Classic Tables: Spiaggia

An Italian standard turns 25 years young

When Spiaggia opened in 1984, fine dining in Chicago–and across the country–was synonymous with French cuisine. "Italian food" meant spaghetti, meatballs, pizza and steak.

Along came Tony Mantuano, a Wisconsin boy fresh off the boat from Italy's dal Pescatore, eager to introduce the city to upscale Italian cooking.

Fast-forward 25 years: Spiaggia remains one of the country's preeminent destinations for four-star Italian cuisine. And it keeps evolving: The dissertation-length all-Italian wine list continues to grow under sommelier Steven Alexander, and chef di cucina Sarah Grueneberg spent February visiting Italy's Emilia-Romagna region for inspiration.

The current eight-course tasting menu ($135) is a product of Gruenberg's trip to the homeland of prosciutto di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano (the next will be devoted to Sicily).

The à la carte menu, which changes seasonally, is filled with elegant interpretations of regional cuisine. Inky, southern-style spaghetti neri with lobster and Calabrian chile sauce ($27) and Spiaggia's signature potato gnocchi (currently in silken ricotta-Umbrian black truffle sauce, $28) are standouts. For dessert, a simple chocolate-filled crespelle ($14) gets a sophisticated boost from intense olive oil-infused gelato.

To celebrate Spiaggia's quarter-century, Mantuano is giving gifts (a copy of the cookbook, a bottle of Spiaggia-label olive oil) to diners on the 13th (its birthday) or 25th of each month–just to say grazie for coming along for the ride.

Spiaggia, 980 N. Michigan Ave.; 312-280-2750 or spiaggiarestaurant.com