As a huge soccer fan, Maria Trabocchi of the Fiola family of Italian restaurants sympathized with the prep cooks who asked to put a TV in the prep kitchen for the next few weeks as the world’s biggest soccer event plays out.
But her husband, chef Fabio Trabocchi — an Italian who isn’t as much of a soccer fan, she said — had to put his foot down.
“He said, ‘Absolutely not,’” said Maria Trabocchi, a Spanish native who supports FC Barcelona and is donning a subtle Spanish flag bracelet during the World Cup. “It’s not a good idea to have a TV on if you’re playing with knives.”
While sports bars and casual spots around D.C. are embracing the World Cup full force through specials and promotional events, celebrating the tournament may not come as naturally to some of the city’s higher-end restaurants, Fiola and Fiola Mare among them. (The Trabocchis also own Casa Luca, a more casual, family-style Italian restaurant downtown.)
In fact, they were bracing for leave requests from staff members in advance of the tourney, given the sheer volume of requests they had two weeks ago when the Spanish team came to D.C. to play El Salvador in an exhibition match June 7.
“Nobody wanted to come to work,” said Trabocchi. “All the guys in the kitchen are either fans of Real Madrid or Barcelona. I had to say, ‘Fine.’ I totally understood.”
For those who are working, it’s Maria Trabocchi who will be bantering with the staff — and customers — about the tournament.
“I’m the first one to go in the kitchen and talk to them about the games, or we had a guest from Ghana in the other day so I had to joke, ‘Oh, too bad Spain is going to beat you,’” she said.
No matter who the staffers are rooting for, the restaurants like to embrace their employees’ loyalties and what the sport represents to them, she added.
“In Spain, the economic times have been very hard, so sports are like their inspiration right now,” she said. “The same with our South American and Central American employees. Maybe they don’t come from a rich background, but they still have that passion for the game. It’s a different way of dreaming.”
And if it comes down to Spain vs. Italy in the final? Even the more formal Fiola might have to bust out the projection screen.
“If there’s a good Spain-Italy final, I might consider bringing in a projector and doing a little party,” she said. “Why not? We are dedicated to fine dining, but this happens only once every four years. It’s not like I would do it every Friday.”