Fine Dining at Fiola

Fiola Restaurant in the South Gables is Gastronomical Heaven

Two years ago, when we first introduced our readers to Fiola, it had been newly transplanted to the Gables from Washington, D.C., by master chef and restaurateur Fabio Trabocchi. We were impressed not only by the quality and inventiveness of the cuisine, but also by the professionalism of the staff and the presentation of the food. We still are.

Coral Gables is a notoriously unforgiving environment for new restaurants, but Fiola has not only survived (including nine rugged pandemic months), but is thriving. And for good reasons. Fiola impresses on many levels, but its attention to detail is paramount. The seating, for example. The dining area is divided into three areas, separated by two glass wall partitions, one stocked with bottles of wine, the other decorated with blown glass vases and bottles of rare Bacardi rum (Fiola is located, after all, in the family office building of Facundo Bacardi). You can sit on one of the green banquettes that line the walls and partitions, or in a comfortable, upholstered armchair, each with a small pillow for the base of your back. The napkins are made with what feels like 400-thread Egyptian cotton, soft to the touch. The cutlery is gold, the tableware is Richard Ginori from Florence.

Dining at Fiola
Fiola is located in the family office building of Facundo Bacardi.

On the night we dined, the complimentary amuse bouche was a perfect example of the complexity of flavors – and presentations – at Fiola: Our waiter described it as a “paleta” or popsicle: A small bite of cantaloupe topped with Jamon Iberico, resting in a pool of white garlic sauce with cashew powder and chive oil, served in a small hand-crafted bowl lined with gold leaf.

For diehard fans of Fiola, several of the signature dishes remain on the menu. These include the amazing lobster ravioli. The lobster is cooked over a low temperature rather than boiling it, to ensure juiciness. The ravioli dough is wonton, not egg pasta, so that it can be steamed rather than boiled. The dish uses ginger and rosemary to enhance the flavor.

Dining at Fiola
Lobster ravioli with ginger and rosemary.

Another signature dish is the porcini mushroom “cappucino” soup, which starts with a bowl occupied by Parmigiano foam, chanterelle mushrooms and sheep’s milk ricotta-stuffed pasta, over which the waiter pours a hot porcini mushroom broth from a porcelain coffee pot. A work of art filled with subtle shifts of flavor.

With the addition of Cuban-American Chef Brian Garcia, however, some of the newer dishes reflect a sensibility to South Florida tastes, especially in the realm of seafood.

One of these is a “gragnano” spaghetti, using whole wheat pasta that is cooked in a fish broth, tossed with a creamy blend of parsley stems, white wine, clam stock and tiny red peppers, then layered over four types of very fresh clams. A fantastic and complex explosion of flavors with a nice bite to the pasta – and no cheese in the sauce.

Gragnano spaghetti with littleneck clams, middleneck clams and surf clams.

He reprises this depth of flavors with a grilled branzino that is served “fisherman style” with Prince Edward Island mussels, a corn and zucchini succotash, red piquillo peppers and lemon grass. The result is a highly aromatic broth and a delicious texture to accompany the flaky branzino with its seasoned, crisp skin. Another masterpiece of rich, deeply entangled tastes.

Fisherman's Style branzino
Fisherman’s style Spanish branzino with Prince Edward Island mussels, succotash, and piquillo peppers.

Of course, Fiola is at heart an Italian restaurant, with risotto, rigatoni, carpaccio and burrata of mozzarella on the menu. But it’s in the newer dishes that local flavors, and the inspirations of Chef Garcia, are apparent. These include some superb sides, like a savory charred sweet corn cooked with butter, chives and black pepper, and roasted heirloom baby carrots cooked with spiced almonds, grappa cherries and sumac honey. As good as it sounds.

“It’s an eclectic menu that has something for everyone,” says owner-partner Thomas Angelo. “If someone wants a hardcore Italian meal, with comfort food like meatballs or pasta, they can have that. If someone wants something clean, like fish, we have that. And then we have some great seasonal dishes, where we try to keep the menu fresh.”

Dining at Fiola
Fiola meatballs with shaved royal trumpet mushrooms, tomato and parmigiano.

Fiola has also worked with the city to create outdoor dining for patrons concerned with social distancing – including a tented area on the street and tables under veranda arches – though the high ceilings and spacing make the inside feel comfortably safe. 

1500 San Ignacio Ave.