When you say hostess, what comes to mind? Someone who gladly receives you into their restaurant, someone who is gracious, who offers hospitality, and someone who makes you feel welcome. Well, that should have been our first clue, when we walked in the door at Café Spiaggia. There was none of that going on. In fact, we weren’t even greeted until after the people leaving had their coats retrieved; not even acknowledged. Then we were asked in an accusatory tone, if we had a reservation. We should have turned around then and there, like I felt like doing.
Ok, onto the bar to wait for friends. The bartender was friendly enough. That could not make up for the glass of $15 wine I ordered, that was barely drinkable. Thin, flat, tinny, mouth puckering. My husband said he would drink that, he’s good like that, and I ordered a second glass. Just as bad, at least it was only $12. I would have ordered a beer, but I couldn’t find a twelve ounce bottle under $24! Ok. Strike two.
I was very excited for Restaurant Week. I mulled and mulled over where to go. Money is tight right now, so we limited ourselves to one restaurant. I chose Café Spiaggia because I have heard amazing things about Tony Mantuano’s food, Spiaggia is the only 4 star restaurant in Chicago, and I figured I would never go there any other time. Even the café is a bit pricey. I didn’t want to go to the hippest trendiest restaurant; I wanted to go have a great meal. Unfortunately it never happened. The goal of my blog is to be upbeat and to write about experiences that I love, that I am passionate about. Well, this is how passionate I am about having an awful experience at Café Spiaggia. So passionate that I am writing a second post this week!
So, onto the dinner table. Maybe the waiter wasn’t happy that he got “restaurant week” people, who knows. The service was awful. He was snooty, impatient and condescending. Water glasses sat empty, coffee was never refilled.
You know, I always say that the sign of a truly classy establishment is one where everyone is treated equal. You never know who that unassuming customer may be. I have been to plenty of those swanky places, Blackbird, North Pond, Arnauds in New Orleans, the Setai in Miami. The staff at these upscale establishments don’t feel like they have to snub their guests to make themselves feel important. I have never been made to feel more out of place than at Café Spiaggia, amidst the faux finishing, glass sconces and electric blue banquettes. I am so sad that I chose Café Spiaggia to spend my hard earned money at. And that I invited my friends to meet us there. I was embarrassed to have chosen it.
On the bright side, the porchetta was to die for. Pork loin that was butterflied and rubbed with herbs and spices and rolled back up to be, braised for eleven hours and then finished in a wood burning oven; fall off the bone, even though there was no bone. This beautiful roll was served on top of creamy polenta, rapini and a touch of Calabrian pepper spiciness to complement the smoky, fatty, porkiness. Amazingly rich and well worth it every bite. Everything else, meh. The butternut squash ravioli was thick & undercooked with none of the warm brown butter flavor, just oily slickness served as a sauce. Dessert, house made gelato; we would be back on track, right? Three yummy flavors, chocolate chip, espresso and pistachio. Alas, they all tasted the same…of nothing but iciness. And they looked so sad, haphazardly slopped into metal ketchup ramekins and thrown on a plate, not a garnish to be seen. Tiramisu, thank goodness you really can’t make an awful one.
So sad. I was so sad.
I thought once dessert was served the pain would end, but no, one last stab, the check was dropped before we could even finish the mediocre tiramisu, just like at a diner, albeit a very expensive one.