LA SPIGA DEFENDS
TO BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT: Let me start by thanking our many supporters and assuring them that we will use this harsh review as a means to better ourselves, as we have always done ["Sending My Regrets," Dec 27, 2007]. This is the worst review of our nine-year existence and maybe it was time. But, Bethany, as a food critic, you should lose the mean spirit in which you write your reviews. The last line of your article is clear advice to your readers to stop going to La Spiga. I have a hard time believing that you really intend to put anybody out of business. I think you owe me a dinner, at your house, prepared by you. I would like to show you what it means to be graceful. After all, you did like some of the things that you ate at La Spiga.
Just to set the record straight, Italian food is simple and highlights one, two, or three main ingredients and the flavors of those ingredients, e.g. the Tagliatelle Verdi al Cinghiale (green tagliatelle noodles with wild boar sauce). The flavor in that dish that reminds you of cafeteria stroganoff is wild boar. The ingredients of this sauce are onions, celery, olive oil, salt, pepper, white wine, vegetable stock, and, of course, wild boar. The pasta is finished off with Parmigiano Reggiano, the king of cheese, and the most expensive of them all. We spare no expense for our customers. The noodles are made with real spinach; it's fresh, we cook it, strain it, chop it up, mix it with organic eggs, flour, and make our noodles by hand. We then cook it to order like all of our other pastas (except of course the lasagna).
Unfortunately, there is no space here to explain everything that you criticized, but I feel like I should explain the lasagna, which I admit needs help in the presentation department. But it is traditional; it is how true lasagna is made. If it weren't so popular, I would take it off the menu, because, in case it wasn't obvious, we are purposely trying to avoid what is popular in the American culture of Italian food; we are trying to showcase lesser-known Italian cuisine I experienced during the five years that I lived in Italy and that Pietro has eaten his whole life. We are not trying to fool anyone here by cutting corners, or putting out knockoff, poorly produced products.
We absolutely love making people happy through our food, wine, atmosphere, and hospitality. Most of our customers understand our concept; others have a hard time letting go of their ideas for a perfect restaurant and therefore are unable to enjoy it. Still other times we make mistakes that cause our customers to leave with a bad taste in their mouth; it happens, unfortunately. In a perfect world Pietro and I would always be there to rectify all situations. But the reality is that as much as we love what we do, this is also our livelihood. It is our business and it is a means by which we are able to live, enjoy life, and raise our kids. And this business supports 45 other people as well. We do not intend to fail.
So Bethany, if you would like to introduce yourself to me personally and explain why you felt the need to tear La Spiga apart (I have my own theories), I accept your dinner invitation.
Osteria La Spiga
BETHANY JEAN CLEMENT RESPONDS: I want to assure you I brought no agenda to my recent article about La Spiga. The new review was at the behest of Dan Savage, who suggested I return and reevaluate. I hoped to write a very different piece. If you care to, please let me or the editor know of any changes you make; I would be so pleased to be able to recommend La Spiga again.
LA SPIGA OFFENDS
DEAR BETHANY: I read your review of La Spiga and went there despite it. It was midway between our house and our friend's hotel, it was "just for drinks," and my wife liked the interior. Also, we thought that your review might have been addressed by the management and changes made.
"Three for drinks," we announced to the hostess. There seemed for a fleeting moment to be a shadow of disapproval on her face. We had our choice of the sofas near the front, chilled by the cold air that came in when the door opened, or a sofa opposite the wait station. We chose the latter.
We were in a festive mood; our friend's wife is newly pregnant and there was much news to share. We had come to spend money.
We were ignored.
We were in the very middle of the place. Five or six black-clad waiters and waitresses passed repeatedly within reach of where we were seated. No one looked at us. Fifteen frustrating minutes passed. Finally, I began waving as one young woman left the bar station and walked toward the tables at the rear of the restaurant. She took our order.
At that time, La Spiga was not busy: There were only two booths occupied in the front of the house; maybe four barstools were being used.
It was not a complicated order. Another 10 minutes passed. Finally our friend went to the bar to remind them of our existence and returned followed by a waiter with our drinks.
To get my wife's second manhattan, Boy Scout semaphore skills were required again. At the same time, our friend ordered a second martini but it did not appear. Finally, he went to the bar and demanded it. The bartender brought it over and in a barely audible voice dripping with begrudgement, apologized for the delay.
We had thought we might stay for dinner, but we decided there was no way we'd spend another cent at La Spiga.
As we passed Piecora's on our way back home, we decided we were hungry so we parked in the lot. They were busy. We got our drinks within two minutes and the combo pizza and Caesar salad with considerable speed. They have attitude, and tattoos, but they realize why they are there—for service!
What the hell is wrong with the management of La Spiga? That sort of attitude and service must emanate from the top. At the very least, it should be corrected there. No matter. We're never going back.
Yes, you can use my name.
John Terence Turner