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La Spiga--disappoints


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I read some very favorable comments in this thread about La Spiga and read here with interest that on his last visit to Seattle for his Food Network show Ciao America, Mario Batali had featured Salumi, Pike Place Market and Osteria La Spiga. I drive by La Spiga every time I travel downtown, but I've never eaten there. Because I believe that Seattle has (with a few exceptions) a great paucity of fine Italian trattorias, I decided to give it a try.

After eating there recently, I'd say that it fits squarely in the category of the decent, but not spectacular Seattle Italian restaurant tradition. I ordered venison stew with creamed polenta. I'm always excited when I see game on a restarant menu and I'm also a sucker for polenta, one of my favorite grains. But I was disappointed this night. The stew was bland and relatively tasteless. It seemed to be unseasoned or so lightly seasoned as to not make a difference. The polenta had a nice creamy texture but also seemed less than stellar.

The waiter recommended an espresso tiramisu-like dessert. I'm always leery of tiramisu on a menu because it's probably the most commonplace (and therefore boring) dessert served in restaurants today. But he spoke highly of it and I thought I'd trust him. And it was good, quite good. But it was still tiramisu and didn't rise above it's tiramisuness.

The night we sampled La Spiga, they featured a jazz duo with a trumpter playing Miles Davis tunes. They were quite good and added a nice touch to the dining experience.

I've enjoyed Il Terrazo Carmine and Sostanza (a great neighborhood place in Madison Park). I can't say I've found much else Italian that's set my heart and mouth on fire. I haven't yet tried Tulio or Assiago, which others here have recommended..

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  I haven't yet tried Tulio or Assiago, which others here have recommended..

How about Vita Bella (that's probably not the full name) on 2nd in Belltown? I keep hearing very good things about it, but haven't tried it. Never tried Assiago either.

Remember that the originator of Tulio's has moved on - now Chef/Owner of Troiani on 3rd. It left my dining companions swooning last weekend. Not exactly cheap, but ....

Does anyone eat at Il Bistro anymore?

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WARNING: I have a very hard time not being irrationally defensive of La Spiga.... :blink:

As tempting as they may often sound on the menu, I think that meats, stews, etc. are really not the restaurants strengths. As Laurie indicated, their pastas, along with the piadina and crescione sandwiches are where they really shine. In my opinion, the soups are some of the best anywhere in town. For those of us who love tiramisu, La Spiga's is exquisite, the best I've had outside Italy by a wide margine.

I believe that too often we make the mistake of lumping all Italian restaurants together. I don't think a comparison of La Spiga to Il Terrazzo (or Troiani) makes any more sense that comparing Le Pichet to Campagne for French food, they're fundamentally different kinds of restaurants with different aspirations. I too love Sostanza, but for whatever reason, I don't think of it in the same kind of place as Spiga. If you didn't like La Spiga, I'd be surprised if Assiago does it for you, doesn't hold a candle as far as I'm concerned.

If you're ever in the mood for really good 'red-sauce' Italian food, head south to Filiberto's in Burien.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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  • 2 weeks later...
i've eaten at la spiga several times and almost always have pasta, haven't tried anything similar to your stew. i love their pastas, esp. ravioli which changes seasonally. matthew is fond of the cresciones but i find the bread a bit bland.

Surprising that the bread is bland, since it's made with pork fat. Yup, if you're vegetarian or otherwise opposed to eating pork, don't go near the bread at La Spiga. We asked them many times if an apparently vegetarian crescione contained any meat, and were always assured that it did not. I'm not sure about you, but to me, pork fat is meat. Since we discovered this, we haven't been back to the place - this is one restaurant whose closing I'm looking forward to.

- S

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i've eaten at la spiga several times and almost always have pasta, haven't tried anything similar to your stew. i love their pastas, esp. ravioli which changes seasonally. matthew is fond of the cresciones but i find the bread a bit bland.

Surprising that the bread is bland, since it's made with pork fat. Yup, if you're vegetarian or otherwise opposed to eating pork, don't go near the bread at La Spiga. We asked them many times if an apparently vegetarian crescione contained any meat, and were always assured that it did not. I'm not sure about you, but to me, pork fat is meat. Since we discovered this, we haven't been back to the place - this is one restaurant whose closing I'm looking forward to.

- S

Please see initial statement in my last post on this thread....

The good thing Fish is, at least you're not bitter and haven't carried the angst around with you ever since the experience. You bring up this experience every time La Spiga is even mentioned in passing.

I would be willing to bet my life savings that if they gave you the wrong information it was due to ignorance on the part of your server or a simple oversight, not due to any malicious intent to corrupt your vegetarian soul. I understand that this isn't an excuse, but it is an explanation. Restaurants do this kind of thing and worse (my wife was served water with bleach in it on one occaision) all the time, its the real downside of having fallible humans involved in the process.

As far as dancing on their grave, I wouldn't hold your breath. They're full pretty much every time I go there, lunch or dinner. There are plenty of restaurants around that you'd be doing us all a favor by crusading for their demise, La Spiga doesn't happen to be one of them.

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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The good thing Fish is, at least you're not bitter and haven't carried the angst around with you ever since the experience.  You bring up this experience every time La Spiga is even mentioned in passing.

Yes I am pretty annoyed about it and I do mention it every chance I get, because I'd hate for the same thing to happen to someone else. You blithely assume I don't eat pork because I'm vegetarian: actually, it's because I'm Jewish and to me, eating pork is something I would never, ever do - it's hugely offensive to me. I'm usually very careful about asking about pork in dishes, but who expects to find pork fat in bread ? (Well, now I do). As I've mentioned in past posts, I've asked several chefs about this, and all were quite horrified that a restaurant would neglect to mention that something innocuous contained pork fat.

I would be willing to bet my life savings that if they gave you the wrong information it was due to ignorance on the part of your server or a simple oversight, not due to any malicious intent to corrupt your vegetarian soul.  I understand that this isn't an excuse, but it is an explanation.  Restaurants do this kind of thing and worse (my wife was served water with bleach in it on one occaision) all the time, its the real downside of having fallible humans involved in the process.

Is ignorance any better than maliciousness ? Surely part of the chef's job is to make sure the front-of-house staff are knowledgeable about the food ? Would you expect that after a customer complained about something that the staff would then be informed, to avoid similar mishaps ? I joined some friends there for a glass of wine a few months ago, and, just for kicks, asked the waiter if the crescione was vegetarian, and was told that it was. Maliciousness, ignorance or complete insensitivity - take your pick. In the meantime, I'll continue to tell people about this every chance I get.

- S

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The funny thing to me is that when I first tried the piadina bread I thought it tasted like the pancakes of my childhood LOL so it was an entirely different flavor than what I expected.

now that I think about it, my mom used to cook our pancakes in bacon fat :raz:

Edited by malarkey (log)

Born Free, Now Expensive

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You blithely assume I don't eat pork because I'm vegetarian: actually, it's because I'm Jewish and to me, eating pork is something I would never, ever do - it's hugely offensive to me.  I'm usually very careful about asking about pork in dishes, but who expects to find pork fat in bread?

I don't "blithely" anything. Every time you've brought it up, you've stated it as a "vegetarian" issue, including this most recent occasion. Many traditional breads contain lard, including tortillas, not that it excuses the restaurant's failure to tell you that.

Is ignorance any better than maliciousness ?  Surely part of the chef's job is to make sure the front-of-house staff are knowledgeable about the food ?  Would you expect that after a customer complained about something that the staff would then be informed, to avoid similar mishaps?

Yes, yes & yes. My question is: how did you ultimately find out, if no one in the restaurant ever told you?...or are you just taking someone else's word for it?

Edited by tighe (log)

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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You blithely assume I don't eat pork because I'm vegetarian: actually, it's because I'm Jewish and to me, eating pork is something I would never, ever do - it's hugely offensive to me.  I'm usually very careful about asking about pork in dishes, but who expects to find pork fat in bread?

I don't "blithely" anything. Every time you've brought it up, you've stated it as a "vegetarian" issue, including this most recent occasion. Many traditional breads contain lard, including tortillas, not that it excuses the restaurant's failure to tell you that.

It's generally easier to explain vegetarianism than the Jewish dietary laws. As for traditional breads containing lard, I only knew about tortillas (and I always ask whenever I eat them).

My question is: how did you ultimately find out, if no one in the restaurant ever told you?...or are you just taking someone else's word for it?

I'm a fairly keen bread baker. After eating at La Spiga a few times, I decided I wanted to try baking piadina so I looked for recipes on Google. After the first six I found all contained pork fat, I got suspicious and called the restaurant and asked explicitly if the bread contains pork fat, at which point they said that it did.

It seems pointless for me to try to convince you to understand the outrage I feel, so I won't.

- S

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I spoke to Pietro, the owner, and confirmed that they do use lard in the piadina. He also said they stress this with their service staff. I suggested that they consider putting a note at the bottom of the menu.

Fish, I certainly understand your outrage rising to the level of not wanting to ever go to La Spiga again (I said this on another thread in fact), but it seems to go far beyond that.....

Other breads to be aware of: Indian fry bread, biscuits, Irish soda bread, French boules, potato bread....

Most women don't seem to know how much flour to use so it gets so thick you have to chop it off the plate with a knife and it tastes like wallpaper paste....Just why cream sauce is bitched up so often is an all-time mytery to me, because it's so easy to make and can be used as the basis for such a variety of really delicious food.

- Victor Bergeron, Trader Vic's Book of Food & Drink, 1946

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As tempting as they may often sound on the menu, I think that meats, stews, etc. are really not the restaurants strengths. As Laurie indicated, their pastas, along with the piadina and crescione sandwiches are where they really shine. In my opinion, the soups are some of the best anywhere in town. For those of us who love tiramisu, La Spiga's is exquisite, the best I've had outside Italy by a wide margine.

If you're ever in the mood for really good 'red-sauce' Italian food, head south to Filiberto's in Burien.

I didn't think you sounded defensive & I appreciate your steering me away from the meats & towards the pastas. We'll have to try again sometime.

As for Fish's comment about the bread: I certainly honor & respect his concerns about kashrut & understand why pork fat in the bread distressed him. I don't judge a restaurant solely by its bread & I think it's a bit unfair to steer people away from it solely for that reason (even if it did cause you to violate kashrut).

Fish acts as if the La Spiga staff deliberately lied to him & committed some kind of intentional deception. That seems extreme.

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As for Fish's comment about the bread: I certainly honor & respect his concerns about kashrut & understand why pork fat in the bread distressed him.  I don't judge a restaurant solely by its bread & I think it's a bit unfair to steer people away from it solely for that reason (even if it did cause you to violate kashrut).

Fish acts as if the La Spiga staff deliberately lied to him & committed some kind of intentional deception.  That seems extreme.

So if I explicitly asked if something was vegetarian and was told that it was then I wasn't deceived ? The first time, I'd be willing to accept that Pietro didn't think it was necessary to tell his staff about this. The second time, that excuse doesn't fly.

I'm not judging the restaurant on their bread. I'm judging them on their honesty, which is a large component of service, which is certainly a valid measure to use in assessing a restaurant. If the wait staff don't know something for sure if a customer asks then they should ask someone who does know, especially when that someone is less than 20 feet away. If they had done that and had told me that the bread contained pork fat, I would probably i) have tipped the waiter very well and ii) be a very loyal customer.

Another way to think about all of this: Assume you're a dog lover. How would you feel if I told you that the bread was made with dog fat ? Wouldn't you want to warn everybody you know who might be upset by this that the bread was made with dog fat ? Would you consider that extreme ?

- S

Edited by Fish (log)
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