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Teatro Goldoni – Love, Italian style, at the Chef’s Table

Jordan Wright
January 2010

Chef Fargione in the kitchen at Teatro Goldoni - photo by Jordan Wright

Chef Enzo Fargione employs a decidedly patrician ethos with his modern Italian cuisine at Teatro Goldoni’s exclusive ‘chef’s table’, conjuring up tantalizing innovations more suitable for Roman Gods than mere mortals.

Cavatelli with roasted garlic cream and smoked lobster served in a silver tin - photo by Jordan Wright

This is a chef who twists, tweaks and molds his ingredients, cajoling them into his gastronomic fantasies. Will he caramelize, braise, gelatinize, puree, concentrate, desiccate, smoke, infuse or lacquer with gold leaf? Will he froth, fill, roast, bake or contort his culinary components demanding ever more textures, shapes and essences?

During a 17-course prix-fixe menu with optional wine pairings (perfect for diners disinclined to order half a dozen different complementary selections) Fargione will engineer an encyclopedia of techniques, inventions and tantalizing flavor complexities in presenting his latest gourmand fantasies.

Unlike other chef tables around town, this is a very elegant and intimate spot indeed, and oh so private. The glamorous table features a semi-circular banquette and is stunningly but simply arranged with white Garnier-Thiebaut damask, Limoges china and Fortissimo hand-blown wineglasses. A Napoleonic bee graces the handle of a tortoise-shell patterned steak knife. While under a black-shaded chandelier, twinkling with delicate crystals, the glasses sparkle, the lighting is flattering and, restaurants take note, you can see your food.

Tea light deconstructed apple flight - photo by Jordan Wright

Fargione’s signature style is to present his creations like precious gifts…whether a glass tealight holder for a deconstructed apple flight; sweet crispy cones of smoked tuna, with green olives and a tart cream and nestled in a duet case; glass vases encasing veal cheeks bathed in a huckleberry froth; or an imaginative trompe l’oeil panna cotta ‘fried eggs’ served in a petit gratin dish.

Chocolate coated olive oil mousse dusted with gold leaf - photo by Jordan Wright

Chocolate coated olive oil mousse dusted with gold leaf - photo by Jordan Wright

His enthusiasm palpable, the charismatic Fargione follows each preparation to the table describing the wines, the regions and his inspiration. Wine pairings are personally selected by the chef to balance each dish and carry certain flavors to the foreground. After a chilled glass of prosecco to launch the evening, I experienced no fewer than eight starters, called ‘appetite openers” on the menu, five subsequent entrees and seven or so wines. With small servings for each presentation you won’t be overfull.

The field informs his delicate white corn and Parmesan custard with a ruby-hued red wine caramel sparked with a translucent basil leaf. In another clever presentation, served in a sleek, round silver tin, the sea influences a luscious cavatelli with roasted garlic cream, smoked roasted lobster, porcini, peas and fresh thyme cradled in a single spoon (though cataloguing of the ingredients barely expresses the complexity of this offering).

Manila clams with candied cherry tomato, spinach foam and pipette of briny clam broth at Teatro Goldonis Chefs Table - photo by Jordan Wright

The journey progresses with a miniature Manila clam ragout, strewn with candied cherry tomatoes bursting with a deep sweet intensity, while a plump caper berry acts as counterpoint beneath aeronautical spinach foam. At the table an infusion of briny clam broth squeezed through a miniature pipette, activates the alchemy. The tiny sampling utterly delicious…but you will find your own treasures…there are so many to swoon over.

Wild Sockeye salmon with acqua pazza arrucola pesto broth - Photo by Jordan Wright

An unforgettable foie gras, studded with mostarda di Cremona (preserved fruits from the Lombardy region), harmoniously balanced the goose liver, mustard and candied cherries. The world melted gently away. Imagine it with a Merlot wine caramel, balsamic vinegar gelato and hazelnut tuile. This is a mere sliver of the evening’s culinary jewelry that takes inspiration from many different regions of Italy.

In all, Fargione challenges earth, wind and fire, revealing sparks of brilliance at every turn. At this extraordinarily sophisticated level of cooking, the desire of the chef to tempt the palate, prepare it for the next bite and dazzle with ever greater gastronomics speaks passionately to the connoisseur. And does that not define the language of love!

Vanilla pannacotta dessert sunnyside up with virtual bacon - photo by Jordan Wright

Bravisssimo, Chef Fargione!

If you go, and I highly recommend it, make your reservations for the Chef’s Table and inquire as to the optional wine pairings.

Teatro Goldoni
1909 K Street, NW
Washington, DC 20006
202 955-9494

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