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Rome’s Fiuto introduces fine dining for dogs

Byusanewscart.com

Dec 31, 2023

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A Labrador and two Pomeranians sit under their respective owner’s chairs at Fiuto, a newly opened dog-friendly restaurant in Rome. (Federica Valabrega for The Washington Post)

ROME — On a recent, rainy autumn night, my canine companion Sherlock and I found a welcome moment of respite from the challenging Roman street life in a comfortable new restaurant — quite unique in town and across the country — appropriately named Fiuto, the Italian word for sniff.

The brand new joint for four-legged customers, and their fellow bipeds, opened last month in the area of Ponte Milvio, a neighborhood famous for its more human nightlife. Yet its own particular formula sets it apart from the others, in a town where eating is on the more formal side and tradition often trumps novelty.

The interior design seems inspired by a modernized take on Art Deco and radiates posh vibes. But the elements of cool are tempered by the warm and cuddly floor-level seating arrangements for 12 canine patrons and their escorts — with fluffy oval mats lying next to marble tables, fancy ceramic bowls and high-end Panna water bottles on the side.

By centering the experience on the pets themselves, Fiuto goes well beyond the “dog friendly” options found in so many cities.

The menu, as conceived by the owners, displays reasonably priced haute-cuisine dishes, but dodges speciesism by not discriminating: the array of courses open for the dogs is almost equally sophisticated — including a choice of obviously non alcohol-based fruity cocktails (humans can order the alcoholic varieties). And, the owners say, all of the food they serve to dogs is edible by humans, too.

“One night a guest decided she should taste her dog’s meal,” said Marco Turano, 33, the restaurant manager and one of its three owners. “Turns out they were both happy with the result.”

For my famished corgi, I opted for pork loin with a carrots-and-zucchini julienne — doubtlessly a welcome change from his regular strict diet — whereas I ordered myself some juicy parmigiana-filled tortellini as a primo.

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As much as the human-canine experience is intertwined, though, the two kitchens are quite separate. The one where food for dogs is prepared is located in a windowed booth, well visible at the bottom end of the main hall, while human courses are prepared deeper inside the restaurant.

Sherlock’s sumptuous-looking dinner was delivered with a flourish in a luxurious matte black bowl. As soon as it was laid on the ground, my boy lunged at it with a markedly un-royal passion and scarfed it all down within a matter of minutes. It did look like he’d enjoyed it thoroughly.

Luca Grammatico, 42, was the one who had prepared and served it, but this veteran dog trainer is tasked with yet another essential duty: playing the master of canine ceremonies. He keeps things polite and peaceful among customers, avoiding “cagnara” — the chaotic noise dogs produce while quarreling.

As I was walking Sherlock by another table with a sweet but muscular female pit bull pup barely older than a year, Grammatico clocked how my corgi’s intrinsic exuberance was possibly about to elicit a negative response. He swiftly materialized behind my back, and politely tugged at Sherlock’s leash, deftly avoiding a diplomatic incident.

Fiuto only opened in November and co-owner Mario Turano said it’s already doing “beyond expectations” and is at full capacity Thursday through Saturday, adding that at a Christmas party Wednesday, the restaurant was totally packed.

Meanwhile, Sherlock was having better luck at socializing with Nina, a shy 4-year-old mixed breed who was tentatively sniffing at my corgi while also exchanging glances with a poodle a few feet away.

“Nina liked her dinner a lot, as well,” says Loris Grambone, 24, a Rome-based vegan pizza chef originally from the town of Vallo della Lucania, about two hours south of Naples.

She’d just had quite a rich meal for such a small thing: rice, beef, carrots and grana cheese for a primo, and another bowl — rice, codfish and zucchini — as a secondo. “As for myself, I had the gnocchi with black kale and Brussels sprouts,” Grambone said.

“The next time she’ll surely get the dessert — and likely a drink as well,” he said, “I just need to figure out whether Nina would like that.”

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