Chicago’s Michelin-starred Spiaggia closes after 37 years

The Italian restaurant, a favorite of former President Obama and a breeding ground for top chefs, said it could not negotiate a deal with its landlord.
Photo courtesy Galdones Photography

Legendary Chicago Italian restaurant Spiaggia, which has been open for 37 years, announced Friday it is permanently closed.

Owners of the Michelin-starred restaurant and its sister concept, Café Spiaggia, were unable to restructure its soon-to-expire Michigan Avenue lease, a move that “was necessary to reflect the realities of operating a restaurant in an office building, post-pandemic,” according to a statement posted on the restaurant’s website and social media. The restaurants had been closed during the pandemic but had plans to re-open.

Spiaggia debuted in 1984, a partnership between Chef Tony Mantuano and multi-concept operator Levy Restaurants. Levy remains the restaurant’s owner; Mantuano exited the operation in late 2019.

The restaurant, and Mantuano, were long favorites of former President Obama, who dined there with his family many times while he was in office. The chef once flew to a Bulls-Wizards basketball game in Washington D.C. to prepare Obama’s favorite: wood-roasted scallops, according to media reports.

During its history, Spiaggia was also known as a breeding ground for marquee chefs, including Top Chef winner Joe Flamm, who cooked there from 2014 to 2019, and Top Chef contestant Sarah Gruenberg. Both left Spiaggia to open their own restaurants.

Spiaggia joins a long list of decades-old independent restaurants that have closed permanently since the pandemic hit the U.S. in March 2020.

Dozens of people had commented on Spiaggia’s Facebook announcement Friday, expressing shock and sadness at the permanent closure.

“This is very sad news,” one wrote. “You provided excellence in every way, and I am forever grateful. This is a tremendous loss for the city. I cannot tell you how sad I am.”

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