D.C. Grand Award Winner Fiola Reopens as Farm-Driven Pop-Up

Fiola 2.0 features a partnership with a Virginia farm. Plus, New Orleans Grand Award winner Commander’s Palace is back, a seasoned L.A. restaurateur joins forces with a longtime colleague and fellow Sicilian chef, and more

D.C. Grand Award Winner Fiola Reopens as Farm-Driven Pop-Up
The menu at Fiola 2.0 highlights a new partnership between chef Fabio Trabocchi's D.C. Grand Award winner and Virigina's Chancellors Rock Farm. (Greg Powers)
Sep 10, 2020

Wine Spectator Grand Award–winning destination Fiola returns to Washington, D.C., Sept. 10 as a pop-up concept called Fiola 2.0, featuring an enhanced farm-driven focus. Led by chef Fabio Trabocchi, the pop-up highlights a locally sourced menu through a new alliance with Chancellors Rock Farm in Rappahannock County, Va. Trabocchi cites his childhood as the inspiration for the partnership with the farm, which focuses on sustainable agriculture and cattle raising.

“My father taught me not just about cooking, but about food sourcing and sustainable farming,” Trabocchi said in a statement shared with Wine Spectator. “Growing up in Italy, these were not trends; they were and still are the way of life for Italians.”

The three-course menu starts at $85 per person and changes daily depending on which ingredients are at their peak. There are options for guests to customize their meal, and luxurious add-on options like caviar and specialty cured pork Culatello imported from Italy. Also available is Fiola’s full Grand Award–winning wine list of nearly 3,000 selections, managed by wine director Casper Rice.

Earning the Grand Award in 2019, the Fiola cellar excels in selections from the top regions of Italy and France, rounded out by premier Californian wines. For now, the pop-up is open at Fiola’s flagship location until the end of September, but representatives from the restaurant hint that the experience could continue in the future. Trabocchi’s other Restaurant Award winners, Fiola in Miami and Fiola Mare in D.C., are both open for indoor and outdoor dining, as well as takeout.—Taylor McBride

Commander’s Palace Reopens with an Added To-Go Spot

Following a months-long dining-room closure due to the coronavirus crisis, historic Grand Award winner Commander's Palace reopens in New Orleans’ Garden District Sept. 11. Both dinner service and brunch service will resume, with socially distanced tables and masks required for all employees.

According to a release shared with Wine Spectator, diners can expect time-tested Creole classics as well as some fresh recipes, like a new version of the pecan-crusted Gulf fish with crab-fat butter, and quail lacquered with Cafe Pierre, “a flaming coffee drink invented by our family.” Not to mention the legendary wine program of nearly 3,000 selections curated by wine director Dan Davis, which boasts several regional strengths including Burgundy, California, the Rhône, Bordeaux, Italy and Spain.

In addition to welcoming guests for in-person dining, the team is also debuting Le Petit Bleu, a takeout-only spot next door. The concept was sparked by the success of the off-site services Commander’s had been offering in the meantime, like shipping signature dishes nationwide and hosting virtual wine tastings. There’s no wine available from Le Petit Bleu at this time, but guests can pick up chef Tory McPhail’s creations such as crabmeat ravigote and muffaletta sandwiches.—J.H.

Piero Selvaggio Joins L.A.’s Drago Centro as a Managing Partner

Piero Selvaggio and Celestino Drago
Restaurateur Piero Selvaggio and chef Celestino Drago are longtime colleagues, and now, business partners. (Courtesy of Drago Centro)

Restaurateur Piero Selvaggio has become a managing partner at chef Celestino Drago’s Best of Award of Excellence–winning L.A. restaurant, Drago Centro. Friends for more than four decades, both men are well-regarded in the L.A. restaurant scene. Part of Selvaggio’s Valentino Restaurant Group, Valentino in Santa Monica was one of the original Wine Spectator Grand Award winners in 1981 before its 47-year run came to an end in 2018. “[Celestino] was looking for support, and I very much look at Drago Centro as a continuation of what I was doing at Valentino,” Selvaggio told Wine Spectator via email, “so I was very happy to join him.”

Selvaggio is planning to help enhance the nearly 1,000-selection wine program managed by wine director Mark Sadr, which is largely focused on picks from Piedmont, Tuscany and California. “Wine has given me so much,” Selvaggio said. “I am hoping to help boost the [Drago Centro] list another 20 percent to a Grand Award level by bringing in big-name wines.”

The change comes just after the Italian restaurant recently reopened with a new tree-lined patio, a fresh summer menu and takeout and delivery options. Selvaggio is confident that downtown L.A.’s dining scene, including Drago Centro, will recover from its current difficulties once crowds and conventions return to the city. In the meantime, he’s focusing on improving the restaurant where he can and focusing on top service. In Selvaggio’s view, fine dining is like theater, in that he can prepare—like an actor or a circus ringleader—to create a great dining experience. “Celestino and I understand each other perfectly,” said Selvaggio, “We are both looking to achieve the same thing and that is to bring Drago Centro to the next level together.” Selvaggio is also considering reopening Valentino with Drago in the future.— Collin Dreizen

Chef Danny Grant Opens Another Chicago Restaurant

Open-flame cooking setup at Etta River North
Numerous items on the menu at Etta River North are infused with flavor from wood-fired cooking. (Courtesy of Etta River North)

Danny Grant, the chef behind two Best of Award of Excellence–winning locations of Maple & Ash, opened a new outpost of his Etta restaurant in Chicago’s River North neighborhood Aug. 20. “We are so fortunate to be in a position to open a new restaurant right now, and there’s no doubt in my mind Etta is the perfect addition to River North,” Grant said in a statement shared with Wine Spectator.

Following the original’s debut in July 2018, the second Etta is an all-day café serving pastries from Grant’s Aya Bakery in the morning, and Italian classics and wood-fired fare in the evenings. There are smaller plates like spicy meatballs and charred short rib and peppers, as well as “for the table” dishes such as fire-roasted whole branzino and pork-chop Milanese. Managed by wine director Jacob Schwimmer, the wine list comprises more than 60 selections, with dynamic offerings from France, California and Italy. To adapt to the rapidly changing restaurant landscape, Etta River North will also be offering wood-fired picnic sets that are available exclusively at the new location.

The brand has plans to expand to Los Angeles and Ft. Lauderdale., Fla. In the meantime, the Maple & Ash locations are both open for dine-in and take out in Chicago and Scottsdale, Ariz.—T.M.

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