This past weekend TuscanVines descended upon The Windy City for a family wedding but left plenty of time to take in some of the sights and sample some of the cuinary hot spots. 
First up was Cafe Spiaggia, the more casual sibling of Spiaggia Restaurant, which is closed undergoing a significant dining room renovation.  I’ve been to Cafe Spiaggia before and knew the food would be good, but I was disappointed that we didn’t have access to the full Spiaggia wine list.  What was available was rather limited.
We were staying right in the heart of the Gold Coast; a perfect location as we walked just about everywhere we needed to be – a feat that was not without intrigue given the vast amount of homeless beggars dotting the “Magnificent Mile”.  We strolled into Cafe Spiaggia without a hitch but the restaurant was noticeably warm.  Given that it was 72 degrees outside, many of the buildings were still running heat (including our hotel) and we were told that Building Manager controlled the air conditioning for the building.  Soon enough, it was more comfortable.

~ Antipasto:  Carpaccio with lemon, garlic, mushrooms and arugula ~ 
Appetizers and entrees were very good, although my truffled polenta side dish with small trumpet mushrooms was the best thing I had the entire night. 

~ Truffled Polenta with Mushrooms ~

We started with a wine recommended by the waiter – there was no sommelier working – after my original selection “couldn’t be found”. From yet another Italian family winery that split in disagreement during 2006, we tried the 2012 Renato Corino Barbera d’Alba.  This Barbera has a deep ruby color with an intense nose of flowers and wild strawberry.  The fruit component to the nose was unique – very assertive and attractive.  On the palate the wine is bright and fresh with wild berry flavors that are joined by anise, and a mild earthy undertone.  Sourced from La Morra and from vines that were planted between 1975-1990, this juicy, spicy Barbera spends 4 months in barrique and an additional month in bottle prior to release.  88 points.  About $15 retail.  $50 on the wine list. 

~ Very nice Barbera.  We went through 2 bottles of this with dinner ~
Freshly made black tagliatelle with calamari, shrimp and toasted breadcrumbs, chilis and mint moved us along past the appetizers.  This was delicious pasta and one of the favorites on the night. 

~ Squid Ink Tagliatelle ~
Toward the end of the meal we tired of the Barbera and decided to up the ante somewhat.  I turned to what has become an old standby for me- and in the restaurant friendly 2008 vintage – we chose the 2008 Mastrojanni Brunello.
Deep ruby, with a lighter copper rim, this Brunello gives off plenty of floral aromatics that mixed with crushed berry, spice and fresh herbs.  I’ve had this wine a few times now and it never lets me down.  Medium bodied on the palate with a good core of berry fruit,  this was the perfect foil for the “Manzo” that some had ordered and frankly, even paired well with the Tagliatelle.  Good acids and very little tannic grip keep this wine fresh.  90 points, about $40 retail.  $120 from the wine list. 

~ Mastrojanni Brunello was killer paired with the Truffled Polenta ~


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