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Restaurants have long kept dossiers containing photos of food critics. Who can blame them since a Post or Washingtonian review, if positive, can lead to an influx of cash from curious diners? But one restaurant thinks the stakes are so high when it comes to giving reviewers and other notable diners top notch service that they may offer a major reward.
At Fiola Mare in Georgetown, any staff member that spots a reviewer in the dining room wins $500. This is according to one current and one former staff member at the fine dining seafood restaurant with waterfront views. They both spoke under the condition of anonymity.
A third person currently employed by the restaurant said they had heard of policy but weren’t sure if it was still in place. Higher-ups in the restaurant group owned by Chef Fabio Trabocchi and his wife, Maria, did not deny the policy’s existence when asked about it.
Reached by phone in Spain, Maria Trabocchi said “I don’t know—that’s more of a Jessica question. I don’t think there’s a cash reward. I don’t know exactly how it works. Things change all the time, I’m not in there training anymore because I don’t have to be.”
The Jessica she’s referring to is Jessica Botta, the director of training and culinary development for Fabio Trabocchi Restaurants, which currently include Fiola, Casa Luca, and Sfoglina, in addition to Fiola Mare. Botta provided the following statement via e-mail:
“Recognition of all types of guests is a defining characteristic of our service program at Fabio Trabocchi Restaurants. The importance of recognition of our guests—from food critics, to members of Congress, to our investors, to VIP Club members, to first time diners—and their mood and preferences, permeates every aspect of our service culture.
We review guest preferences in daily pre-shift briefings. We require our service teams to collect and record preferences they observe during service. We expect that our teams (including our chefs) recognize guests and address them by name. We provide photos and names of all types of guests—our regulars, VIP Club members, investors, media, political figures, and food critics—to our teams and we ask them to memorize them. We include photo identification of all these categories of guests on a rotating basis in our weekly quizzes.”
Fiola Mare received three stars from Post critic Tom Sietsema and was named the number one restaurant in the D.C. area by Washingtonian magazine in 2016. The restaurant also earned a RAMMY Award in 2015 for “best new restaurant” of the year, as determined by a anonymous panel of food writers.
Photo by Flickr User Refracted Moments