Image: Trout with roe and truffles.
Last Updated: 6/3/2020
Before Times Review:
Last Visited: November 2019
Fiola Mare is a grand enterprise. Sprawling over 9000 square feet of space on the Georgetown Waterfront, it is not a quiet refuge of refinement. It is a bold stage for opulence. The staff swirls. The brass and glass sparkle. The cooking is inspired by the Marche region on the Adriatic coast where Chef/Owner Fabio Trabocchi grew up. Though the ambiance seems to come from the ancient Sybarites who settled further south on boot of Italy.
Like the setting, the dishes do not err on the side of restraint. Trout comes with roe and truffle shavings. A mainstay is lobster ravioli with several large pieces of lobster added to the stuffed pasta. Depending on your perspective, the lobster is the reason for the $60 price or vice versa. In either case, it is quite enough to make the most botoxed face crack with a smile of pleasure. As you would expect, pastas that rotate with the seasons are excellent. On a recent cold night, it was Cacio e Pepe that was stuffed pasta instead of long and toasted pepper that zings. True to its name, seafood is the star from grilled pieces prepared simply or more complex compositions. A recent tuna dish with mushrooms was so rich and earthy with preserved mushrooms, Porcini crema and Madeira jus, that it paired better with red wine. Crudos are creative and sharp. The ingredients are well-sourced and fresh. The kitchen demonstrates attention and care, despite its industrial scale. Chef Anton Bolling has had the helm here for a good stretch now and the quality reflects his skill running the operation. This is top-notch quality where the food manages to match and arguably transcend the setting.
As noted, the space is more an immersive theater of activity than a temple of dining. There is a grand dining room, smaller rooms, a front and back bar, and outdoor seating. At the bar, well-coifed Gen Xers and baby boomers sip with professionals of various trades. The bar staff is engaging and sharp. Multiple dishes require tableside service and the team on the floor consistently delivers the necessary drama of the presentation. The wine list is deep. There are bottles to show off for your client dinners and bottles of quality to ponder at lesser price points. The list is substantial enough that, unless you are an expert, asking for help is an advisable option. The somms and the rest of the beverage team are talented and skillful.
On warm nights, those with the pockets to afford the opulence pack the place where they mix with those for whom this is their annual splurge. On colder nights, it can wrap you in the warm lighting and the heat of the activity. If you can afford it, it is superb cooking in a vibrant setting and worth taking the trip to the Georgetown waterfront.
Other Guidance: Dress is generally upscale casual to more special occasion formal. Jackets are not required, but the site notes “we respectfully request that gentlemen refrain from wearing shorts, sandals, sleeveless shirts, and baseball caps. Athletic wear and torn clothing are not permitted.” There are many GF options and the kitchen is willing to accommodate.
Michelin: Plate Michelin Rating. No matter how good the food at Mare is, the scale of the place is an obstacle to a star.