabio has been known for since he entered the U.S. dining scene.
“I say I’m Fabio’s No. 1 fan, but other people are too,” Maria said. “I like that he has such a big fan base. We have regulars in D.C. who will come see us at Fiola Miami when they’re on vacation, or people who will plan a trip to Venice and make a point to go to Fiola there.”
Getting to know regular customers has helped give Fabio and Maria the inspiration and ability to expand. They met one of their eventual partners in Fiola Miami when he would travel to Washington on business and dine at Fiola there. That customer introduced the Trabocchis to Facundo Bacardi, chair of Bacardi Ltd., who owns the 1515 Sunset Building, now home to Fiola Miami.
None of it would have come together if the foundation of the Trabocchis’ empire— exceptional food and hospitality—weren’t rock-solid. Fabio and Maria know this, and it’s what drives them to endlessly shuttle between Florida, Washington and Italy, always pushing, always striving for perfection.
“It’s emotional and beautiful, this life,” Maria said, “but we feel extremely fortunate to be surrounded by a team of people who are so talented and do what they do so well.”
— Location —
1515 SUNSET BUILDING
1500 SAN IGNACIO AVENUE
— Hours —
TUES.–FRI. NOON–2:30 P.M.
MON.–THURS. 6 P.M.–10:30 P.M.
FRI. 6 P.M.–11 P.M.
SAT. 5:30 P.M.–11 P.M.
SUN. 6 P.M.–10 P.M.
MON.–FRI. 4 P.M.–7 P.M.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on 12/13/19 to reflect the Trabocchi’s recent divorce.