Last week, in a pre-Thanksgiving Day holiday news drop, legendary Chicago chef and culinary mentor Tony Mantuano announced he was leaving Spiaggia, the Michelin-starred Italian restaurant where he made a name for himself. Mantuano told the Tribune that the Mag Mile restaurant was in good hands and that it was time to give a new generation an opportunity. He and wife Cathy earlier this month moved to Italy. Mantuano left the door open for a return and said that he wasn’t retiring.
Spiaggia opened 35 years ago with Mantuano as chef in collaboration with Levy Restaurants. He molded the Italian restaurant into one of Chicago’s finest dining experiences, earning Michelin stars while perched above Michigan Avenue with sweeping views of downtown Chicago. A Levy spokesperson provided a statement attributed to vice president of restaurant operations Jennifer Nickerson:
“After 35 years of leading the helm at Spiaggia, Tony Mantuano is stepping away from the day-to-day commitment of operating one of the best restaurants in the country. Tony’s accomplishments at Spiaggia speak for themselves and he has set the table for the future generation to take things to the next level. We wish Tony nothing but the best in this new phase of his life.”
Former Spiaggia chef de cuisine Eric Lees returned as executive chef in September, and Mantuano is confident in his leadership skills. Mantuano’s departure comes almost four months after executive chef and Top Chef champion Joe Flamm left the esteemed Michigan Avenue restaurant to open a forthcoming Croatian-Italian spot in Fulton Market.
A James Beard Award nominee and semifinalist many times over, Mantuano won the foundation’s Best Chef: Midwest award in 2005. He’s served numerous celebrities and politicians over the years, including Joe Biden, former Secretary of State John Kerry, and former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. Allegedly, he’s also President Barack Obama’s favorite chef.
Mantuano’s other Chicago restaurants include Cafe Spiaggia (Spiaggia’s casual cousin next door), bustling riverside restaurant River Roast, Terzo Piano inside the Art Institute of Chicago, and most recently, Wrigleyville’s Italian-Polish spot Maddon’s Post. That’s a collaboration with Joe Maddon, the former Cubs manager who left the team in September.
Many speculated Maddon’s departure from Chicago — he’s since taken a job in LA — would trigger a name change for the restaurant. That hasn’t happened. A spokesperson didn’t have details on Mantuano’s role with the Wrigleyville restaurant or any ownership stake in Spiaggia. But now both Mantuano and Maddon have both left Chicago. A spokesperson also didn’t have any info about how Mantuano’s departure would impact Levy’s other restaurants.