Spiaggia Closes After 37 Years, Marking the Finish for Chicago’s Prime Italian Restaurant

In a shocking Friday morning announcement, Spiaggia — the usual for Italian eating in Chicago during the last 37 years — received’t reopen, a possession says they’re completely closed. Spiaggia, and its extra inexpensive sibling, Cafe Spiaggia, had been closed since final yr on the nook of Michigan Avenue and Oak Road. The restaurant is a Chicago icon overlooking the Magazine Mile with views from the second flooring overlooking Oak Road Seaside.

Spiaggia falls underneath the umbrella of Levy Eating places, the corporate that additionally owns River Roast alongside the Chicago River. Possession says that they had the intention of reopening, however blamed the choice to shut on the shortcoming to strike an settlement with their landlord to restructure their lease “which was essential to mirror the realities of working a restaurant in an workplace constructing post-pandemic.”

The restaurant was a vital success, incomes 4 stars from former Tribune critic Phil Vettel. He described Spiaggia as “Chicago’s best Italian restaurant.” The evaluate got here in 2014 after a significant renovation. The famed and opulent venue featured marble columns and beautiful views of the town that helped earn Michelin stars for 12-straight years. The tire information not often acknowledges Italian eating places in America, making the dignity distinctive. Tony Mantuano, the beloved Chicago chef who based Spiaggia in 1984, left the restaurant and Chicago in 2019. Mantuano, born in Kenosha, Wisconsin, additionally has Italian citizenship. He confirmed his love for the tradition and his household’s roots on the restaurant. After leaving Chicago, he opened a restaurant final yr in Nashville.

Mantuano despatched over a press release Friday afternoon that talked about the restaurant’s necessary to him and his spouse: “Spiaggia allowed Cathy and me to deliver our beloved Italian tradition and hospitality to Chicago, and we are going to at all times be thankful for the friends and neighborhood who supported the restaurant. Lots of the proficient cooks and employees have gone on to make significant impacts on the culinary business, and we all know they are going to at all times have a chunk of Spiaggia with them.”

Mantuano was a part of a wave of well-known Chicago cooks, together with Rick Bayless and Charlie Trotter, that every one began across the identical time. He spoke to Fooditor two years in the past and mentioned that Spiaggia can be outlined by its recent pastas and cooking over wooden and charcoal. The chef mused that these conventional strategies lengthy used at Spiaggia had been as soon as once more gaining favor amongst youthful cooks.

Spiaggia is an expensive restaurant off the Magazine Mile.
Marc A lot/Eater Chicago

Spiaggia was a coaching floor for a lot of. Joe Flamm labored for years with Mantuano earlier than departing in 2019 to ultimately open Rose Mary in Fulton Market. Monteverde chef and proprietor Sarah Grueneberg spent eight years on the restaurant earlier than departing in 2013. Each cooks had been Prime Chef contestants, and that publicity introduced in new diners that helped develop Spiaggia’s buyer base.

Flamm, who celebrated the start of a daughter earlier this week, spoke with Mantuano on Friday. He talked about how the restaurant launched him to skills like Spiaggia alum and star New York chef Missy Robbins. He says he spent Friday texting with outdated colleagues and having a digital Irish wake in sharing tales. “We used to joke with Tony, we would not be the perfect Michelin-starred restaurant, however we had essentially the most enjoyable,” Flamm says.

Practically 4 many years is an eternity for a restaurant, and Flamm in comparison with a Broadway present the place 10 years is taken into account wildly profitable: “Time comes for us all, eating places much more than most issues. It doesn’t make it damage much less.”

One of many restaurant’s secrets and techniques to success with Mantuano’s belief in his stuff. Whereas a sure issues couldn’t change — “a carbonara was a carbonara” — Flamm says Mantuano was prepared to hearken to new concepts, emboldening employees to share their concepts. That helped Spiaggia shine.

All through the pandemic, restaurant homeowners have made bargains with landlords, figuring out that the suspension of indoor eating wouldn’t permit them to pay their rents. An absence of tourism and workplace staff in posed extra challenges to downtown eating places. There are additionally enterprise vacancies. As an example, Water Tower Place — the purchasing middle positioned simply south of the 57-floor workplace constructing that housed Spiaggia — has been struggling discovering an anchor tenant to exchange Macy’s. On Friday morning, information broke that Goal had pulled out of the operating.

Flamm doesn’t suppose the business can return into time and duplicate what made Spiaggia nice. In some ways it was “a glimpse of old-world eating.”

“They’d a piano within the ceiling,” Flamm says, referring to what Spiaggia regarded like within the early ‘80s. “What number of eating places had that?”

Flamm provides: “It’s such a cherished piece of historical past, you simply can’t exchange historical past, it by no means works.”

This story has been up to date since Friday morning with remark from Tony Mantuano and Joe Flamm.

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