[Photos: Marc Much]
The look. The layout. The atmosphere. The menus. The cocktails. The service. The staff. The chef. All of this is new, and Tony Mantuano and new chef Chris Marchino chatted about it all. Read some of their best quotes, look around the new space, and read the new menus below.
Tony Mantuano on initial reaction: "Judging by what has happened over the last few practice services and cocktail parties, it's nothing but open mouth, they can't believe what they see, they're in awe. People say, 'it feels like the soul of Spiaggia is still here but you just modernized it.'"
Mantuano on the design: "We wanted to make sure that no matter where you sat in the space that you were looking out the 40-foot windows at the park and the beach. There was a real effort to make all the seats face that way. And to put the bar in the middle of the room so if you're sitting at the bar you're looking through glassware out to the beach. The other thought was to bring nature in as much as we could—those sculptures and trees are all wood and marble."
Chris Marchino on the difference between the new lounge and dining room: "We want people to know that if you want to come in and enjoy Spiaggia you don't have to sit down for a three-hour tasting menu. You can still get that here but we want people to be able to come in before a show or after a show and enjoy some really creative cocktails and creative food in a much more casual setting."
Marchino on the new menu: "(The new menu) stays true to Italian ingredients and Italian dishes and Italian cooking, however there's a use of some modern cooking techniques combined with some very traditional that combine to create dishes that feel both modern and classic at the same time. We've also elevated the presentation of the food and we want there to be a wow factor there."
Marchino on a standout dish: "We've always done caviar service at Spiaggia and we've taken the opportunity to do a really creative play on caviar service and turned it into a composed dish. We're also serving carbonara by the gram in the lounge—it's a very Italian way to serve it. It's still a classic carbonara and classic ingredients but elevated.
"Once you select the type of caviar you like, instead of serving it with traditional accompaniments, we've elevated it and made a composed dish. It consists of a balloon where we soften buffalo mozzarella in warm water and use a charger to inflate it like a balloon, beneath that balloon is a little cream, the caviar is spooned on top of the balloon, the rest of the dish includes a poached egg yolk, salsa verde, a potato crisp, and dotted along the crisp are traditional accompaniments you'd get with caviar service: pickled shallots, chive oil, crème fraiche."
Mantuano on wine: "For years we've had one of the greatest Italian wine lists in the country but you never saw any of the wine, it was always hidden. Now it's right out there when you walk in the lobby. We placed such an emphasis on wine in this restaurant, as well as everything else, and we used to have one sommelier and now we have a sommelier and three cellar masters that are working the floor. The customer has more access to greater knowledge and guidance than they ever had before. There's a lot more rarities and depth than we've ever had before."
Marchino on the cocktail program: "Spiaggia has never focused this much on cocktails and using innovative techniques. Derek (Mercer) and I have spent countless hours in the kitchen together over the last few months working on things and it's kind of rare considering the typical division of front and back of house."
How Mantuano feels when he looks at the new Spiaggia: "It's pleasing and it was needed. No matter who you are and how old you are you have to change with the spirit or the fashion of the times. I knew it had to happen and to sit back and to look around and say 'this is exactly what I envisioned' and it feels modern and it feels like it could be in any major city in the world. All of this has come together in the right moment."
Marchino on taking over the kitchen: "I'd be lying if I said there wasn't just a little bit of pressure. It's really exciting and all happened so fast and like Tony said, things have come together so quickly that it almost feels that it was meant to happen. It's an incredible opportunity for me."
Mantuano in summation: "I hope that people don't look at Spiaggia the same way anymore and realize that it's become much more accessible. It's been modernized, it's airy, it's refreshing now."