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Q & A with Fabio Trabocchi

Fabio Trabocchi grew up in Italy, where his father and grandparents taught him the basics of Italian cooking from growing fresh ingredients to buying meat from the local butcher.  Comfortable in the kitchen by age 8, Fabio excelled in multiple Michelin-star restaurants throughout his teenage years.  He then traveled the world learning regional cuisines and kitchen styles, eventually standing still in Washington, DC to create the concept and open Maestro, located in Tyson’s Corner, VA.  Here, he received 4-star reviews and the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Mid-Atlantic in 2006. 

Despite his success in DC, New York City called.  Fabio recently joined the team of B.R. Guest Restaurants as executive chef of the newly face lifted Fiamma in SoHo.  He has received momentous acclaim for the fine dining he has implemented.  Signature dishes offered in his prix-fixe menu include the "I Vincisgrassi" with Le Marche lasagna and black trumpets and the "Il Tonno," crudo of ahi tuna topped marinated sardines, sea urchin, and panne frito.



did you want to be when you grew up?

I still haven’t decided.

was your first job in food?

When I was 14 I got a job working in a small seasonal
restaurant in Numana, in Le Marche, by the sea.

You grew up in Italy cooking beside your father and grandfather; How did your
family influence your perception of food and cooking?

For my father, food was just a normal part of life.  I
received an indirect education from him every day because we did the simple
tasks necessary to feed the family.  I went with him to farms, butcher
shops and markets, and learned how to select the best products along the
way.  His eye for picking the best ingredients trained me to spot them
right away; a skill which I now use all the time.

What favorite recipes do you attribute to your childhood?
Crema Fritta, a traditional Marchigiano dish.  It is
essentially just fried pastry cream.  Delicious.

You have been working in Michelin restaurants since you
were 16.  How was being young in that environment instrumental in becoming
the chef you are today?

The experience shaped my character as a chef very
early.  I consider myself very lucky to have spent time in those kitchens
at such a young age.  What I learned during that time is like a briefcase
of knowledge that I’ve carried with me everywhere since. It was also an
instrumental foundation to stand on when I went out on my own.

You have worked all over the world – Moscow, London, Spain– do you have a favorite region to work?

Working in New York is unlike anywhere else and the energy here is
inspiring.  I have loved it so far.  But I think my favorite place is Spain – working there was a tremendous experience and it has a
special place in heart because it is where my wife is from and we go often to
visit family.

Most recently, you were chef de cuisine at Maestro in the
Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner in
McLean, VA, where you earned 4-stars from the Washington Post.
What did it feel like to get 4-stars?

Each time it was one minute of glory followed by a year of
responsibility until the next review.  The Washington Post re-reviews top
restaurants each year, so once we had four it was hard work to maintain that
standard.  It is a combination of hard work and vision, and never a
one-man game.

Moving to NYC, you are the executive chef at Fiamma. How
has the transition from DC to NYC been? What are the biggest differences in the
restaurant industry?

The New York marketplace is much more competitive than Washington due to the pure volume of restaurants and chefs, and it has
been an adjustment working in this professional climate.  I was very
fortunate to have been supported by my former team at Maestro – many of them
came with me when I left. I felt responsible for them and offered everyone a

Also, at Maestro I had an open kitchen, and now at Fiamma it
is a closed one, so it is a completely different way of working.

How has the restaurant changed since all of the positive reviews you’ve recently received?
The restaurant is certainly busier.  The food is always
evolving and it is important to me to keep tuned into what the New York clientele love to eat and want to come back for. Reviews are
wonderful, but I have learned that it is important to embrace the customers in
each different market that you work in.

Having worked in kitchens all over the world, how does the
culinary scene in NYC compare?

The New York culinary scene is like an all-star team.  You are
cooking with chefs from all over the world in one town.  There’s always an
excuse to go out and experience new cuisine, which is exciting.

Your pasta dishes at Fiamma are truly spectacular.
What is your take on some NYC Italian restaurants not making their own pasta?

I think the majority of Italian restaurant that are sticking
to the vision of true Italian cuisine DO make their own pasta.  Pasta is
so personal because of the culture of making it Italy, that it just makes sense to make your own.  It is
important to do it yourself if you want to control the product and know exactly
what goes into it.

What’s your favorite dish on Fiamma’s menu right
now and why?


To stay light, La Buratta, to indulge in a decadent
I Vincisgrassi.  For comfort food, La Trippa. And La
Porchetta to make me remember where I come from.

What’s your least favorite dish (and yes, you must pick

I don’t have one.  If I had a least favorite dish, it
shouldn’t be on the menu.

What is your junk food of choice?
Every once in a while I’ll grab a hot dog.

Other than your own, what’s your favorite restaurant in

Daniel, Per Se, Maremma and my kids love Crispo.

What culinary trend do you most embrace?
Every kitchen evolves and it’s important to stay
current, but also to maintain a balance of culinary trends so that you don’t
lose your identity.  As long as you are doing that, the trends don’t

What trend do you wish would die already?
Like I said, I don’t think the trends are as important as whether
chefs are true to their own style.

What’s next on the horizon for you? Any new ventures or
restaurants in the works? Spill the beans…

Fiamma NYC is my main focus for right now.

Address: 206 Spring St. btwn. 6th Ave. & Sullivan Sts.
Phone: (212)653-0100

Until we eat again,
Restaurant Girl
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