Step up and step into a world of taste and class at this spectacular Chicago restaurant.
This summer my husband and I celebrated our anniversary. To mark the occasion we decided to take a long weekend trip to Chicago. Where to eat for our special meal? For moths we planned and researched. We decided that we wanted to eat someplace different and made reservations three months in advance at Moto.
Moto is known for its rice paper printed with food inks. We informed the Moto representative that this was our 25th anniversary dinner. Our friends anxiously awaited our report. To be certain that everything went smoothly for our romantic meal I called to confirm the reservation. It was a good thing that I made that call. We were informed that Moto had no reservation for us on the night requested, the night before, or the night after.
What to do, where to go? We were uncertain what to do. We read and researched other restaurants, but couldn’t make a decision. We decided to step out in faith and decide on a restaurant after we arrived in Chicago. Surely we would be able to find someplace on a Monday evening to eat.
As some readers know from our anniversary experience in Rome, our original dinner plans sometimes go wrong. The amazing thing is that it turns into a fantastic dining experience. Our trip to Chicago was a culinary delight. This time we decided to have dinner at a beach with no sand.
Just two blocks from our hotel was Spiaggia, a luxurious and modern Italian restaurant. To reach Spiaggia you take an escalator up. We wandered into Spiaggia about 2 PM. We were cordially greeted by the maître d'. As my husband perused the menu my eye was caught by a bas relief plaque. The plaque was a gift to Spiaggia from the Italian consulate in Chicago to recognize that this is the most authentic Italian cuisine in Chicago. We were shown the dining room and allowed to select the table we wanted for dinner. We made reservations for 6 PM and left, with a reminder that men are required to wear jackets and no jeans or sneakers are allowed.
That dress code alone says a great deal about Spiaggia. For those of us who are a bit tired of “casual, upscale dining” Spiaggia is like a fresh sea breeze. That evening there were no sequined flip flops passing for dress shoes. A gentleman arrived in khakis and a button down shirt. He was allowed to have a drink at the bar, but not enter into the dining room.
Does the food live up to the grand atmosphere of the tiered dining room over looking Oak Street Beach and the lake (“Spiaggia” in Italian means beach). Absolutely! My husband and I tried two different tasting menus. He had the Menu Di Produtti Di Denominazione Origine Protetta (DOP). I had the Degustazione dello Chef (Chef’s Tasting Menu). The DOP menu is made from Italian products that are protected and controlled in their origin and method of creation, using traditional methods. It would be hard to select one or two dishes that stood out from the rest, but here are our favorites:
Due Prosciutti Sul’ Bomboloni-—Prosciutto di Parma and Prosciutto San Danielle with warm savory doughnuts and Parmigiano Reggiano. What an enchanting dish! It was great to be able to compare the flavors of prosciutto from Parma and San Danielle. The bomboloni were light, fluffy, and complimented the salty flavors of the prosciutto.
Gnocchi Ripieni al Pesto di Capperi-—Hand crafted Montasio cheese filled gnocchi with Pantellerese caper pesto. These are delicate hand-rolled gnocchi that almost melt on your tongue. (The gnocchi and pastas are made in house.) The caper pesto was refreshing and just right for a summer evening.
Formaggi con Condimenti Tradizionale-—I love cheese and fruit for dessert! This was the sweet, runny Gorgonzola that is hard to find. It is served with sun dried Cilento white figs, castelmagno with candied Piemontese hazelnuts, and taleggio with Sicilian blood orange marmalade.
Millefoglie al Limone-—While I enjoy cheese and fruit, a nice pastry is always welcome. This lemon marmelatta layered with crisp pastry and vanilla cream is the perfect way to end a meal. It is light and not too sweet, but oh so satisfying.
The Degustazione dello Chef is creative, walking a fine line between original and traditional. My menu featured seafood as a main ingredient in most of the dishes.
Sarde Marinate con Burrata, Radice e Olio Nuovo-—House marinated sardine with Burrata cheese, radish and 2006 Cappezzana extra virgin olive oil. Shhhhhhh, I don’t like sardines. They are generally too fuzzy and fishy. These sardines are the polar opposite of the sickly sardines put on pizza. These sardines are light tasting, with a firm flesh.
Spaghetti all Chitarra con Riccio di Mare-—Handcrafted “guitar string” spaghetti with sea urchin coral and Osetra caviar is heavenly. I had never had sea urchin before and if I knew that it would taste this way I would order it over and over again.
Pancia di Agnello con Limone e Crescione-—Wood roasted Pinn Oak Ridge Farms lamb belly with grilled lemon and wild watercress. The lamb belly is tender, delicious, and provided the perfect counter point to the seafood in this menu. The lamb’s flavor didn’t over power the other dishes, but presented welcome taste and texture.
My husband and I shared the dishes, sampling all the flavors presented to us. For a complete experience we each ordered the menus’ wine tasting, pairing different wines with each course. At other restaurants we have had horrid experiences with wine pairings. At one restaurant in Atlanta the sommelier poured only ½ ounce during each course. This was not the case at Spiaggia. The waiter poured 3 ounces for each course and then would pour another ounce or two when we switched dishes and wines. The wines were all of good quality. They were not from the bottom price range and were freshly opened bottles. Some were luscious Italian wines not often seen outside of Italy.
If you are planning a special dinner head for the Italian beach in Chicago, you won’t go wrong at Spiaggia.