“Cafe Spiaggia, why are you so good to me?”
That is the question I asked myself over, and over again as I “brunched” at Spiaggia’s sister restaurant on a lovely Sunday with my friend Sveta.
Cafe Spiaggia is the sister/partner restaurant of the well known Spiaggia Restaurant, located right in the heart of the Gold Coast on the Magnificent Mile.
My childhood friend Noli had introduced me to her colleague, Beth, earlier this year. Beth is a recent Chicago transplant who works for Baltz and Co., the lovely PR firm that represents Spiaggia, among some other fabulous Chicago restaurants.
Beth lives in my neighborhood, and we have become fast friends! She and I have a shared a love of cocktails, awesome restaurants and cool dive spots, and a passion for food PR. I was delighted when Beth suggest I come in and check out Cafe Spiaggia’s “brunch” offerings.
Now, I continue to put “brunch” in quotations, because upon arriving at Cafe Spiaggia, my friend Sveta and I quickly learned that the brunch at Cafe Spiaggia is not exactly brunch—it is lunch. It is just offered earlier in the day, and is different than the restaurant’s dinner offerings, but it is definitely not brunch.
This was not too disappointing to us, by any means; one look at the offerings and you will be excited no doubt. It was just a surprise, that’s all. It was noon and we were starving so this did not deter us one bit, and we were so excited to dine here. Sveta had been to Cafe Spiaggia years before, so she was especially excited to be back.
We were seated at a lovely table by the window overlooking Michigan Avenue. The restaurant is gorgeous; minimalist, but nonetheless lovely. Gold awnings, a light mint green wall coloring, and gorgeous white and grey marble throughout—the restaurant is exactly how I want the interior of my home to look. The light fixtures are gorgeous, and the open light from the large front facing windows really make the space spectacular.
Our lovely server greeted us, and we quickly decided to start with wine. Sveta is my wine-loving friend; while most of the wines on the wine list looked completely foreign to me, Sveta instantly recognized many of them. We both wanted bubbles so I went with her recommendation of the Lambrusco di Modena, a sparkling rosé.
The Lambrusco was delicious and the perfect bubbly to start off our meal. While perusing the menu, our eyes of course were drawn to the crudo options at the top. Unable to decide on which crudo to go with, we eagerly chose the trio. When in Rome, as they say….
Meanwhile, our server encouraged us to try different dishes and share them, a few starters, a few pastas and maybe a salad to share—that sounded delightful to us.
Our crudo arrived at the table and the presentation might as well have been a work of art. The trio was of viking scallop, kampachi, and Ora King salmon. Each beautiful slice of seafood was perfectly cut, and drizzled with its accompanying oil, and topped with beautiful, bright, and bold flavorful components.
As you can imagine, the crudo was perfect. We enjoyed it immensely, do not go to Cafe Spiaggia and not indulge in the crudo; seriously.
As we continued to make menu decisions, our server was kind enough to send over a cheese and charcuterie plate, which is Chef Tony Mantuano’s selection of charcuterie from ‘Nduja Artisan Salumeria, accompanied by the cheese of the day. This particular day’s cheese was a soft, I want to say cow’s milk cheese, similar to a triple cream. It was smooth and creamy, with a little hit of spice from the aging. Sveta and I enjoyed it with bread, honey, and meat selection.
For entrees, we decided to go with two pastas, the bucatini and the spaghetti neri. We decided to do one standard red sauce dish and then try something different. I must admit we went against our gut intuition (and our server’s recommendation) to get the gnocchi with wild boar ragu, Parmigiano Reggiano, and basil—we will have to come back for that.
The bucatini was delicious. Made with guanciale, Pecorino Romano, and Calabrian pepper. Guanciale is an Italian cured meat or salami product prepared from pork jowl or cheeks—it is savory and deliciously fatty, but in a good way. The sauce had a little added heat thanks to the Calabrian pepper, but it was perfect. The noodles were divine, as well—perfect eggy, al dente noodles.
I will admit though that our second dish was our favorite. The spaghetti neri came served with Manila clams, garlic, parsley, squid ink, Calabrian pepper, and deliciously crunchy breadcrumbs on top. The dish itself was gorgeous. The squid ink noodles were the perfect shade of dark grey, and they were silky and smooth on the palate. The clams were so good, too.
At this point in time we had also moved on to a second glass of bubbly. As our stomachs grew fuller, I grew tired, so I needed a pick-me-up and ordered a cappuccino. It came out with the perfect foam on top, and was a great way for me transition to dessert.
Unable to decide on desserts, we went with our server’s choice, as we trusted him implicitly with this decision. We had no fear in being disappointed, as everything at Cafe Spiaggia thus far had been nothing short of excellent.
Two desserts were presented to the table. First was the crostata, made with farm fruit, vanilla bean gelato, roasted vanilla powder. The farm fruit was apples, perfect with the season. Additionally, they sent over sfogliatella, which are these little ricotta filled puff pastries, similar to croissants, just better honestly! The pastries were accompanied with a creamy chocolate mousse.
Both desserts were the perfect finish to our meal; we were satiated and completely satisfied all around. Following our meal, the lovely manager of Spiaggia gave us a tour of the space; it has been redesigned in the last two years and neither Sveta nor I had been since the remodel. Spiaggia restaurant is beautiful as well, and literally the perfect setting for an intimate dinner, or a special occasion.
Overall, this meal was perfect, and this meal was one of those meals that will have a special place in one’s heart; it was just that good. From the service, to the food and wine, everything at Cafe Spiaggia is a win.
The Bitches Say: A+. Spiaggia is one of Chicago’s most well known and beloved restaurant’s for a reason, and Cafe Spiaggia is no exception to the namesake. Chef Tony Mantuano and his team execute perfect and delicious dishes that excite the palate, and leave you wanting more. The space and interior is simply lovely, and certainly adds to the experience.
980 N. Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611
Cafe Spiaggia serves lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.Monday through Sunday.