Cafe Spiaggia is one of Chicago's crown jewels in terms of refined Italian fare (with a "magnificent" view, no less), so you'd be wise to prioritize it on your Chicago Restaurant Week dining itinerary. As the Michigan Avenue mainstay dives into CRW, I chatted with executive chef Chris Marchino about all things Restaurant Week to gauge some insider perspective and also learn which restaurant he's embarrassed about never having been to.
What do you like most about Chicago Restaurant Week?
What I like most is seeing new faces and a fun, younger demographic that doesn't always come to the restaurant. Our goal is that they enjoy the experience and come back again other weeks of the years.
What is the preparation process like when gearing up for CRW?
We do our best to design a menu that is delicious, appealing and can be quickly and properly executed in the kitchen. The battle is always trying to keep up since we tend to get busy. We stockpile prep and choose dishes that do not have a long prep time, but are still representative of the restaurant.
Why (or how) do you think CRW is a good thing for Chicago?
It's great as it breaks up the winter and a time that the industry is typically slower. This time of year people tend to hunker down and Restaurant Week gets them out, moving, bringing new energy to the restaurants they go to.
How does your prep for CRW differ from your prep for typical non-CRW weeks and menus?
We tend to stockpile the prep and keep it streamlined. We're prepping the same few things over and over again, tons of it, compared to other weeks of the year when we focus more on the whole menu and the diverse set of different prep tasks.
What are your keys to a successful CRW?
The keys to a successful Restaurant Week are to have an appealing menu and to make sure your staff is happy, healthy and brings exciting energy each day, ready to do it all over again. If guests have both a great food and service experience, that will lead them to come back again.
What are you making for CRW at Cafe Spiaggia this year?
The menu is fun and shows a few different areas of our expertise - housemade pasta, an item from our wood-burning oven, crudo, etc. The hearty bolognese is great for a cold day, can't beat it. Our pastry chef Nicole Guini updated our tiramisu with a modern twist that I'm excited for guests to taste.
If you could go out to lunch or dinner during CRW, where would you go and why?
I would go to The Bristol. Embarrassingly, I've never been and it's in my neighborhood.
To learn more about Cafe Spiaggia and to peruse their menus, visit here.