It’s difficult to find a restaurant that serves authentic Italian food nowadays, so when I saw how people spoke so highly of La Spezia in Quezon City, my interest was piqued. In the sea of either overly-ambitious Italian restaurants or highly-commercialized ones, La Spezia takes a step back into simple yet authentic Italian cuisine. This cozy place is known somewhat as a “hidden gem”, but I’m not sure I believe that. When we left the restaurant after an early dinner, it was already packed!
La Spezia is named after a coastal town in Italy, but it was established by two Enderun College graduates. Eating here, you wouldn’t realize that the kitchen is actually manned by Filipino chefs, but then again training in some of Europe’s Michelin-starred restaurants teaches you many things, doesn’t it?
I love the charming interior of La Spezia. It reminds me a lot of a wine cellar, especially since they use empty wine bottles to hold drinking water. The restaurant is small and the lighting makes it cozy, but they also have an al fresco area. On one side of the restaurant is the kitchen, while on the other is a lovely wall of paintings and photographs featuring Italian scenes.
This place could literally be someone’s dining room.
La Spezia has a very limited repertoire of dishes, and it somehow makes me understand more why they’ve been getting such rave reviews. A limited menu helps the chefs focus on a specific number of dishes, and that usually means the dishes come out more masterfully made. Looking through the menu, I can tell that the dishes here have been selected with care and that all of them are most probably the chefs’ specialties. Funnily enough, despite the short list it was still difficult to pick.
The recommended Italian dining experience starts from the antipasti down to the dolci. Unfortunately we weren’t particularly hungry at the time so we skipped both appetizer and dessert and just focused on the Primi and Secondi sections of the menu. That is something I now highly regret as I sit here writing this review.
Before the meal starts, you get a small serving of bread drizzled with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. The bread is nice and soft, but I’m used to having a bit more balsamic than this. Nonetheless, I always appreciate restaurants that serve on-the-house appetizers. We didn’t attempt to ask for seconds because we were reserving our appetite for the main dishes.
Spaghetti All’ Amatriciana (Php 490)
Spaghetti in homemade Pomodoro Sauce, with pepperoncino, pancetta, 18-month old Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a drizzle of EVOO for good measure.
A classic dish that really hits the spot. I’m a fan of tomato-based pastas so it was easy for me to like this one. I would’ve loved it to be a bit spicier, but it did have that lovely tomato tang I so enjoy on al dente spaghetti. The grated parmesan adds an earthy balance. For the price though, I’m not sure I would order this again.
Risotto Al Nero Di Fruitti Di Mare (Php 540)
Cuttlefish ink tints the arborio rice black. It is then topped with shrimp, clam, squid, 18-month old Parmigiano-Reggiano, and a drizzle of olive oil.
I think cooking risotto is an art. Sometimes Italian restaurants can’t seem to get it right because they undercook or overcook, and that’s kind of annoying because risotto is an expensive dish. Thankfully you don’t get any of those problems with this order. The black rice itself has that salty, umami taste you would expect from al nero dishes, but this one is a bit more intense than usual. It pairs well with the seafood on top.
Pesce Pomodoro E Insalata (Php 550)
Wild-caught lapu-lapu layered over tomato and olive salad plus spinach, then drizzled with EVOO.
One of my favorite dishes of the night, even though this was a bit bitin for sharing. As someone who loves fish, I really enjoyed this a lot. The lapu-lapu was fresh, had a nice sweetness to it, and was even almost creamy. This had a slight tang to it and I loved how light it was. I enjoyed eating it with the spinach and tomatoes in one bite.
I just thought the beautiful fish deserved another close-up.
Agnello In Autunno (Php 670)
Braised lamb shank placed on a bed of sweet potato puree, with sous vides carrot and string beans, plus EVOO.
Since having something similar in Bondi & Bourke, I have become a big fan of braised lamb over mashed sweet potatoes. That version is really good, so I have some pretty high standards. And this, ladies and gents, did not disappoint. The lamb is tender and packed with juicy flavor; perfectly accompanying the puree and the veggies. I also want to note that cooking the carrots sous vide gives it a nice bite, while the string beans were nice and crisp. It’s not as good as the other version I’ve eaten, but yum nonetheless!
For me, eating here at La Spezia is not just a delicious experience; it is also a great way to learn what real Italian food can be like. Technically, opening an Italian restaurant here in Manila is a good idea since Filipinos do have a taste for pastas and spaghettis. And while there’s nothing wrong with Pinoy-style spaghetti, it’s not even remotely similar to any Italian-style pasta I’ve ever tried. And if you’re ever curious what the difference is, I can say with confidence that La Spezia is one of the places you can find that out.
If you’ll notice, I didn’t put any stars beside the names of my favorite dishes like I usually do, but that’s because I liked each of these dishes equally. This restaurant proves that you don’t need a big menu to impress– you just have to be really good at preparing the ones you’ve decided to go with.
Apart from the quality ingredients used, it was apparent that a lot of skill went into the creation of each dish here at La Spezia. From the pasta to the fish to the lamb, everything was cooked and even plated to perfection. It’s the type of thing you can impress your date with. If only the place wasn’t so small and conversations didn’t carry so easily around the room!
The only thing that can be a hindrance to eating here is definitely the price. This place is really on the expensive side. I get that it’s because they give you quality dishes, but the the servings could be a little bigger for the price methinks. That said, I would certainly come back here again to try the rest of the menu I didn’t get to, but maybe on the next special occasion? I’ll make sure to order an appetizer and dessert then.
Overall Rating: 4 out of 5