The Dish: Marriage, with a Side of Restaurants

The dynamic Trabocchi duo balance the front and back of the house at five dining options, including their new hit coastal Spanish restaurant Del Mar.

As the first restaurant to sign on to the Wharf waterfront development, Fabio and knew Del Mar’s 13,800-square-foot space with five private dining rooms, a balcony and two patio areas set to open this summer, would be a risk. But the husband and wife restaurateurs have enjoyed such success with their other dining concepts (Fiola, Fiola Mare, Sfoglina, Casa Luca) that it was one they were willing to take. Del Mar, or “from sea” in Spanish, is also Mallorcan-born Maria’s middle name. She says this restaurant was Fabio’s gift to her, and what a gift it has been. Since its opening last October, Del Mar has become a nationally-recognized hit for its Mediterranean charm and quality seafood-inspired menu.

In the two years leading up to Del Mar’s debut, the Trabocchis spared no expense or detail. Each design element of the restaurant has a story and a place, from the hand-painted tiles imported from Spain in the bathroom stalls to the staff uniforms, which Maria designed herself. Before final decisions were made, the Trabocchis washed silverware in their home dishwasher to ensure durability and personally tested seating for comfort.

With all the personal touches (Maria scoured her hometown for decor and pottery to accent the space), Del Mar is equal parts sophistication and comfort. “We always design our restaurants as we would our home,” Maria explains, emphasizing that dining at Trabocchi restaurants should be an experience.

The couple spent months doing culinary research ahead of Del Mar’s opening, tasting and learning from Spanish chefs, but the most important flavor profiles were the ones that reminded Maria of her childhood on the Mediterranean. For those, she turned to her family in Mallorca to share traditional recipes, explaining that the paella, specifically, had to be just right. It wasn’t “until I could close my eyes and feel like I was in Spain” that she signed off on the shareable menu favorite, which in one iteration incorporates lobster, calamari, mussels and prawns over top bomba rice. Kitchen appliances were imported from Spain to ensure that classic dishes, like churros, come as close to the real thing as possible.

On a typical day before service, Maria reviews all the reservations in the system, marking guest’s names she doesn’t recognize so that she can make a point to stop by their table to introduce herself. Additionally, she keeps an eye out for diners who appear to be splurging on a date night or special occasion and sends over Champagne. On any given day at any one of his restaurants, Fabio can be found in the kitchen orchestrating menus, which change daily, and coordinating a slew of internationally-sourced food orders. In the evenings, the Trabocchis kick back with glasses of wine to recap their days and “combine notes.”

Although the couple, who live in Georgetown with their two children, like to keep their personal lives private, they are fixtures on the social scene. Attending events and supporting causes, Maria says, is very important to their personal philosophy. They recently chaired the Refugees International Dinner two years in a row. “Once we can, we need to give back because [Washington] has given everything to us,” Maria remembers telling Fabio early on. “We need to create legacy.”

The duo’s ability to harmoniously sync the front and back of house at their restaurants is reflective of their 18-year marriage. “There is a magic to our partnership,” Maria says, joking that all she has to do is look at Fabio for him to know exactly what she’s thinking. When they are both present during service, the staff stands a little straighter, Maria says, setting the tone and the high bar Del Mar has established, and by many’s opinion, exceeded.

WHAT TO ORDER:

Hand Carved 5J Jamón Ibérico ($26), Paella de Pescado y Marisco ($98) (serves 2-4) Del Mar | 791 Wharf St. SW | www.delmardc.com| (202) 525-1402 | entrees start at $30

This article appeared in the June 2018 issue of Washington Life Magazine.

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