Before there was Instagram and Snapchat, there was Twitter. Before Twitter there was Facebook and MySpace and before that there was….Word Of Mouth.
Yes, good old fashioned, “ Wow, I had a great dinner last night ”.
So it was with much respect and I admit some curiosity that I stopped into Spiga at 1228 Collins Ave. Miami Beach on a Tuesday night to see just what made the Italian restaurant survive for 20 years in South Beach, with NO Facebook page, NO Twitter or Instagram and a somewhat outdated website page.
South Beach has certainly undergone it’s ups and downs from hotels sitting abandoned for years, to major renovations, new restaurants opening and them promptly closing, to road construction on Collins and Washington. But through it all, Spiga has not only survived, but thrived as a local place to enjoy an intimate dinner of fresh daily made pasta and other Italian specialties.
Roberto Legrand is the original and proud owner, who is there every night meeting and greeting both the new and loyal patrons. He opened Spiga after helping to open two other restaurants in Miami having worked for Cipriani and BICE in New York City after studying culinary arts in Italy.
But being Chef/Owner was always his dream, and even after 20 years, he is still passionate about Spiga, it’s staff and classic Italian food. The name " Spiga” means wheat and it is his fresh pasta that is Spiga’s calling card.
At 6pm on a Tuesday night, the restaurant was filling up as I took a seat at one of the cozy candlelit tables along the stucco wall. The restaurant has an intimate main dining room and bar, and lovely outdoor terrace seating in additional to a couple very private tables in a side garden. Margaret, the hostess/manager greeted me and we talked about the restaurant and that many of the employees have been with Spiga for multiple years including one for over 19 years. In a town where staff turnover is among the biggest hospitality issue, I recognized why diners return to Spiga…the familiar and consistent food, the familiar and welcoming faces.
Roberto joined us and a lively discussion about the changes to Miami ensued. The traffic to and once on Miami Beach, the fact that many diners don’t even need to go to the beach for dinner now as there are so many good options in the Design District, MiMo, Wynwood, Midtown and even in past dining “wastelands” like Coral Gables and Coconut Grove. The lack of, or high cost of parking has also changed who comes to Miami Beach. He remembers when 80% of his customers were local from both Miami Beach and the Miami mainland, and now says many are tourists referred by the local hotels looking for something not outrageously expensive but good. And he has not only survived but is thriving, as many first time customers report back on their positive dining experience and recommend Spiga to friends.
The food is traditional with good-sized portions and the pasta options are many and not to be missed. The menu offers hot and cold antipasti, salads, pasta, pesci and carni and weekly specials from Chef de Cuisine, Remberto. Don’t pass up the freshly made focaccia served with a sundried tomato olive oil. I started with a Capelletti Soup, a light chicken soup with ricotta stuffed capelletti pasta. Each one obviously hand made and delicately stuffed. The Polipo alla Griglia, was grilled octopus on a bed of red lentils and olive oil. I felt the octopus could have been a little more tender, but the flavor and lentil accompaniment were both good.
I had such a hard time choosing which pasta dish to order, as there were over 20 to choose from, that Roberto offered me a tasting plate of five different pastas, which gave me the chance to taste each one.
Starting at the top, was the Papparelle Pasta with Prawn. In a slightly spicy red sauce with a perfectly grilled split prawn it was very good. Moving clockwise, the Green and White Gnocchi in Bolognese was probably my favorite. I love gnocchi, but many times it is too chewy. Spiga’s gnocchi, which Roberto proudly mentioned has NO flour virtually melts in your mouth. Next was the Pappardelle with Portabello and Truffle Oil and this was rich and very flavorful. In the middle of the plate was a Marscapone and Pesto Risotto, which was also well seasoned and prepared. My second favorite pasta dish was the Pear Ravioli with Fontina Cheese, Talegio and Walnut Cream. Rich and somewhat decadent, I would order this again as a main entrée.
All pasta dishes are priced well at under $20 and can also be ordered as a half portion for an appetizer or side.
Main meat dishes include Polla alla Milanese, Scalloppini al Funghi and Grilled New York Black Angus Sirloin. Seafood dishes include Spiga’s signature Zuppa di Pesce, Red Snapper with olives, capers and tomato and Baked Grouper with artichoke puree. Nothing except the steak dishes is priced over $29.
Dessert was another proud moment for Roberto as he presented me with a Dessert Assortment that included traditional Italian specialties like Tiramesu, Flan, Cheesecake and a warm and crispy Banana Strudel with vanilla ice cream. All are made in house.
Wines are affordable, $8.50 a glass or average $40-60 a bottle.
Open for Dinner nightly 6-11 pm.
Stop in when you are in the neighborhood for, to quote Roberto, “Classic Italian food in a local setting ”, something that seems to be hard to find in South Beach these days.
1228 Collins Ave.
Miami Beach, FL
305 534 0079