Young and Hungry

Sonoma Hires Trabocchi Acolyte to Replace Drew Trautman

Less than a month after chef Drew Trautman left Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar to reunite with Troy Bock at Mendocino Grille & Wine Bar, co-owner Eli Hengst has installed Nicholas Sharpe as chef de cuisine at the Capitol Hill operation. Sharpe is something of an acolyte of Fabio Trabocchi; he worked under the celebrated modern-Italian chef both at Maestro in the Ritz-Carlton at Tysons and at Fiamma in New York City, which closed down earlier this year.

Hengst has also hired Brian Cook as wine program director for Sonoma. Both Sharpe and Cook will roll out new menus and wine lists for the spring. The latter will include 40 wines by the glass.

Until Sharpe gets settled at Sonoma, however, former Hook toque (and newly hired chef for the forthcoming sister restaurant, Blue Ridge, in Glover Park) Barton Seaver will oversee kitchen operations at the restaurant and assist with developing the spring menu. In a brief phone conservation today, Seaver said he will help Sharpe secure local ingredients, develop relationships with local farms, and create a cohesive vision for the restaurant.

In a press release that is supposed to drop this afternoon, Hengst notes that this chef collaboration is "great opportunity for [Sharpe] and for us, to keep Sonoma constantly improving," notes Hengst. Sharpe most recently cooked at Mio before coming to Sonoma.

The release also notes that the new menu will reflect "Sharpe's fresh approach to locally sourced, Italian inspired cuisine comprised of four basic groups: artisanal local cheeses, antipasti, and house-made charcuterie; handmade pasta and pizzas; wood-grilled meats and seafood, and seasonal produce and salads. New menu highlights include Mozzarella risotto with braised bitter greens; a selection of house-cured seafood such as smoked sturgeon with almond oil and orange zest; marinated razor clams with sorrel vinaigrette, and local pork braised with white wine, garlic and ginger.

The full release is after the jump.

Managing Partner Eli Hengst is pleased to announce the creative culinary team for Sonoma Restaurant & Wine Bar. The new talent, Chef de Cuisine Nicholas Sharpe and Wine Program Director Brian Cook, are focused on developing a new menu and wine list for spring 2009. The new team will highlight the Italian influences on Sonoma's seasonal Mid-Atlantic menu, and take advantage of the bountiful spring supply of ingredients from local sources.

A graduate of Johnson and Wales University, Nicholas Sharp moved to the nation's capital in May 2006 to work at notable restaurant Vidalia. The following year he joined Chef Fabio Trabbochi at Maestro, later moving to New York City to work under him at the highly praised Fiamma Restaurant. Then in June 2008, Sharpe returned to DC and has most recently spent time working as the sous chef at Mio Restaurant.

"What excited me about Nicholas wasn't just his impressive background working with Chef Trabbochi at Fiamma and Maestro, but his modesty and eagerness to bring his expertise in Italian cuisine and his knowledge of seasonal ingredients to a neighborhood restaurant," states Eli Hengst. "I think Nicholas is going to thrive in a setting where he is free from some of the formal constraints of fine dining, and allowed to focus on the kind of ingredient-driven straightforward cooking that has been a hallmark of Sonoma from day one."

Barton Seaver, who was recently named Executive Chef of Blue Ridge opening in late April 2009, will help guide the culinary team at Sonoma in the early stages of developing the new spring menu. Seaver will serve as a sounding board for the chefs as they implement the ongoing menu changes that are the hallmark of Sonoma's seasonal mission. "Nicholas was a real culinary find, and I'm looking forward to leading what I consider an incredible team of talent at Sonoma and Blue Ridge," states Chef Seaver. "Nicholas will be running the show day-to-day at Sonoma, but when it comes to developing and tasting new items and ensuring they adhere to our mission, it will be a team effort. "

The chance for Nicholas to collaborate with Barton Seaver is another great opportunity for him and for us, to keep Sonoma constantly improving," notes Hengst. By late spring, guests dining at Sonoma can anticipate a menu that reflects Chef Sharpe's fresh approach to locally sourced, Italian inspired cuisine comprised of four basic groups: artisanal local cheeses, antipasti, and house-made charcuterie; handmade pasta and pizzas; wood-grilled meats and seafood, and seasonal produce and salads. New menu highlights include Mozzarella risotto with braised bitter greens; a selection of house-cured seafood such as smoked sturgeon with almond oil and orange zest; marinated razor clams with sorrel vinaigrette, and local pork braised with white wine, garlic and ginger. Typically prices for antipasto and pizza range from $5 to $22, firsts from $6-$14, and seconds range from $12 to $29.

On Sonoma's wine front, Brian Cook is now overseeing the wine portfolio for the restaurant and wine bar as the Wine Program Director. He is presently updating the wine list to include over 100 bottles and 40 wines by the glass in a certified Winekeeper system. His new list is designed to complement the new seasonal menu with Italian, West Coast and Cal-Italian varietals. Examples include Maretima Verdicchio, Castelli di Jesi (Marches, Italy) for $7/glass; Argiolas "Costamolino" Vermentino, Sardinia (Italy) $10/glass; JK Cabernet Sauvignon, Sierra Foothills, CA, $7/glass; Villa Puccini "Gold" (Sangiovese & Cabernet Sauvignon) Toscana, $12/glass; Soter "North Valley" Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley for $20/glass and Benovia Pinot Noir, Sonoma Coast, CA, $19/glass.

Sonoma, owned by Eli Hengst and Jared Rager opened in 2005, and is an upscale causal neighborhood restaurant dedicated to Italian inspired seasonal, sustainable Mid-Atlantic cuisine. The 6,500 square foot space encompasses two levels. The first floor is a bustling, upscale casual bistro reminiscent of neighborhood enotecas found throughout Italy. Outlined in restored brick and decorated in warm woods and soft gray tones, Sonoma features a long bar, a cozy outdoor patio, and communal tables reserved for neighborhood walk-ins. The second floor Avenue Lounge is an airy, elegant, modern space, and is perfect for large cocktail parties, fundraisers, product launches, and personal events up to 150 guests. Sonoma's intimate private dining room, also on the second floor, is available for seated dinners for up to 40 guests and receptions for up to 60. Sonoma is located on 223 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. To make reservations call 202.544.8099 and please visit www.sonomadc.com.

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