Spiaggia closes permanently after nearly 40 years in Chicago

Robert C. Williams

After nearly 40 years as one of the best Italian restaurants in Chicago, the iconic fine-dining Spiaggia has permanently closed. Also closed is its sister eatery, the more casual Cafe Spiaggia.

According to a tweet posted Friday morning from the restaurant’s account, and a report on eater.com/chicago, Levy Restaurants, the ownership arm of Spiaggia, said they were fully committed to reopening following more than a yearlong pandemic shutdown, but could not reach a new leasing agreement with the restaurant’s building landlord, “which was necessary to reflect the realities of operating a restaurant in an office building post-pandemic.”

“We were very much looking forward to welcoming back our cherished family and guests,” a post on Spiaggia’s website noted.

With a kitchen helmed by the legendary Chef Tony Mantuano, the restaurant was Michelin-starred and the recipient of numerous James Beard Award nominations, including Mantuano’s win as best chef Midwest region in 2005. His wife, Cathy Mantuano, curated a James Beard-nominated wine cellar. Together, they elevated Italian cuisine to new heights over 37 years.

In this 2002 photo, Chef Tony Mantuano takes a half wheel of gorgonzola cheese from the cheese cave at Spiaggia. Photo by Jim Frost Sun-Times.

In this 2002 file photo, Chef Tony Mantuano takes a half wheel of gorgonzola cheese from the “cheese cave” at Spiaggia.
Jim Frost/Sun-Times File

The restaurant was also known for nurturing young talent including Sarah Grueneberg, the chef-owner of Monteverde in Chicago, and “Top Chef” champ Joe Flamm, who earlier this year opened his own restaurant, the Croatian-American restaurant Rose Mary, in the West Loop.

Spiaggia (Italian for “beach”), located near the corner of Michigan Avenue and Oak Street, offered diners one of the best views of the city, too, overlooking the Mag Mile and Oak Street Beach.

The Mantuanos departed Spiaggia in 2019 to start a new chapter in their lives, opening the equally swanky Yolan in Nashville.

In a 2019 interview with Food & Wine, chef Mantuano reflected on the couple’s nearly four-decades at Spiaggia and their life in Chicago. “It definitely was hard just to say goodbye to all our friends and family. I just feel like we needed a new act. We had done what we’d done there and then we’d accomplished what we accomplished. We were looking for a new challenge. We gave the majority of our life years to a place and are still really proud of what we did there. So, it was hard to leave, but we gave a lot, and now it’s time to let that child go on its way. It was time for mom and dad to find something new to do.”

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