Magazine article The New Yorker

SPIGA; Tables for Two

Magazine article The New Yorker

SPIGA; Tables for Two

Article excerpt

This Italian restaurant opened a little over a year ago, in a space that had been occupied for the previous three decades by a tandoori place. In this area, one of the culinary dead zones people love to complain about, one merely hopes for a decent neighborhood option; but, for better or worse, Spiga doesn't aspire to be a standby. You can't get a basic risotto; this is cocoa-flavored-gnocchi-with-wild-boar territory. "There's plenty of osso bucco and risotto milanese in Manhattan," explains the waiter, a towering man with a buzz cut and hefty sideburns. "Our chef"--Salvatore Corea--"he is from the Calabria region. He has ideas."

Too many ideas, in some cases. The main one involves inverting sweet and savory flavors. An uneven starter of porcini prepared three ways, including fried mushroom (savory but boring), mushroom soup (way too salty), and mushroom ice cream (slightly sweet, very tasty), is typical. As for the cocoa gnocchi, the first bite is surprisingly good--fragrant and earthy, chocolate and boar melded seamlessly--but it's ultimately too heavy, and the cleverness wears off after a few bites. Still, when the sweet/savory concept works, as in a crisp fennel-and-orange salad with a kick of licorice, it can be pleasant. …

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