Dinner at Spiaggia was high on my list, ever since touring Acetaia San Giacomo (I wrote about the place here), where Andrea Bezzecchi makes his divinely delicious aged balsamic vinegar in Italy's Emilia Romagna region. Andrea sells the precious liquid to Spiaggia, in addition to New York's Le Bernardin and other high end restaurants as well. The elegant Italian restaurant was also one of the the Obama's favorite spots for date nights when they lived in Chicago.
Spiaggia's beautifully inlaid marble floor wowed me immediately as we entered the restaurant lobby, and the view from our table, overlooking Lake Michigan, was lovely as well.
raviolo filled with crescenza cheese and braised goat meat in a fragrant sauce surrounded by mushrooms (bottom left photo)
But some of the dishes were less than top notch, which is not what you expect when paying the kind of prices charged here. For example, a primo piatto of three tortelli d'erbette (top left photo) filled with swiss chard and ricotta was bland and under seasoned. This dish is a specialty of the region in Italy where my relatives live and I've eaten it many times there. This version fell short. For $28, you'd think the chef could have added more than three measly drops of Andrea's balsamic vinegar to liven up the flavor.
My main course of halibut (top row middle photo) was overcooked and hard around the edges, inexcusable when the cost is $54 for the portion.
On the plus side, the waitress let me taste a couple of wines before I found one I wanted to order, and the free refills of San Pellegrino all night long were an uncommonly pleasant surprise. We also loved our antipasto selection. My friend Lilli and I couldn't help ordering the same thing - wood roasted artichokes with mozzarella di bufala, date puree, and zucchini (center bottom row - $26 each). The basil-flecked bread and homemade bread sticks were noteworthy too, as were the complimentary chocolates and candied orange slices offered when we finished.
Lunch at Pizano's was more humble Italian food, including the above mentioned deep-dish Chicago-style pizza.
Preceded by a platter of perfectly prepared fried calamari.
We were craving something light for the following night's dinner when we headed to Greektown and a restaurant called Santorini, that just oozed rustic charm. Nothing special about the grilled fish-in fact it was overcooked - but the platter of rapini and the grilled octopus were just what the doctor ordered following the heavy pizza and fried calamari lunch.
A visit to one of Rick Bayliss' restaurants was on my must-do list and we were lucky to get into Frontera Grill. After our lunch there, we both wished we could transport the place back East.
But my favorite meal out was noteworthy not for the food, but for the company. That was the night we ate at Quartino's - a casual Italian restaurant that offers typical large portions of Italian-American food.
Proud Italian Cook (second from left). She brought along her friend Mary Alice and the four of us had a wonderful evening getting to know each other in person, after years of emailing. Now if only she could find her way to the East coast so we could show her what New York food is all about! We're waiting for you Marie.
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