Growing up in Le Marche, a region of central Italy on the Adriatic coast, farm-to-table was a lifestyle for Fabio Trabocchi. “We would often skip the supermarkets and go straight to farms,” he says, citing his father's agricultural roots. “Cooking was a way of living for us.”
Today, Trabocchi's restaurants are steeped in that sentiment. He helms four popular Washington, D.C., dining destinations that shine a spotlight on Italian cuisine, from rustic comfort food at Casa Luca and handmade traditional pastas at Sfoglina to elevated fine dining at Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence winners Fiola and Fiola Mare. Fabio's wife, Maria, oversees the restaurants’ front-of-house operations. This fall, the duo will open a new Spanish restaurant that celebrates Maria’s heritage (she was born on the island of Mallorca and grew up in Madrid) with the opening of an extravagant two-story restaurant, Del Mar, part of a new $2 billion city center along the Potomac River.
At home, the couple’s shared European background means that “the family tradition of cooking and dining all together is still very present,” says Maria. They have two teenage children, Alice and Luca.
For an Easter dish, Fabio looks to a recipe he calls “Giuseppe’s Braciole,” or “Giuseppe Trabocchi’s Grilled Pork Chops.” The dish has been offered at Casa Luca since the restaurant opened in 2013, served with grilled lemons and thick slices of Barilotto buffalo milk ricotta made in Campania. While “Giuseppe” refers to Fabio’s father, he says the recipe itself has been passed down through several generations.
“From selecting the right cut [from] the right pig to marinating it—and then we had our custom-made charcoal kettle … it was one of the best [family] dishes I remember,” says Fabio. He recalls watching his father work in the kitchen every Sunday, saying, “That’s what got me into cooking.”
For springtime, Fabio likes to use seasonal artichokes, fava beans and morel mushrooms. Before cooking the pork chops, he recommends marinating them for up to 24 hours. After that, “There is no real secret besides the fact that, especially for thick cuts, we want to remove the meat from the refrigerator at least one hour before we start cooking it,” he says. “Tempering the meat like that, so it’s not a cold piece of flesh that goes straight to a grill or skillet, will allow for more even cooking.” The pork chops should be cooked medium to medium-well.
Letting the meat rest after cooking allows the pork chops to better retain their juices. Fabio's rule of thumb is, "The equivalent of time that is dedicated to [grilling] needs to be dedicated to resting the meat."
At home, the Trabocchis love to cook outside in the backyard using a fire pit, but a stovetop skillet is an adequate substitute. The recipe can be easily adopted to other cuts of meat as well.
For wine pairings, Fabio goes Italian—“I would certainly go to a super Tuscan. It doesn't have to be very expensive”—with suggestions like Fattoria Le Pupille Riserva Morellino di Scansano 2012 and Mazzei Toscana Philip 2011. Maria looks to Spain—“I’m always rooting for my Spanish wines, though I’ve been known to love Italian!”—for finds like Ànima Negra Àn 2013, which sources the regional Callet grape variety in Mallorca.
In keeping with the Italian roots of “Giuseppe’s Braciole,” Wine Spectator's editors recommend 12 super Tuscan wine selections, below.
Recipe courtesy of Fabio Trabocchi
For the Braciole:
- 6 pork chops, 8 to 12 ounces each
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 orange
- Grated zest of 1 lemon
- 3 garlic cloves, skin left on, crushed
- 5 4-inch sprigs rosemary, leaves removed and finely chopped
- 3 whole cloves
- 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
To make the Braciole:
1. Wipe the pork chops dry and lightly season with salt and pepper. Grate the zest of the orange into a small bowl. Add the lemon zest, garlic, rosemary, cloves and olive oil. Mix well.
2. Put the pork chops in a baking dish and pour the marinade over them.
3. Turn to coat, rubbing the marinade into the meat. Squeeze the juice of the orange over the chops, turn again and cover tightly. (You can also marinate the chops in a resealable plastic bag.) Refrigerate overnight.
4. Remove the pork chops from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the marinade. Place on a plate and let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
5. Meanwhile, prepare a charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill (or preheat a cast-iron grill pan over medium-high heat).
6. Grill the pork chops for about 4 minutes per side, or until medium to medium-rare (they will continue to cook as they rest). Transfer the chops to a tray and let them rest for 10 minutes on a warm plate before serving. Serves 6.
Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More Italian red wines rated in the past year can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.
RENIERI Toscana Regina di Renieri 2012
This is pure, delivering black cherry, blackberry, spice and mineral notes, showing beautiful harmony and structure. Offers a long, tobacco-, herb- and mineral-tinged finish. Syrah. Drink now through 2023. 2,500 cases made.
ROCCA DI FRASSINELLO Maremma Toscana Ornello 2014
A rich style, showing cherry, plum, leather, earth and spice aromas and flavors, underlined by lively acidity. Finishes long and satisfying. Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Drink now through 2020. 4,166 cases made.
ARGENTIERA Bolgheri Superiore 10th Anniversary 2013
Shows some Bordeaux-like character, with underbrush elements that shout Tuscany. Black currant, cedar, tobacco, leather and wild herb notes gather around beefy tannins on the long finish. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Best from 2019 through 2027. 2,000 cases made.
CARPINETO Toscana Farnito Camponibbio 2010
Rich and lush, exuding mature aromas and flavors of plum, cassis, cedar, olive and sandalwood. Densely structured, ending with a pleasing salinity. Sangiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2023. 2,000 cases made.
LA MASSA Toscana 2014
Warm tones of ripe cherry, loam and sweet spice give way to a dense, muscular structure in this solid red. Succulent and long. Enjoy this while the fruit is still present. Sangiovese, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Drink now through 2020. 9,600 cases made.
TENUTA SETTE PONTI Cabernet Sauvignon Toscana Poggio al Lupo 2014
This has nice sweet fruit notes, with black cherry, black currant and cedar aromas and flavors matched to dense, grainy tannins and earth and tobacco accents. Pretty overall, with spicy length. Drink now through 2023. 1,700 cases made.
CA' MARCANDA Toscana Promis 2014
A bright, peppery red, with cherry and strawberry fruit accented by leather and spice notes. Compact finish, yet this is long and attractive. Merlot, Syrah and Sangiovese. Drink now through 2020. 12,500 cases made.
CERALTI Bolgheri Scirè 2015
This expressive red oozes with black cherry, blueberry and spice flavors. Not complex or long, but the fruit is fresh and there is good structure underneath. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Drink now through 2022. 3,000 cases made.
GUICCIARDINI STROZZI Bolgheri Campo Al Capriolo 2014
Tightly wound, with density shoring up the black cherry, black currant and herb flavors. Shows good ripeness for the vintage, with a lingering finish. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. Drink now through 2020. 5,000 cases made.
CASTELLO BANFI Cabernet Sauvignon-Sangiovese Toscana Col di Sasso 2015
Offers a straightforward mouthful of cherry, currant and spice flavors, with a touch of herbs. Balanced and ready to drink. Drink now through 2019. 125,000 cases made.
LE MACCHIOLE Bolgheri 2014
A fruity style, this red features cherry, plum and spice flavors matched to a moderately firm structure. Well-balanced, with fine length. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Syrah. Drink now through 2019. 750 cases imported.
TUA RITA Toscana Perlato del Bosco 2013
Combining black cherry and blackberry notes with touches of leather and black pepper, this red is firm yet balanced and moderately long. Sangiovese. Drink now through 2020. 3,000 cases made.