980 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor
Designer: Mark Knauer
This year marks the 30th anniversary of Spiaggia, a fine dining spot for modern Italian fare at the northern end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. It is also a new beginning of sorts, as the restaurant took the first six months of the year off to redesign its interior. The goal of the gut rehab was to “reimagine” the space, so Chef Tony Mantuano brought on designer Mark Knauer to polish off some of the glitter.
Italian for “beach,” Spiaggia celebrates its location steps away from downtown’s popular Oak Street Beach. Its aesthetic embraces the Italian idea of sprezzatura or, “nonchalant elegance.” Floor-to-ceiling glass rings a temperature-controlled wine room, showing off a collection of 5,000 bottles. That would be a touch of elegance, while a new 30-seat “come-as-you-are” lounge would seem to hold up the nonchalance end of sprezzatura.
Knauer moved the 12-seat bar to the center of the restaurant, adding A/C and USB outlets to each seat. Bar patrons have a nice view of the rest of the dining room, which has swapped white tablecloths for dark brown oak tables that were baked in oil at 375 degrees and given a matte finish. Chandeliers and marble columns round out the space, lest someone mistake the assault on stuffiness for a trend toward dive.