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Spiga – LOST GEM

Spiga – LOST GEM

200 West 84th Street
New York, NY 10024
Established: 2012; Closed 2016

I have had some outstanding Italian dinners at Spiga, and was eager to introduce the Manhattan Sideways Team to this cozy, wine-inspired neighborhood restaurant. The ambience is warm with dark wood wine racks, cork wreaths and painted sprigs of wheat above the bar – “Spiga,” I learned on the evening that we visited, means “wheat” in Italian.

Stefano and Luigi, the owners of Spiga, shared the origins of the restaurant with me. Luigi’s brother originally opened Spiga in 2005, as a slightly different restaurant, which focused on nouveau cuisine. When Luigi and Stefano, the head chef, took over the lease, they created a more traditional menu. The two men are from Italy, and have known each other since 1988 when they were working at the same restaurant. Both men have been in the culinary world their whole lives. “We came here to be in the restaurant business,” Luigi explained. Both knew that they wanted to travel when they went to culinary school. Luigi, in addition to working in New York, has worked on cruise ships and in London. The men are happy, however, with the home that they have built for themselves in New York City. “We like the West Side,” Stefano said, though he added that they try to return to Italy once or twice a year.

Stefano brought out a series of dishes for the Manhattan Sideways team to photograph and taste. Each plate was artfully crafted and included a fresh mesclun salad decorated with grapefruit, dried cranberries, and shaved parmesan cheese; zucchini parmesan; a ravioli dish with asparagus; shrimp in a saffron sauce; and a plate of cannelloni with mozzarella and ricotta. We ended with a colorful flan, peppered with berries. Stefano treated us to a dazzling liquid rainbow of prosecco, rose, red and white wine, representing a fair survey of Spiga’s impressive wine collection, which is entirely Italian.

Luigi informed me that ninety percent of the clientele are regulars. Some people even come twice a week. While some of the dishes are staples and remain on the menu all year round, other dishes rotate with the seasons. For example, in the winter, Spiga serves a wild board ragout and other heavier foods. Though the cuisine is essential in maintaining a core of devoted customers, Stefano also likes to think that the Spiga’s atmosphere plays a role. “We don’t take ourselves too seriously,” he pointed out. Though they are busy most nights and often have to turn people away because of their small, “comfy and romantic” space, the two men assured me, “We don’t let it go to our head. We don’t brag.” They feel badly each time they have to turn a loyal customer away and happy for every diner they are able to seat. As if on command, a regular came in to sit at the bar and Stefano greeted him warmly by name with a big smile.