Decades before the likes of Mario Batali and Michael White reimagined fine Italian dining, Tony Mantuano taught Chicagoans how to enjoy refined Italian fare at Spiaggia (“beach” in Italian). Mantuano has won countless accolades, including the 2005 James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Midwest, and was named Best Italian Restaurant in Chicago by The Daily Meal. Reopening after a redesign last year (its first since 1999), the restaurant has 50 percent more seats with views, a new lounge, and a floor-to-ceiling glass-enclosed, temperature-controlled wine room showcasing 1,700 of Spiaggia’s nearly 5,000 bottles. The new restaurant menu follows the traditional Italian courses of antipasto, pasta, secondi, and dessert, but with almost entirely new dishes (the potato gnocchi with ricotta did made the transition). One thing that hasn’t changed is Spiaggia’s ability to delight diners. Much of that can be credited to executive chef Chris Marchino, who serves mouthwatering fare like cut rye spaghetti with Taleggio, morels, chanterelles, and rosemary; chestnut soup with foie gras, farro, and pomegranate; and Slagel Farm suckling pig with preserved rhubarb, fennel, and Controne pepper. If you can’t make up your mind, there’s always the six-course tasting menu, including the famed gnocchi ($165 per person).
— Arthur Bovino, 101 Best Restaurants, April 1, 2015