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Teatro Goldoni's Drama and Wizardry

Jordan Wright
By Jordan Wright
Posted on Mar 03,2009
Filed Under Restaurants , Local Tastes,
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Courtesy photo
A Turin native of the Piedmont region, Teatro Goldoni's Chef Enzo Fargione
has been honing his gastronomic skills here since 1986.

If you have a taste for the theatrical then you will marvel at the drama and wizardry at Teatro Goldoni. For there is a force of culinary nature at work here...and it is no illusion.

In the glamorous dining room yards of shimmering drapes and painted harlequin panels reminiscent of Arlecchino, the jester in the Italian Commedia dell’Arte, frame a collection of Venetian masks that echo of carnivale on The Grand Canal. It’s not surprising celebrities flock to and feel at home on this luxurious stage.

Perhaps you have chosen the coveted Chef’s Table, accompanied by your friends. It’s an adventure worth sharing. For who will believe you later when you reveal the gastronomic wonders of this meal.

Let us imagine that we have our very own sorcerer to create this magic. We’ll call him Enzo, Il Divo, and he is our chef on this memorable evening. And since every sorcerer must have his apprentice, Aziz Sajid, the headwaiter, will perform as his most capable assistant to guide us on our journey.

In truth, this Turin native of the Piedmont region, Enzo Fargione has been honing his gastronomic skills in this country since 1986. As a teenager he came to the States under the aegis of legendary chef and restauranteur, Roberto Donna, where, in less than a year, he went from sous chef to head chef of Donna’s three-star Galileo Restaurant. They were later to become partners in the famed Il Radicchio. But if you follow the careers of our top Washington chefs you already know this.

Fargione, who is an artist as well as magician in the kitchen, enjoys designing his food into spectacular and innovative vignettes. These creations are as wondrous to behold, as they are delicious to partake of. A classicist, he embraces the flavors of Italy in all its guises.  “I like to create my personalized vision of regional Italian cuisine, ” he proposes.

Courtesy photo
Baked Chilean Sea Bass with 3 fennels and
saffron broth.

Urging his clientele to, “Play with your food!”  he orchestrates complex and harmonic dishes whose artistry and whimsy deliver the depth of flavor that we expect from our acclaimed chefs.

Ahi Tuna gets transformed into a lollipop with a Bagna Cauda-like sauce of garlic and anchovies. Veal Carpaccio, tender and ethereal, is surrounded by coronets filled with chanterelles, poached cardoons, 30-month old Parmesan, lemon vinaigrette and microgreens. One is invited to blend the components together to achieve a reconstructed Beef Tartare.

Here an egg is hollowed out as a vehicle for a Buridda, with its nuggets of fish and shellfish in a tomato broth. And a savory Brulee of Fois Gras, articulated as custard and crusted with porcini dust, is balanced with a green pea cappuccino and served with Vidalia onion crisps.

More “stuzzicchini” (meaning light bites in Italian) beckoned at the chef’s table. Lobster Risotto, stunningly presented in a caviar tin, and made with both a Lobster Confit and a cherry tomato confit, claimed a place in my foodheart.

Pastas beckoned with an open raviolo of black squid ink containing roasted artichoke hearts, green olives and roasted divers scallops rolled with a basil leaf. Another was saffron pasta tortelli filled with Fonduta VAldostana, a fondue using fontina cheese. It was bathed in an asparagus broth in which floated shaved black truffles.  Tutto divino!

Chilean Sea Bass arrived in a saffron broth with three fennels…raw, sliced thinly, with seeds and star anise and wild fennel “sticks” sourced and shipped from his mother’s Sicilian farm.

At last, the oft-written about spectacle of the four-minute smoked Branzino Carpaccio, roasted in a cigar box, arrived. Its lid lifted with a flourish by Aziz, the mingling aromas of the delicate fish and the Morelle mushrooms with the woodsy cedar of the cigar box hit the senses. The Branzino was brilliant….a triumph in flavor and presentation.

Hudson Valley Duck Breast followed. Is there no interlude from such culinary conquest? No, not ever, genius impels. Seared for a mere thirty seconds and sauced with a Valrhona chocolate and balsamic reduction, it partnered with chestnut puree, quince and crispy spinach.

Dessert seemed superfluous until it appeared…lavishly dark and alluring. A rich chocolate torte with a gianduja ganache, capped with an orange glaze, caramel sauce streaming beside it and a lemon mascarpone sorbet to rest the palate, the performance culminating in a sip of house-made limoncello.

This is Italian cuisine demanding a new language to communicate its complexity and innovation. Bravissimo, Enzo and buona fortuna!

If you're going…
Teatro Goldoni
1909 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
(202) 955-9494



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