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Fiamma

Fiamma is reborn, better than ever.

206 Spring St., near Sullivan St., (212) 653-0100
Dinner: Mon., 6 p.m.-10p.m.; Tues.-Thurs., 6-11 p.m.; Fri., 6 p.m.-midnight; Sat., 5:30 p.m.-midnight.
CUISINE  Modern Italian
VIBE  Civilized glamour
OCCASION  Special occasion, intimate date
DON’T-MISS DISH  Tuna crudo, Le Marche lasagna
PRICE  Prix fixe, $75; desserts, $12.
RESERVATIONS  Highly recommended

When chef Michael White departed Fiamma Osteria, restaurateur Stephen Hanson (founder of B.R. Guest Restaurants) was forced to find a chef capable of protecting his upscale Italian’s star stature.

Fiamma had never been just another B.R. Guest restaurant. It was the
luxury convertible in an 18-car garage filled with reliable,
hospitality-driven establishments (Dos Caminos, Ruby Foo’s).

Hanson seized the opportunity to upgrade: He changed the plates, the
menu, tweaked the decor and even dropped the “Osteria” from its title.
Most importantly, he secured chef Fabio Trabocchi (Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner,
Va.). A 2006 James Beard Award winner, Trabocchi was as carefully
sourced as the ingredients on the contemporary Italian prix-fixe menu.
Five weeks later, Fiamma was reborn.

What was already an elegant SoHo townhouse has been newly appointed
with glossy wood, plush white banquettes and creamy lacquered walls.
Designer Jeffrey Beers left the orange linen lampshades intact, as they
imbue a gleaming amber hue throughout the serene main dining room.

Trabocchi makes a stunning first impression. The appetizers, which
range from a buttery burrata with heirloom tomatoes to an exceptional
fontina fonduta, display poignant layerings of flavor executed with
impeccable precision. The most breathtaking composition involves
delicate nibbles of ahi: Top-notch cubes of tuna come alternatively
topped with briny sardines and sea urchins, tamed by sorrel.

The pastas demand your undivided attention: Nearly every rendering
unravels superior intricacies. Like an artist, he paints deeply
flavored ragu onto a pappardelle canvas, finished with tender ribbons
of venison.

None stand on the same regal plane as the I Vincisgrassi, a modern interpretation of a regional, Le Marche
lasagna, which rendered my table speechless. This is Trabocchi in his
finest hour: A crusty cap of Parmesan gives way to a round layering of
pasta, and ragu, all bound together and sauced with a luscious
béchamel.

The only freshly kneaded creation that didn’t prompt swoons of
delight was the lobster ravioli – ginger-infused lobster wontons – that
registered more Asian than Italian.

The Porchetta oddly suffered a similar fate. Timid meditations on
pork – shoulder, loin and rack – should have tendered a succulent roast
feast. Instead, it went stifled by its citrus and dill complements. The
other two meat entrées I sampled, veal and duck, went to overbearingly
rich extremes. A fillet of sole, marinated in chanterelle mushrooms,
offers more savor than the meats. So did the cod, olive-oil poached and
served with crunchy charred octopus, cipollini and parsley-smashed
potatoes.

As Trabocchi elevates Italian to an opulent plane, and the revamped
setting revisits the old-world glamour of fine dining, Fiamma proves
itself a restaurant worth revisiting.

The pastas demand
your undivided attention: Nearly every rendering unravels superior
intricacies. Like an artist, he paints deeply flavored ragu onto a
pappardelle canvas, finished with tender ribbons of venison.

None
stand on the same regal plane as the I Vincisgrassi, a modern
interpretation of a regional, Le Marche lasagna, which rendered my
table speechless. This is Trabocchi in his finest hour: A crusty cap of
Parmesan gives way to a round layering of pasta, and ragu, all bound
together and sauced with a luscious béchamel.

The only freshly
kneaded creation that didn’t prompt swoons of delight was the lobster
ravioli – ginger-infused lobster wontons – that registered more Asian
than Italian.

The Porchetta oddly suffered a similar fate.
Timid meditations on pork – shoulder, loin and rack – should have
tendered a succulent roast feast. Instead, it went stifled by its
citrus and dill complements. The other two meat entrées I sampled, veal
and duck, went to overbearingly rich extremes. A fillet of sole,
marinated in chanterelle mushrooms, offers more savor than the meats.
So did the cod, olive-oil poached and served with crunchy charred
octopus, cipollini and parsley-smashed potatoes.

As Trabocchi
elevates Italian to an opulent plane, and the revamped setting revisits
the old-world glamour of fine dining, Fiamma proves itself a restaurant
worth revisiting.

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