There’s probably no cuisine in the world that’s as loved as Italian cuisine. When the first Italian immigrants moved to the United States, they set up pizzerias and trattorias to share what they know best: food. This is one of the many reasons Italian food became such a worldwide sensation.
As Italian food became popular all over the globe, it lost its touch on its roots. In the Philippines, although every Filipino grew up eating their mom’s spaghetti, it’s difficult to find a local restaurant that offers authentic Italian food. No matter how comforting sweet Pinoy spaghetti is, it could not be further removed from real Italian pasta.
That’s where La Spezia comes in. Taking its name from a coastal town in the Liguria region of northern Italy, La Spezia hopes to emulate the experience you get from eating in the Mediterranean coast. Knowing that Enderun-trained chefs Sean Yuquimpo and Aaron Shiu man the kitchen, we came with high expectations.
Finding the restaurant is easier if you use Waze. It’s only a few meters away from Romulo Cafe, along the backstreets of Tomas Morato. Upon entering, you’ll find a small al fresco dining area where you can enjoy the cool breeze.
There’s a small, air-conditioned dining area inside if you’d like to eat in a cooler, more comfortable setting. The interiors are clean and simple, with walls that feature images of the Mediterranean.
Before every meal, the waiters serve a small plate of bread with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. We’d appreciate a more even drizzling of balsamic, but the bread is fine.
Sitting on a large, round plate surrounded by grilled corn, basil, and tomatoes, the Burrata looked like an artwork. To help the ball hold its shape, the outer shell is made of solid buffalo mozzarella. As you cut into it, you’ll find soft, creamy, and mildly salty cheese.
The balsamic vinegar used in this dish lends a distinct sweetness that complements the cheese. It’s imported from Modena, a city in northern Italy that’s known for creating the rules and regulations for producing “real” balsamic vinegar. Mix it in with the rest of the ingredients for best results.
This is the reason we went to La Spezia. For years, we’ve been looking for a place that serves real Carbonara, not the heavy, creamy kind you’d commonly find being served in other Italian restaurants.
To stay true to the original Roman recipe, La Spezia makes the sauce from eggs and flavors it with nothing aside from black pepper and Parmigiano-Reggiano. La Spezia’s version also includes pancetta, which is a recommended substitute for guanciale, the type of meat traditionally used for this dish. For those who are wondering, yes, it’s better than bacon.
If there’s a mother of all Italian sauces, it has got to be Pomodoro. It’s a timeless classic that people from all over the world adore. La Spezia makes its version from sun-dried Italian tomatoes, whole basil leaves, and extra virgin olive oil. Although we found the freshness and flavor of the ingredients delightful, this could do better with an extra sprinkling of salt and a little bit more garlic.
If you want something lighter on the palate, the Spaghetti Aglio Pesca is a good choice. This olive-oil based pasta comes with an array of seafood, such as clams, squid, and shrimp. Although the dish was well-seasoned, we noticed that the garlic had been browned a little longer than it should have. The shrimp should’ve also spent a little less time on the pan. Nevertheless, if they got the execution right, this would be an enjoyable dish.
During our first visit, we ordered the Pollo Arrosto but it unfortunately disappeared from the menu on our second visit. It was replaced by a dish called Sous Vide Pork Belly, which we wanted to try, but wasn’t available. Even though you may no longer get to order the Pollo Arrosto on your visit to La Spezia, it’s still worth talking about, because we loved this dish.
If you’re a fan of chicken jus (concentrated chicken stock), this will give you something to smile about. Swimming in a small puddle of its own juices, the succulent, fall-off-the-bone chicken was a dream. The tomatoes and French beans also balanced out the dish. We hope that the owners consider placing this back on their menu, although at a lower price point, since the serving is pretty small for something that’s worth more than P500.
Overall Verdict: Since the restaurant is new, the owners are still adding and subtracting dishes to their menu. The best time to visit La Spezia is during weekends, when they have specials like the Bistecca alla Florentina. Prepare a budget of P1000-P1500 per head, since the dishes are quite pricey.
In the end, we think La Spezia is a welcome addition to the restaurants that line the stretch of Tomas Morato. The chefs’ uncompromising use of the best ingredients available makes the place worth visiting.
As everyone else is trying to think outside the box, La Spezia recognizes that there is something to gain from staying true to the classics. If the chefs could perfect the execution of each dish with killer precision, then we’d recommend it every time. Give it a try and let us know how your experience goes.
La Spezia is located at 90 Scout Dr. Lascano St., Brgy. Laging Handa cor. Tomas Morato, Quezon City. Visit their Instagram account for more details.