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Jfood visits Chicago - Cafe Spiaggia Review

jfood | Mar 11, 200805:34 PM

Café Spiaggia is the more casual sister of the more formal, Spiaggia, and is located down the hall on the second floor overlooking North Michigan Ave. It is a very nice atmosphere and the hostess very friendly and seated Jfood promptly.

The website is:


The menu has many choices of pastas, fish and meats and there is a very nice selection that offered several dishes that Jfood wanted to order. He was pretty excited about the food that was about to join him for dinner. The average price is mid-high teens on the pastas and mid-high twenties for entrees.

Upon seating, Jfood was greeted immediately by the runner who asked if he would like a beverage. Bread arrived with both parmesan encrusted flat bread, plus slices of a crusty loaf to go with the bottle of olive oil on the table carrying Spiaggia’s label. Something was definitely wrong with wither the oil, itself, or how the oil and bread worked together. There was an incredible bitter flavor almost to the point of Jfood thinking the oil had turned. But Jfood could not pinpoint the issue as much as he tried. The parmesan flat bread was excellent.

Jfood ordered a half-order of the “GNOCCHI AL RAGU DI CINGHIALE - Handcrafted potato gnocchi with wild boar ragu and Parmigiano Reggiano” as an appetizer. The gnocchi were very nice, fluffy and had a moist and light texture. The wild boar itself was nicely cooked, tender and flavorful. The sauce for the ragu was uneventful, seemingly thrown together over minutes prior to the service versus the hours that a true ragu requires. It had no depth of flavor at all. Jfood stared at the pepper mill across the room and wished someone would offer him some. None was offered, nor was any salt on the table, which Jfood would have liked as well with the sauce. Jfood would rate this a 7. Two of the three elements were good but the third was not.

For an entrée Jfood ordered one of the Daily Specials, the Bronzino (with an “o”) with Polenta and Cipollini Onions. This was then described as wild sea bass in the more detailed description of the dish. Why not just be consistent and call it wild sea bass from the beginning instead of confusing some by thinking it may be a Bronzini (with an “i”). This always bothered Jfood. The onions and polenta were outstanding but the fish was cooked too close to the heat and the outside was overdone-hard on the flesh side and slightly burnt on the skin side, and the interior was a little overcooked, but still moist. One should not need a knife, whether butter or sharp, to cut a piece of fish, but because of the overcooked exterior, Jfood struggled with the side of his fork to cut through. Jfood again stared at the pepper mill, but none was offered. Jfood can only give this a 5 (generous because of the polenta) due to the overcooked fish. Again, two of the three elements were good but the third, and the main element, was less than satisfactory.

Service needs to be broken into two categories. The server was non-existent after he took Jfood's order, but the runners were fantastic. The runners were there when required, brought extra bread, and even brought the dessert menu and asked for Jfood’s dessert order, that’s a first. Jfood guesses even they knew the server failed and wanted to cover. The server did not check in during the appetizer, did not check in during the entrée and was second (after the runner/busboy) in asking if Jfood wanted a beverage or dessert. So the server gets a big zero in the Jfood rating scale and the runners receive a 9, thank you runners/busboys.

All of this was conveyed to the server as well as the hostess on the way out.

Would Jfood return to Café Spiaggia? Probably, but he would let the MOD know of the first experience when he arrived, he would be much more active in the service dialogue with the server from the get-go, and he would be more proactive in sending the fish back if it came out in the same condition as the first visit.

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