LTH Home

Spiaggia -- elegant food, sublime service

Spiaggia -- elegant food, sublime service
  • Forum HomePost Reply BackTop
     Page 1 of 2
  • Spiaggia -- elegant food, sublime service

    Post #1 - October 3rd, 2005, 1:16 pm
    Post #1 - October 3rd, 2005, 1:16 pm Post #1 - October 3rd, 2005, 1:16 pm
    Just wanted to report on the lovely dinner my husband and I enjoyed at Spiaggia on Saturday night, for our anniversary. We had been there years ago and I recognize that it's no longer cutting edge, but I recalled a fine meal that time before and had wanted to return. We were not at all disappointed. I don't have a digital camera nor a photographic memory, so I can't produce pictures or recall the names and preparations of all the dishes we had, but I began with a lovely appetizer with fish presented three ways, then a rustic spaghetti with lobster, and then fish (can't even remember which kind now -- bad reporting, I realize) very simply prepared with an herb crust and absolutely heavenly marinated cherry tomatoes. My husband, not a fish guy, began with loin of rabbit, then gnocchi, and the filet of beef. All really wonderful, but what made the evening so nice and what I want to emphasize was the tremendously cordial service -- we had to wait a bit for our table, and were treated to Champaign at the bar (they knew it was our anniversary.) Once we were seated, at a window table, the meal was perfectly paced and the servers were informative and friendly without being unctuous. Finally, when I hesitated over which dessert to get -- finally settling on chestnut-chocolate filled beignets -- they brought me, on the house, my second choice as well, a lemon panna cotta, saying that one shouldn't have to want for anything when celebrating an anniversary. My husband thus got to eat his hazelnut-chocolate terrine and two of my little beignets, as he doesn’t much care for lemon, and I found the panna cotta just divine. All in all, we felt indulged and deliciously fed, and thus had a delightful time.

    One note related to another discussion: we were both nicely dressed, in accordance with the restaurant’s dress code (jacket required). We were there fairly late, though, and did notice several parties not exactly subscribing to the letter of the law – particularly one gregarious couple we noticed chatting with some folks at a table on our way out. The man was dressed in a fleece vest and jeans. My husband asked the hostess on the way out if he had been mistaken about the jacket requirement, given the way that fellow was dressed. No, we were told, they do ask that gentlemen wear jackets – but the man attired in the fleece vest happened to be the President of the Levy corporation. So if you own the place, I guess, you can wear what you want.
  • Post #2 - October 3rd, 2005, 3:54 pm
    Post #2 - October 3rd, 2005, 3:54 pm Post #2 - October 3rd, 2005, 3:54 pm
    ToniG wrote:and were treated to Champaign at the bar

    You know, in order for them to call it Champaign, it has to come from Champaign. :P I kid! I kid because I love.

    Thanks for the report. My wife and I have our big #9 coming up and this sounds like a great time to try Spiaggia; neither of us has ever been.
  • Post #3 - October 3rd, 2005, 4:49 pm
    Post #3 - October 3rd, 2005, 4:49 pm Post #3 - October 3rd, 2005, 4:49 pm
    :oops: You know, and I used spellcheck. Of course my spellcheck is probably Illinois-based and thus led me astray. But mostly I was focused on making sure I did not confuse "there" and "their" as I had just read some other posts and was trying to shake that off. But grammer, spelling, logical sentence construction, those things are evidently behind us now. Eat, drink and dangle your participles. And the dinner really was good.
  • Post #4 - October 4th, 2005, 11:52 am
    Post #4 - October 4th, 2005, 11:52 am Post #4 - October 4th, 2005, 11:52 am
    Toni G. wrote: "Eat, drink and dangle your participles"

    Seems to me a very strong candidate for the official LTH contributor mission statement---direct, succinct, and with just a suggestion of the louche.
    "Strange how potent cheap music is."
  • Post #5 - October 5th, 2005, 8:40 am
    Post #5 - October 5th, 2005, 8:40 am Post #5 - October 5th, 2005, 8:40 am
    I never was able to write a review of my meal at Spiaggia from a few months back... I'll simply add that it was nearly flawless in both food and service.

    I had a gnocchi with truffle dish that redefined any previous notion of gnocchi. So light and pillowy... I'd love to one day find someone who does this simple pasta as well as Spiaggia, perhaps without the pricetag. Another standout was the wood-seared scallops, again a redefining experience with scallops. The sweetness and sea flavors were just perfect.
  • Post #6 - October 5th, 2005, 8:57 am
    Post #6 - October 5th, 2005, 8:57 am Post #6 - October 5th, 2005, 8:57 am
    I once had some gnocchi at, of all places, cafe le coq that were as pillowy as I can imagine gnocchi getting. It was an app, so it's pretty cheap to find out.

    edit: And I see I'm not the only one who thinks so:

    Centerstage Chicago's Review wrote:How ironic is it that the restaurant with the best gnocchi in town is a place better known for pates than pastas, and doesn't even offer it as an entree? Still, one bite of Café Le Coq's delicate potato jewels and you may just swear off Italian trattorias all together. Buoyant and flaky, it's everything gnocchi should be but almost never is; a fact compounded by a lack of anything resembling marinara sauce on the menu.
    Ed Fisher
    my chicago food photos

    RIP LTH.
  • Post #7 - July 14th, 2006, 6:56 am
    Post #7 - July 14th, 2006, 6:56 am Post #7 - July 14th, 2006, 6:56 am
    The son required a celebratory dinner for his escape from HS, and his parameters were simple - fancy Italian. Having recently enjoyed a lovely luncheon there, my decision was easy - Spiaggia.

    The family is trained well, so we went overboard. I was discouraged from taking pictures (not too hard - as readers will note, I almost never do) so you must be satisfied with my narrative.

    Short summary - an excellent meal, one or two slight misses, but they were more than offset by the hits. But, as I have noted before, in this level of place I look for more than overall excellence and in total this meal did not quite make it.

    We passed on the degustazione menus though they both looked wonderful and likely would have been less expensive than what we had. The more expensive menu is themed on aged balsamic vinegar which attracted me, but I was following not leading this evening and it was not chosen.

    The amuse was a white anchovy on a bed of something crispy (I was drinking not writing, sorry) with herbs and an herb vinaigrette. We started with baby vegetables with Bagna Cauda - tiny slices of sqash, carrot, radish, some slivers of things I did not recognize and more. Nice, simple. The bride went with the langoustinos, green beans, coriander and coriander seed. Rich, deep crustacean flavor highlighted by the light herbs. And the son went with the Gnocchi in ricotta and black truffle sauce - a sinfully earthy and rich dish that he had to defend against the forays of his fellow diners. If I had to eat just one thing...

    For the pasta course, I had the pecorino raviolini with fava beans and mint. The sauce seemed to be butter and a reduction of pecorino - liquid gold. So rather than the light summery dish I expected, it was again deep, rich, buttery and joyfully sinful. For his second pasta course, the son went with the Agnolotti, filled with a delicate ground veal, fennel pollen and crispy veal breast. I have had this before, and it was again blissful - savory, almost sweet veal in a brown butter sauce with the light touch of fennel pollen and the crispy texture of the veal shavings. The Bride chose the Risotto with porcini mushrooms, yet another creamy, rich and earthy dish. Finally, the daughter chose the Ravioletto filled with crescenza cheese with Parmesan brown butter rosemary crust and toasted garlic. A bit too big and cheesy for most of us, though when one got a piece with less cheese and more of the crust and pasta, butter and garlic it was pretty tasty.

    Somehow, I did not get a taste of the Son's grilled sea bass with white beans, rapini and olive sauce. He seemed to have no trouble finishing it, though. A pretty, little crisp filet, sitting on a bed of green and white, with tiny bits of red pepper to complete the Italian motif. Spicy pepper, too, he reported. Aside from the chocolate dessert, the Son definitely ordered the best of all of us.

    There are, to my mind, three places in Chicago where one can get a transcendental pork belly - any place Paul Kahan is associated with, Mandarin Kitchen, and Spiaggia. I am sure there are others, and I need to know, so feel free to enlighten me. The daughter happily chose the grilled pork loin, and slow roasted pork belly (how slow, I wonder - days or weeks?) with kale, honey, coriander and fennel. She liked the loin, which suffered by comparison to the belly for me - sweet, savory, rich and tender inside with a well-seasoned crust. A great pork belly is a symphony of textures, flavors and sensations that explode and caress in the mouth - and that was here. The fennel and honey added a light and sweet touch that was particularly interesting.

    The last two main courses were not so interesting for me. The bride's filet, wood-roasted, with a marrow and herb crust, mushrooms, onions and purple potato puree looked wonderful, but suffered in comparison to all the other earthy, rich dishes that proceeded. Probably a pretty good dish, in most cases, and I do love mushrooms (hen of the woods in this instance), but it did not stand out.

    And my guinea hen, also wood-roasted, wrapped in pancetta on potato puree with black truffle sauce suffered the same problem - not different enough from other dishes that preceeded it, and the guinea hen was a somewhat dry and bland medium upon which to enjoy the truffle sauce. Perhaps if I had avoided sampling the Gnocchi to start, I would not have had this issue.

    We finished with a cheese course and dessert - they have a very good cheese selection, and a nice selection of sorbetti which makes a light, sweet conclusion to such a meal.

    I particularly like the wine selection - we went with a Falanghina from Campania and a half bottle of Luce - an intense red blend from the same region, more or less. Lots of interesting wines from different regions of Italy and at different price points. I often take my own wine to dinner these days, but Spiaggia has a wine list I enjoy exploring.

    All in all, an excellent meal, and yet... Next time I might do what my son did and have two pastas and a fish course. Perhaps it was how we ordered, but the saucing and seasoning of the dishes - consisting primarily of butter, intense earthy mushrooms and usually a touch of cheese, admittedly with different herbs and seasonings on top of the base, but the base was similar - became a bit repetitious (even though butter and mushrooms are flavors I love). So despite the generally excellent preparations, wonderful ingredients, and deft hand at seasoning, I ended up wanting something different, some contrast, some different note to touch a different set of taste buds.

    Having said that, I could happily make a meal of the Gnocchi, Agnolotti, cheese course, sorbetti and a couple of wines every day for a year. The pasta - all house made the same day and passed over a pot of boiling water to cook, hardly more - are without peer. But for the overall meal another place that is mining a similar vein, Spago in LA, delivered a meal that was more interesting in total ordering a la carte.
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #8 - July 14th, 2006, 7:14 am
    Post #8 - July 14th, 2006, 7:14 am Post #8 - July 14th, 2006, 7:14 am
    I wish it were possible to get a glass of champagne at Spiaggia. The last time I dined there, the sparkling wine list was limited to overpriced, not so brilliant Italian sparkling wines. It would be really nice to have a champagne option available, even if the focus (understandably) is Italian. Maybe this will change with the departure of the former (extremely talented) sommelier.
  • Post #9 - May 27th, 2007, 8:11 pm
    Post #9 - May 27th, 2007, 8:11 pm Post #9 - May 27th, 2007, 8:11 pm
    Mrs. JiLS and I had a marvelous dinner last night at Spiaggia. This was my first visit there, and of course I was careful to search here for advice, all of which pointed toward avoiding the tasting menus and ordering a traditional first, second and third plate. The warnings were earnest, dire and ignored. We ordered the most expensive tasting menu available, the Degustazione di Produtti di Denominazione di Origine Protetta (DOP) eight-course tasting menu, with wine pairings. For those keeping score, my $150 Amex "In Chicago" rewards coupon covered just under 1/4 the total cost of this meal (with wine, tax and tip), so you've been warned. After a very nice cocktail and some delicious and extravagant bar snacks (I think we ate $10 worth of olives alone), here is what we got at table and what I thought of it:

    Course 1: Mozzarella di Bufula in due Maniere.
    Wine: 2005 Lagrein Rosato, Lageder, Alto Aldige
    . That's two slices of buffalo mozzarella the size of a gold dollar, served with Valtaro porcini mushrooms and Monti Iblei extra virgin olive oil on one, and marinated San Marzano tomato on the other. Exquisite, explosive, extraordinarily good. Mrs. JiLS asked for just a whole plate of these. But fortunately they ignored her and continued serving the other courses. The rosé wine was a nice touch, but actually unnecessary with this course and I don't actually recall having much of an opinion on it. Rosé plus tomato was a good match.

    Course 2: Due Prosciuti sul’ Bomboloni.
    Wine: 2005 Tocai Friulano, Bastianich, Friuli
    . Here was a highlight: two little doughnuts dusted in Parmigiano Reggiano and wrapped with two variations of prosciutto: di Parma and San Danielle. A fun dish, appealing at multiple levels. The Tokay was a match for the salt and funk of the little bites.

    Course 3: Sogliola con Polenta, Speck e Treviso.
    Wine: 2005 Areneis “Blange,” Ceretto, Piemonte.
    This little bite of Dover sole was actually the supporting player to the piece of funky, rich Speck and the bit of polenta underneath that was really just a suspension of cornmeal in cream. The lot was dribbled in a firm and tasty Chianti Classico olive oil. A very solid preparation with that extraordinary slice of Speck. Would have repeated this course if given the chance.

    Course 4: Gnocchi Ripieni al Pesto di Capperi.
    Wine: 2005 Aglianico Irpina, Terradora di Paolo, Campania.
    As our server forewarned, this was an unusual gnocchi, to say the least. Flat as a flounder, these five little crescents filled with Montasio cheese were fried or sauteed, and just freaking delicious. Topped with Pantellerese capers, which were delightful. So far in this meal, I’m not getting the anti-tasting menu sentiment here and elsewhere. We’re having a fine time of it.

    Course 5: Risotto di Vialone Nano al Zafferano.
    Wine: 2001 Biferno Rosso, Bordo di Colloredo, Molise
    . Here was a real highlight: rich rice pearls just floating and oozing in saffron, with a dollop of molten marrow plopped on top, maybe just a bit too salty, but who’s counting when you can pluck bits of saffron out of your marrow-enriched rice? The wine was a great complement to this insanely rich plate, a match for the strong flavors, delicious.

    Course 6: Manzo al forno con Lenticchie I Castelluccio, Cotechino e Aceto Balsemico Traditizionale Extra Vecchio.
    Wine: 2001 Cire Riserva, “Duca San Felice,” Librandi, Calabria
    . This dish of roasted beef deckle, lentils and sausage was homey, filling and basically served as the meat and potatoes course. But, it was served with 100-year old balsamic vinegar. Our server told us they have 175-year old stuff hidden in the cellar; interesting to think one could sample a vinegar that was young, but available, to Thomas Jefferson. We may go back for that.

    Course 7: Formaggi con Condimenti Tradizionale.
    Wine: 2004 Garganega Riserva, “Arzimo,” La Cappuccina, Veneto.
    Three tiny slices of cheese, just specks, really, but so flavorful that they were enough. Gorgonzola served with dried Cilento white figs (my favorite of the trio, pungent cheese complemented by pure sugary sweetness of the figs); Castelmagno with candied hazelnuts, not my favorite type of cheese (dry, crumbly, not particularly flavorful in itself, but the nuts were great); and Taleggio with Sicilian blood orange marmalade (our server pointed out the restaurant had procured some mind-boggling volume of Sicilian blood oranges to assure a sufficient supply of house-made marmalade at the restaurant). Well, a good cheese course is hard to complain about, so I shan’t.

    Course 8: Millefoglie al Limone.
    Wine: N.V. Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, “Crede,” Bisol, Veneto.
    Here was an apparent disappointment, on first glance: smaller than a Girl Scout cookie, stuck forlornly in the middle of a huge white dish, the first reaction was a bit of dismay. But the flavor was extraordinarily strong and satisfying. But then, of course, came the little “jewel box” of cookies and truffles. A bit of a bribe, perhaps, but unnecessary. This was a delightful, thoughtful, expertly prepared and served meal. I would go back for this meal, or whatever they may be offering next time I have the scratch for it.
    Last edited by JimInLoganSquare on July 17th, 2007, 6:05 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #10 - May 31st, 2007, 8:28 am
    Post #10 - May 31st, 2007, 8:28 am Post #10 - May 31st, 2007, 8:28 am
    I have heard rumors that Chef Mantuano is leaving Spiaggia.

    Is there any truth to that? If so, has a date been set?
  • Post #11 - June 14th, 2007, 3:43 pm
    Post #11 - June 14th, 2007, 3:43 pm Post #11 - June 14th, 2007, 3:43 pm
    Good news.

    Reliable sources have confirmed that Chef Mantuano is not going anywhere. Although he will be opening up a location in South Beach called Enoteca Spiaggia, but he will still be based in Chicago.
  • Post #12 - June 17th, 2007, 5:09 pm
    Post #12 - June 17th, 2007, 5:09 pm Post #12 - June 17th, 2007, 5:09 pm
    We've enjoyed the Mantuano family's food since 1988 at Mangia's in Kenosha.
    Mark A Reitman, PhD
    Professor of Hot Dogs
    Hot Dog University/Vienna Beef
  • Post #13 - July 20th, 2007, 12:58 am
    Post #13 - July 20th, 2007, 12:58 am Post #13 - July 20th, 2007, 12:58 am
    My team at work was kind enough to give in to my wishes and schedule a team dinner at Spiaggia. This would mark my birthday and first time I could legally drink with them. Certainly an occasion worth celebrating.

    As I mentioned in another thread, the savory dishes at Spiaggia are mad expensive. I wish I could offer another key takeaway from my meal there but really its cost shocked and has stuck with me. I’m sure I’ve paid far more per dish in a tasting menu or prix fixe setting, but Spiaggia’s a la carte menu is something of a wake up call. One doesn’t usually see $29 appetizers or expect to pay $24 for a single moderately sized scallop in this country. Granted, this isn’t that expensive compared to some formal French restaurants in New York or Las Vegas and doesn’t even register on the European price scale, but for Chicago and for Italian cuisine the prices are quite high. The portions, while not explicitly small, do not help one feel a sense of value. Over a couple thousand internet message board posts on food I don’t think I’ve ever made comments of this nature.

    With those issues out of the way, I’ll do my best to objectively report on my meal. The dining room itself is quite attractive. I liked the light fixtures, sparse foliage, and terraced layout with enclosed-but-visible kitchen. As far as modern Italian fine-dining goes, I can’t imagine a better setting. Sure, the view could be better but that’s really splitting hairs.

    I started off with a peach bellini made from local peaches. Very nice, not too sweet. The wine list actually has some tasty selections in the $55-$65 range that are quite tasty. The two selections I made with the help of my captain were thoroughly enjoyable—I will confess, however, that my knowledge of Italian grapes is severely lacking. The standard moscato d’asti, available by the glass on the dessert menu is rather one-dimensional and uninteresting, however.

    The selection of breads is wide for an Italian restaurant even if they are not of particularly high quality. They’re good but nothing evoked starchy ecxtasy. We started with an amuse of poached lobster with tarragon and a citrus puree. A nice beginning if somewhat perfunctory. My first course was probably the highlight of my meal, lobster spaghetti. It wasn’t so much that the lobster or spaghetti were particularly good, but the sauce that bound the two was excellent. I could’ve eaten an entire bowl of the lobster sauce as a course in itself; I didn’t even need the distractions of pasta and poached lobster meat. I also shared the pane frattau--a sort of layered pasta/flatbread dish--with another companion but found this to be uninspiring. Not a bad vegetarian option but somewhat overwhelmed by the acidity of the tomato sauce.

    For my main I had the grilled veal chop with morels and crispy sweetbreads. I selected this dish because I wanted sweetbreads and was drawn to the morels; the veal was kind of an afterthought. The dish followed in much the same fashion: the sweetbreads were nice if somewhat dry and the morels flavorful and pleasantly crispy. It was the rather large veal chop that was somewhat stringy and underdone. Medium-rare was definitely rare and blue on the bone.

    For dessert I had the baba with poached cherries and whipped cream with the aforementioned moscato d’asti. The baba was a somewhat light on the rum but as far as simple desserts go I can’t really complain. I tried a companion’s honey goat cheese gelato and enjoyed it very much.

    So all in all a very good meal, one that I can’t objectively complain too much about. Everything I ate was at least good, but, besides the lobster, nothing really moved me. I can see the appeal of Spiaggia—as an Italian restaurant it’s truly unique, there’s nothing quite like it in New York—but it just didn’t quite live up to the hype.
  • Post #14 - July 20th, 2007, 6:54 am
    Post #14 - July 20th, 2007, 6:54 am Post #14 - July 20th, 2007, 6:54 am
    I was at Spiaggia last night and had a wonderful meal.

    The prices are pretty reasonable for the quality. If you are going to dine a a place like Spiaggia, those are the prices to expect. I hear Olive Garden has some nice $5 appetizers. If you want $5 quality, go there. If you want the best Italian restaurant in America, you pay $25 for a first course.

    We started with an amuse that featured cheese and eggplant. Very nice, but not exceptional. A nice Italian influenced amuse.

    From there, I had the scallop, while my wife had the swordfish. My scallop was very good. The swordfish, however, was absolutely incredible. The dish was near perfect. The swordfish was long and pressed flat. It was served with citrus among other things. The appearance was beautiful and the taste was just amazing. It reminded me of something that Charlie Trotter might do, with a real emphasis on the presentation as well as the contrasts in flavor.

    For the second course, I had the pasta with lobster and arugula. That course also was absolutely amazing. The sauce was perfect. The lobster was amazing and the course size was relatively large. My wife had a very nice gnocchi. Good, but not great.'

    The main courses were very good. My wife had a filet while I had pork loin.

    We then shared the cheese course. Spiaggia is well known for the cheeses. Just ordering them was fun, as the waiter's discussion of the cheeses was fascinating.

    For the actual dessert, I had a lemon panna cotta, while my wife had a chocolate dessert (I will edit this with a more detailed description later). The lemon panna cotta was exceptional.

    Finally, the service was absolutely perfect. The timing was exactly right, the waiter was helpful, and his suggestions both for the food and the wine pairings was right on.

    It is clear that Spiaggia is simply the best Italian restaurant around. Chef Mantuano is a genius at taking Italian ingredients and techniques and turning them into something special. Sure the prices are high. But for that quality, I considered the meal an absolute bargain.
  • Post #15 - July 20th, 2007, 7:51 am
    Post #15 - July 20th, 2007, 7:51 am Post #15 - July 20th, 2007, 7:51 am
    Inspired by the recent discussion of prices at Spiaggia, let me suggest trying Cafe Spriaggia. While certainly not the same experience as Spiaggia itself, the Cafe is wonderful when judged on its own terms. Menus below.

    Lunch menu

    Dinner menu
  • Post #16 - October 3rd, 2007, 11:37 pm
    Post #16 - October 3rd, 2007, 11:37 pm Post #16 - October 3rd, 2007, 11:37 pm
    Review: Excellent food, irritating portions, irritating prices.


    Veal terrine with fava beans, orange and extra virgin olive oil 22.00

    Fantastic. Two razor thin slices given. Think about it, $22.00 for two razor-thin slices? that would barely register on a kitchen scale? 1/50th of a lb.? I have no idea what head/cheek-meat or whatever they used, it was fantastic, but is it that expensive to obtain? Can't they give someone a legit portion? Picture 2 razor-thin slices of prosciutto (in size) for $22.00, and you get the idea. Ridiculous but delicious.

    No longer on menu (out of season now?): A stuffed zucchini flower, I think with burrata from Puglia -- They give you only one flower for something like $18.00. I didn't get to try it, since my wife would not part with a piece of something so small. My buddy grew some zucchini in his garden this year and ended up with 15 of the flowers, they're not hard to get at the time of the season we ate (Sept. 2). How about three on the plate?

    Handcrafted spaghetti with lobster, garlic, house dried cherry tomatoes and wild arugula 29.00

    Fantastic. great flavor. The "lobster" is perhaps 1 claw's meat. Portion is small, so I ordered a second pasta:

    Handcrafted spinach and chive pasta with fresh west coast snails, garlic, herbs and bread crumbs 25.00

    This is why one goes to Spiaggia, to have a truly unique excellent dish of the sort you'd have to go to Italy to get.

    Pasta irritant: spending over $50.00 for it, but hey, I got to try 2, and they were really great.

    Wife's pasta:

    House made sheep’s milk ricotta filled pasta with pesto, Romano beans and pine nuts 18.00

    Fantasic! However mislabeled. It was one raviolo, not "ravioli". I should have asked for one more, as the menu states in plural. $18.00 for one raviolo, no more than 2"x3" in size? Ridiculous. Put two on the plate.

    Wood-roasted filet mignon with marrow and herb crust, hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted red pearl onions and purple potato puree 45.00

    Fantastic. Small filet, maybe 4 oz.? About 2 inches in diameter, 3 inches tops. $45.00 in price. The meat itself was outshone by the vegatables in that awesome dish!

    I had (no longer on menu) the Berkshire pork loin. Fabulous, I have never tasted meat so good. Accompanied by "Tuscan kale" which was unique and so flavorful it was truly amazing.


    A Rum Baba for (cough, cough) $12.00. These mushroom shaped sponge cakes sell for $2 in Naples and are far better. The only let down (food-wise) of the night for Spiaggia. It needed more rum, lacked that lightness that every single pastry shop in Naples seems to get right somehow, even the non-fancy ones in non-descript villages, suburbs, etc.

    PS 1) We saw Elvis Costello on the way out, his wife was performing somewhere in Chicago.

    2) Spiaggia has a great bar in the back. I enjoyed the digestiv at the spacious bar, stretching the legs, looking around, and they had Strega (which most Chicago Italian restaurants rarely have), which my wife says tastes like cough medicine.

    3) Service was great.

    4) Would I go back? Yeah probably, but along with the exceptionally GREAT food, I'm sure I'd be irritated similarly as well.

    5) Oh yeah, I almost forgot. The wine-by-the-glass list was not extensive. My wife is pregnant and not drinking. I told the waiter I was hoping they'd have a good Barolo and he brought me a glass "as special case since I asked". It was $24.00.

    6) The bread was nothing special, I must have eaten 15 thin-grissini however.

    7) We all know that Italians don't eat the volumes that Americans and especially Chicagoans do, but they certainly eat more per course than Spiaggia offers, and chef Mantuano who is Italian-American ought to be ashamed to put out such skimpy portions. Frankly, in good conscience I have no idea how he can do it.

    Charge the prices, fine............ but put food on the table in the Italian style. The plates need to be bumped up 50% - 100% in size.

    Onore al Duce!!!!
  • Post #17 - October 5th, 2007, 7:36 am
    Post #17 - October 5th, 2007, 7:36 am Post #17 - October 5th, 2007, 7:36 am
    Somehow it seems to me that dining at Spiaggia and then complaining about small portions and high prices is missing the point. Not as much as if one did the same thing at Moto or Alinea, but close.

    On the other hand, I suppose it is a service in that it does alert people considering dining at Spiaggia that it is a different sort of Italian restaurant. And we all have our squeaking point where the price of the food exceeds our pain threshold, making it hard to enjoy the meal. But I do not think that the concepts of "value" and "portion size" are very high on Tony's list of considerations. So if you want to judge the place on its own terms, the proper considerations are more likely to be quality of preparation and ingredients, and uniqueness in the context of Chicago. And probably authenticity.

    It is a good, serious place that uses the highest quality of ingredients, the highest standards of preparation and intends to present them in a beautiful setting with excellent service. They expect you to pay (dearly?) for all this. I have never left hungry, nor have I felt overcharged for what I ate given the overall quality, but I definitely understand that is a subjective standard.
    Feeling (south) loopy
  • Post #18 - October 5th, 2007, 3:13 pm
    Post #18 - October 5th, 2007, 3:13 pm Post #18 - October 5th, 2007, 3:13 pm
    I appreciate your opinion dicksond, but you sound like an apologist.

    One raviolo? for a pasta "course"?

    One zucchini flower?

    It's absurd and downright NOT ITALIAN to serve a paucity food like that.

    Look, nobody expects Rosebud portions.....but what Spiaggia does is borderline, no it's not borderline,'s flat absurd.

    Once you pay the price, the overhead, the rent, the labor costs, etc, etc. are already why can't Spiaggia put up another 50g of pasta on the plate? Another 3-4 oz. of meat? The marginal food cost at this point is practically zero.

    Come on.....
    Last edited by RiverWester on October 8th, 2007, 1:32 pm, edited 2 times in total.
  • Post #19 - October 5th, 2007, 3:17 pm
    Post #19 - October 5th, 2007, 3:17 pm Post #19 - October 5th, 2007, 3:17 pm
    I personally would prefer one perfect ravioli to a plateful at Rosebud.
    The real issue is whether you were relatively full at the end of the evening.
    I've always been pretty full at the end of a meal at Spiaggia, but you may have had a different experience.
    By the way -- did you happen to mention any of this to the waiters? With the exception of one New Year's Eve experience, I always found the staff at Spiaggia to be about as good as it gets and I would expect them to accomodate you in some way if you were genuinely displeased.
    That being said, claiming that since the place is Italian it should serve boatloads of food is a bit ridiculous.
  • Post #20 - October 5th, 2007, 3:29 pm
    Post #20 - October 5th, 2007, 3:29 pm Post #20 - October 5th, 2007, 3:29 pm
    In fact I did. I asked the waiter if they could "kindly, please & thank you" bump up the pasta in the pasta w/ lobster dish. He said they would, and they did not, because I saw the same size dish being brought to another table. The waiter just BS'ed me. Oh well.

    So, I ended up ordering two pasta dishes, and they were both fabulous.

    The cost was over $50.00 for me to eat what a normal size pasta course should be. So I guess $piaggia knows how to run a business.

    I never said Spiaggia should serve boatloads of food, and neither did I compare it to Rosebud. That's not what I'm saying.

    Yes, I did have to eat bread to stave off some hunger, and I did eat about 15 grissini.

    If someone ate 1 zucchini flower, one small pasta dish, and one 4 oz. filet or Bershire pork loin, NO MATTER HOW GOOD IT IS, that just isn't quite enough for me.

    They just need to bump the portions a little, it would hardly cost them anything to do it.

    Maybe Spiaggia patrons are a bunch of dilettantes.
  • Post #21 - October 5th, 2007, 4:15 pm
    Post #21 - October 5th, 2007, 4:15 pm Post #21 - October 5th, 2007, 4:15 pm
    Having dined at Spiaggia just a month ago for the first time I can say that while the courses felt small compared normal restaurant sized postions I do not feel they were too small by any means. I had the same snail pasta and found it as amazing as you did and at the samne time feel that it was neither too small nor too large.

    After a good meal I don't want to feel "full". I want to be satisfied but not over fed.

    We have a serious potion distortion going on in America and its killing us. Did you know that a single portion of meat is the size of a deck of cards? When if ever did you see a steak that size?
  • Post #22 - December 15th, 2007, 11:18 am
    Post #22 - December 15th, 2007, 11:18 am Post #22 - December 15th, 2007, 11:18 am
    Every couple of years, a foodie friend and I blow our respective wads on an extravagant, total indulgence dinner around the Holidays. A few years ago, it was the mind- and palate-blowing Alinea, which I still talk about. This year, we selected Spiaggia, mostly because in the 12 years or so I've lived here, I've never been.

    In addition to the regular DOP tasting menu and the a la carte menu, Spiaggia is offering an 8-course white truffle tasting menu, with Piemontese white truffle "recently flown in." It was priced at $249./pp.

    One of my favorites foods is white truffle (obviously something I rarely eat in its natural form), and it seemed the height of indulgence, so I toyed with the idea of ordering the truffle menu but went for the a la carte when the server explained that double-asterisked plates on the a la carte menu could have white truffle shaved over it. Done deal. We each decided on four courses from the a la carte - antipasti, primi, secondi and dessert. We also asked for pairings on all the courses (except dessert).


    Mine: CRESPELLA ALLA ZUCCA CON FUNGHI E PARMIGIANO REGGIANO (Butternut squash filled crepe with chanterelle and trumpet royale mushrooms, Parmigiano Reggiano and amaretto 22.00) **With optional white truffle shaved on top.

    Pairing was an Arneis (forget everything else), a soft-bodied white I've had before.

    DC: CRUDO DELLA SPIAGGIA (A trio of raw and marinated seafood Marinated swordfish with citrus, fennel and Capezzana extra virgin olive oil Surf clam with chives and lemon Taylor bay scallops with lemon-thyme and Italian Osetra caviar 27.00)

    [Forget the pairing.]

    The crespella was the essence of the season - sweet roasted squash, meaty chanterelles and of course, the most sublime white truffle, which complemented them all. I was pleased to see how generous they were with the white truffle. (More on this later.) Because this dish served slightly above warm, the truffle could be enjoyed more in its raw form, where it's unique taste is subtler, and delayed.

    The crudo featured Maine shrimp, bay scallop with lemon and thyme and terrine of clam with chive and leek. The Maine shrimp, we were told by our server, is available for a very short period and is smaller and sweeter than a regular gulf shrimp.


    Mine: RAVIOLETTO AL BURRO FUSO (Crescenza cheese filled pasta with Parmigiano Reggiano, brown butter, rosemary and toasted garlic 17.00) **With optional white truffle shaved on top.

    [Wine pairing was a barolo.]

    DC: GNOCCHI DI PATATE IN SALSA DI RICOTTA E TARTUFI NERI (Hand rolled potato gnocchi with ricotta sauce with Umbrian black truffles 27.00)

    [Forget the wine pairing.]

    I've had this ravioletto dish before - it is sublime - served very warm, a little crepe-like pocket of pasta which oozes tangy crescenza cheese when it's cut into . . . amazing perfection. I could smell the white truffle immediately as the heat from the brown-butter sauce released the truffle's aromatic qualities. Again, the white truffle was plentiful; its shavings were scattered all over the plate.

    The gnocchi was amazingly tender. Again, fantastic (although the oil-preserved black truffle didn't hold a candle to my fresh shaved white truffle -- hee hee).


    Mine: FILETTO DI MANZO IN CROSTA CON FUNGHI E PUREA DI PATATE (Wood-roasted filet mignon with marrow and herb crust, hen of the woods mushrooms, roasted red pearl onions and purple potato puree 45.00)

    DC: DELICATEZZE DI CERVO (Wood roasted loin and rack of wild venison and braised osso bucco of venison with creamy buckwheat polenta and Friulian fennel kraut 45.00)

    Wine pairing for both: A Sicilian nebbiolo which was a blend of grapes including nero d'avola.

    For me, this was the weakest course of the night. The marrow crust was quite good, but the onion and purple potato puree was an unidentifiable jumble underneath the meat. It also had a tart, vinegary taste which made it seem like a slaw. The meat was tender, but not Brasserie Ruhlmann-tender, which has apparently spoiled me forever more. The sear on the filet was beautiful, with the wood roasted notes, coming through.

    My DC LOVED the venison - and she's not a venison person. Her dish included a chop, an osso bucco-style braised shank, and sliced seared loin. Her fennel slaw was delicious. The venison was cooked a perfect medium to medium rare, a picture-perfect sear on the loin and it was meltingly tender. The polenta was smooth and creamy and cut through the richness of the venison.

    The wine went perfectly with both but especially the venison where the anise notes of the wine complemented the fennel in the slaw.


    Mine: (Another) crespella but with dark chocolate inside served along with a caramel-almond gelato.

    DC: Chocolate-chestnut-filled beignet covered in whipped cream with a small piece of candied chestnut on the plate.

    We were also served gratis three sorbets: Lemon-lime, kiwi and mixed berry (the kiwi was the best) along with a treasure chest of sublime cookies that make anyone's regular Christmas cookie platter seem lame. Dessert came with an illy espresso for me and a lovely dry Madiera for my DC.

    * * *

    A note on the portions. No problem with those. The server explains up front that the a la carte menu is really meant to be ordered three-course style, and that the restaurant encourages you to do that. Yes, there was one (large) piece of filled pasta on my plate, but it was not paltry in size. It was sized appropriately enough so you could enjoy multiple courses comfortably. You do have to suspend belief though, when you look at the prices (did I pay $17 for one piece of pasta?), but that is the nature of dining at these well-regarded, 4-star establishments.

    The pairings were fine, nothing objectionable, but nothing mind-blowing, and at $55 pp, moderately priced for Spiaggia. I didn't ask how much the extra white truffle cost when I ordered it, so imagine my reaction when I my DC told me as she was looking over the bill: $180. I've had an incredibly stressful week which almost included cancelling Spiaggia as I was waylaid in LA for business until yesterday. So my experience with the bill felt like a Mastercard commercial: White Truffle: $180. Stress release when cracking up after seeing the bill for white truffle: Priceless. [I guess that's why we got an assortment of sorbets, cookies, an espresso and Madeira gratis.] :) :wink:
  • Post #23 - December 15th, 2007, 11:40 am
    Post #23 - December 15th, 2007, 11:40 am Post #23 - December 15th, 2007, 11:40 am
    Nice report. Just to clarify, the $180 was an additional charge for truffles shaved on top of two of your dishes (ie $90 per dish on top of the $22 and $17)?
  • Post #24 - December 15th, 2007, 11:45 am
    Post #24 - December 15th, 2007, 11:45 am Post #24 - December 15th, 2007, 11:45 am
    Darren72 wrote:Nice report. Just to clarify, the $180 was an additional charge for truffles shaved on top of two of your dishes (ie $90 per dish on top of the $22 and $17)?

    Yes, sir.
  • Post #25 - December 15th, 2007, 11:55 am
    Post #25 - December 15th, 2007, 11:55 am Post #25 - December 15th, 2007, 11:55 am
    I don't have a sense of how much I would have expected white truffles to cost. But $90 per dish (plus the original cost of the dish) seems like a lot when you could have had the eight course tasting menu for $249.

    But you probably wouldn't have had the "priceless" moment if you hadn't done the a la carte. :)
  • Post #26 - December 15th, 2007, 12:01 pm
    Post #26 - December 15th, 2007, 12:01 pm Post #26 - December 15th, 2007, 12:01 pm
    Darren72 wrote:I don't have a sense of how much I would have expected white truffles to cost. But $90 per dish (plus the original cost of the dish) seems like a lot when you could have had the eight course tasting menu for $249.

    But you probably wouldn't have had the "priceless" moment if you hadn't done the a la carte. :)

    True. My sense (hope) is that the truffle might not have been as generous with the truffle menu (the thought being is that by course 6, you would have been overwhelmed). Or, Spiaggia just got one over on me.
  • Post #27 - January 29th, 2008, 11:13 pm
    Post #27 - January 29th, 2008, 11:13 pm Post #27 - January 29th, 2008, 11:13 pm
    I recently got engaged (!!) and told my fiance (!! still not used to calling him that) that I wanted to celebrate with a dinner at Spiaggia as I had already wanted to go there. As soon as we arrived promptly at 7 pm on the 5th day of being engaged (it turned out to be Wed- I'm all for going to restaurants on off nights), we gave them our coats and were seated by the window. At the time, the restaurant was mostly empty and only had a handful of other tables occupied, all at the window. Through the night, they did fill out some of the booths, but was a pretty light, quiet night with maybe a dozen tabletops that we saw that night at once. We were probably the last to leave the restaurant (at almost 11pm) just because of the pacing of the courses.

    So... as soon as I was handed 2 menus and opened the first one to see the truffle tasting menu, I knew that was what I was having. My fiance is vegetarian, and they checked the open table reservation note and knew beforehand we were coming in to celebrate our engagement and that he was vegetarian. So, the server went into detail on how the menu worked, which parts were vegetarian, the chef could make a tasting course all vegetarian if he wanted (and she gave examples of dishes made in the past) and which dishes could have truffles added. They were willing to serve me the tasting menu and let him order a la carte if he wanted, which is unusual since many restaurants want everyone to have the tasting menu at the table. But, he ended up choosing to let the chef make anything appropriate so that he could have the same number of courses and I and to make it a truffle tasting as well to enjoy the meal along with me.

    Because I knew how expensive the meal was going to be already, we decided to just enjoy a bottle of champagne and not have wine pairings.

    So here we go- White Truffle Tasting Menu- eight courses. First six courses are served with freshly shaved Alba white truffles!

    Image He started the tasting menu vegetarian version with the white truffles on burrata.

    Image I started with SFROMATO DI RICCIO DI MARE, Sea urchin mousse. This was delicious, but I think I have been spoiled by French Laundry's panna cotta... it just didn't measure up to that memory even if it is 2 years old.

    Image Vegetarian version of the second course had a butternut squash cannoli-like dish for second course. I liked it, he thought it was just so-so. I thought this was a nice sized dish.

    Image My second course was CARPACCIO DI MANZO , Thinly sliced Japanese Wagyu beef with Spiaggia extra virgin olive oil. That olive oil was wiped clean off the plate with bread. I was surprised at how much meat they had as you can see from the pic. It was enough for an appetizer for two!

    ImageVegetarian Version third course was a fresh made pasta in simple brown butter with naturally more freshly shaved Alba white truffles. The pasta was so perfectly done, I only wished there had been a little less butter so the taste of the pasta and truffle could have come through more clearly.

    Image My third course was RAVIOLI DI PECORA TARTUFATO, Hand crafted pasta filled with Spiaggia sheep’s milk ricotta and truffled pecorino cheese. I particuarly liked the thick chicken gravy-like broth sauce. This is where I really understand where some people were coming from with the complaints of the size- it was one ravioli. I'm not asking for a big plate of these- but two ravioli? How about two? Even 1.5?

    The flavor was stunning but could only be enjoyed briefly because it was gone in 6 bites- and that was me trying to cut it as much as I could to prolong the experience. French Laundry also had small portions, but they also served more meat and just cutting normally allowed me to get enough of a taste to be satisfied. Bottom line, I felt unsatisfied by this. I would have halved the portion of carpaccio for one more ravioli. Since this was still in the middle of the courses, I wasn't sure how large they would get as we progressed (Tru gets larger and larger while French Laundry got slightly bigger after a few courses and generally stayed the same size so I didn't say anything at the time. I didn't know Spiaggia's course size would remain this small. Only 2 dishes even got to a small/entree from small/appetizer size, while at French Laundry had 4 dishes at that latter size).

    Image Vegetarian version had a fourth course of risotto. Super super rich and creamy, even for me. Overall, the richness and butteryness of the courses was starting to wear on his taste buds.

    Image Image My fourth course (this was my favorite) was PATATE CROCANTE CON UOVO , Crispy potato crusted Yuppie Hill Farm egg. This was perfect- the execution, the flavor, the size, all were spot on.

    Image Vegetarian Version's fifth course and his favorite of the night, Jerusuleum artichoke, also known as sunchoke in a cream sauce. The reason he liked it was because it had the most complex flavor of all the courses, not just heavy creaminess.

    Image Image Fifth course of POLENTA CON FONTINA E FUGHI PORCINI , Creamy polenta with D.O.P Fontina cheese and porcini mushrooms. For the next course, vegetarian version of the tasting menu he gets this same dish as his sixth course but his portion was a little bigger then what I just had.

    Image Sixth course, the final one with the shaved white Alba truffles... PICCIONE CON CREMA DI CASTAGNE E MIELE DI SPIAGGIA, Wood roasted squab with chestnut puree and Spiaggia honey. Really really wonderful dish with subtle but complex flavors which I enjoyed, though he mocked me as I sucked at the little drumsticks. This again, like the egg dish, is what I consider a perfectly sized small entree plate at this type of restaurant.

    Image Seventh course for the two of us to share. SELEZIONE DI FORMAGGI PIEMONTESE , A selection of Piemontese cheese. Our kind server generously poured us a tasting of wine gratis to help us with the cheese.

    Image The final course (or part of it- the glass box you see in the upper corner right was also presented), this was to share between us also. This is BONET, Piemontese chocolate custard with rum and amaretti. This went well with the coffee we had, though the Saracco Moscato d'Asti we were generously poured by our server gratis also didn't hurt.

    Image Spiaggia's White Truffle Tasting menu's last extra bites of sweetness

    I don't think I'd get a tasting menu again- I would rather select a la carte and balance the meal myself. Overall, it was a very rich heavy meal, and as much as I adore butter and cream, even I was at a saturation (hardy har) point. Never did get enough truffles tto say I had too much though :)

    The food was good, but I'm not sure entirely justified by the price and particularly when surveying the quality of other restaurants in Chicago and their pricing- it was obvious that they are satisifed with producing good flavor but are not interested in being progressive- only the egg was that kind of delight. However, I appreciated the atmosphere which was serene and warmly romantic (versus modern and "cool"). I would place this closer to Trotter's on my high end restaurant scale then the Shawn McClain or food science chef crew. But, the set up was better then Trotter's- when we tried to do a similar dinner like this at Trotter's last year (this was when I got my promise ring), the tables were so close together we could feel them watching us like hawks because our table of two would get served the courses before they did and they wanted to see what was coming. I could see one of the diners at the table across from me texting all through his meal. At Spiaggia, we almost felt like we were alone because of the setup of the dining room. The servers were unobtrusive most of the night but always friendly and even seemed thrilled to fetch me bread when I wanted to wipe up a plate. But, the service at Trotter's in comparison was better- the servers took the time to go into much more detail on the plates and give us a bit of history rather then just listing of ingredients, and we loved hearing the stories from them, and at Trotter's they generously gave us a copy of the menu and a small gift bag with a Trotter cookbook and sauce and had a cab waiting for us, and offered a tour of their kitchen and cellar- making us feel extra special and making up for the proximity of the seating arrangements.

    Perhaps its unfair to do all these comparison to all these other restaurants, but I know when I next think about going out for a high end meal, these are the thoughts that would run in my head. If I wanted a high end restaurant that exuded a lot of warmth and was more traditional, I would consider Trotters and Spiaggia. If I wanted the experience of a tasting menu or it was a special occasion and didn't care if anyone overheard my conversation, I would choose Trotter's over Spiaggia, but if I wanted a high end a la carte meal with a lot more privacy for lots of intimate conversation, I would choose Spiaggia. Though, honestly and realistically, if I am going to shell that much for a meal again ($860 with tax tip for entire meal) though I would try to devise a way to get myself to Alinea- I'd rather try a new high end place in Chicago then repeat because it was not such a revelatory experience that I feel a strong urge to return.
  • Post #28 - January 30th, 2008, 9:58 am
    Post #28 - January 30th, 2008, 9:58 am Post #28 - January 30th, 2008, 9:58 am
    Congrats on your engagement. My wife and I actually were married at Spiaggia's upstairs banquet room and the service was unbelievable. We had about 85 people and our dinner options came from their menu at the time. We opted for main dishes of filet or chicken (to try to stay neutral) and both were great. Our meal tasting was pretty amazing as they brought whole dishes of each choice and we got to "sample" everything - leaving us completely stuffed at the end of the sampling. On our wedding night, we were assigned a host that made sure everything was on time and people were taken care of. 80% of the guests went for the filet and it was cooked to order, with the host pointing out which guest's steak was which. The other nice thing is that the wedding cake was included and they use their own cake person. We were able to sit down with them and sample a lot of options. On top of all of this, a 1 year anniversary dinner is included. My wife and I really enjoyed that. Great place overall.
  • Post #29 - January 30th, 2008, 4:56 pm
    Post #29 - January 30th, 2008, 4:56 pm Post #29 - January 30th, 2008, 4:56 pm
    I was there for a wedding last summer and enjoyed it tremendously, but after having lunch with my brother today and hearing about his less than stellar experience I was inclined to ask if anyone has eaten at Spiaggia lately.

    My brother is fairly sophisticated diner, has experienced Trotter and Tru multiple times, hell Everest is like a regular spot for him, he and my SIL go there frequently.

    So when he said he was tremendously underwhelmed by Spiaggia this past weekend, i mentioned I'd post about it and see what people are saying. He thought the service was not up to snuff, that the portions did not justify the prices by a long shot, and his veal chop was tiny and fatty. Like almost inedible fatty. They forgot to bring him coffee at dessert and overall he was really disappointed.

    I see that others have really enjoyed their recent experiences and will probably tell him he seems to have experienced an off night. Anyone have similar experience recently?
  • Post #30 - September 4th, 2014, 9:32 pm
    Post #30 - September 4th, 2014, 9:32 pm Post #30 - September 4th, 2014, 9:32 pm
    Anyone been since the renovations? Are the two tops all piled on top of each other? I want to go, but I'm worried the new design will have less privacy.