Spiga Ristorante Italiano

A famed Boston chef moves to the 'burbs
By ROBERT NADEAU  |  July 8, 2009
3.0 3.0 Stars

"Secondi" are the most conventional courses at Spiga, including a special on baked lobster ($42) distinguished only by the excellent stuffing of crabmeat and shrimp. Bistecca of swordfish ($22) gives you a terrific piece with a bone "handle," so that it looks a little like a rib steak. It's served with a bean, onion, and tomato salad and a bowl of fish broth wonderfully infused with rosemary.

"Seven Spices Chicken" ($19) is semi-boned, so the white meat got a bit dried out in the oven, but the dark meat was fabulous with very good seasoning (whatever those seven spices are). A Meyer-lemon sauce and smashed yellow potatoes round out the dish — yum. The other mashed potato item is a side dish of "Parmigiano Oreo Cookie" ($4.50): whipped potatoes between paper-thin cheese crisps. (Actually, it's not much like an Oreo at all.)

Cotoletta Milanese ($24) sounds like a veal cutlet, but mine was a dark-meat veal chop, vivid with a bread-crumb crust and a crunchy salad of endive, baby spinach, and potato chips. Unfortunately, the chips were thin and limp. I think they were originally crisp and intended as a topping, and perhaps were accidentally buried. The only pedestrian entrée was herbed salmon ($21), a decent chunk of fish with julliened zucchini pretending to be noodles and bready, pointless semolina croutons.

The wine list is all-Italian and full of interesting things. My personal favorite was a glass of 2005 Sella e Mosca cannonau from Sardinia ($9/ glass; $30/bottle). There is some dispute over whether this grape is the same as Grenache. If so, it makes an unusually spicy, floral wine — more like a malbec in Sardinia. My pick of the whites, also from the great 2005 vintage, was the Riccardo Falchini vernaccia di San Gimignano ($8; $35), a Tuscan white with the crisp structure of an Alsatian pinot blanc.

Desserts are almost too pretty to eat, until you taste them. Iocco's signature is a bread pudding ($7) that is smooth and eggy with a caramel sauce. I think she ought to sign the chocolate trilogy ($8.50), as well. It's superb gelato, supreme molten chocolate cake, and a simply brilliant truffle of chocolate and hazelnut that pastiches the popular Perugina Baci candy. A long biscuit finger bridges the wide plate. A featured panna-cotta duo ($12.50) had a lot of flavors: an acidic citrus sauce on a peach pudding and chocolate sauce on an orange one. Cheesecake Italiano ($8) is ricotta based, topped with sweet cherries and sauce. Even the tiramisu ($7) is special, layered neatly in the bowl and leaning on the chocolate side of the spectrum.

The room is a triplex space with ragged yellow walls, the usual terrace indoors conceit, a semi-open kitchen, pop singing in Italian, and surprisingly reasonable noise for all that. Without reviews, the place was packed of a Friday night on Iocco's reputation, and I think most of those people will be back. The way to economize is for two people to split an item in each of the four courses, as we often did in Italy. But with mashed potatoes and simple-looking entrées, you can also go with your rich uncle from Kansas.

Robert Nadeau can be reached at robtnadeau@aol.com.

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