Dining

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

Spiaggia 980 N. Michigan Ave. Chicago IL 60611 312-280-2750

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