Cotechino e lenticchie “beluga” and kina tagliolino in Spiga, Remuera. Photo/Alex Burton
Kina-cauliflower-pasta combo impresses Canvas magazine restaurant critic Kim Knight
In their own words: Spiga’s website lacks cute, snack-sized summaries of its philosophy. Go browse the menu and stay for the
story of chefs Fabrizio and Taryne Napolitano. When you get to the phrase that says “Fabrizio has an innate talent for bringing Italian culinary culture into the 21st century”, nod wisely, because that is, in my opinion, an indisputable truth.
First impressions: My three-month attempt to secure a seat suddenly made sense. Spiga is small – just 15 tables, including a heated, covered outdoor area. They’re waiting for consent to spread out in the yard, but for now it’s a quiet, uncluttered space where you (thankfully) don’t have to shout to be heard.
On the floor: While the design aesthetic is relatively austere, the servers exude a professional warmth – testament to our willingness to say an immediate ‘yes’ to the lovely mulled wine and truffled negroni. (It looks weird, smells and tastes amazing.)
The menu: I particularly wanted to order the pizza with the anchovy sauce and the wagyu beef tongue terrine, but I had already ordered a tube of crispy cannolo, two starters and a pasta, plus I had specific plans for dessert. . Something had to give and it wasn’t going to be my pants. Arrive hungry, leave with plans to return. (A note about this cannolo – it’s a tube of crispy pastry, filled with chicken liver parfait and you can really taste the liver. If you’re tired of that ubiquitous creamy watered-down version that’s on all other menus, order this and have your faith in offal restored.)
Best Bite #1: When Adrianne, who had never eaten kina, pierced an entire segment of sea urchin roe and brought it to her mouth, I feared the worst. Too! But I was wrong. It was the best kina I have tasted. Not a hint of bitterness with a flavor that was part mussel, part oyster and part long weekend on a Northland beach. She was as pretty as this beach. Orange eggs were layered on a tangle of bright green kale infused pasta. The mashed cauliflower intensified the rich mouthfeel and there was another kind of chewy, salty base note that came from the dried pork cheek. Italy meets Aotearoa in a surf ‘n’ turf combo I can’t stop thinking about.
Best Bite #2: In a restaurant, you want your food to be good. But if you think about the dishes you really liked, something else usually happens. It was the presentation or the back story or a little drama or culinary license that evoked surprise and delight; that moment when you know, absolutely, that you won’t do this at home. At Spiga, this dish is cotechino e lenticchie “Beluga”. Trust me.
The jury is still out: James didn’t think the saffron tagliatelle that came with his veal shank stew was cooked al dente. I did it. We have been married for four weeks and I hope all our future fights will be as delicious.
Best Bite #3: Yes, that’s usually the part of the review where I talk about chips or veggies. Spiga doesn’t really do “sides” and the thing is, everything we ate was terrific. The octopus with a mole sauce and potatoes was another example of the brilliance of land and sea. My pasta took the minimalist simplicity of cacio e pepe (cheese and pepper) and then wrapped it in a ravioli. When I bit, it popped. I wasn’t expecting it, but the liquid filling goes wonderfully with a butter and scampi sauce. The surprise ingredient that brought it all together? Large slices of lemon zest. In the future, I might ignore any recipe that asks me to “shred finely”.
Dessert: Here is that cannolo again, in its more traditional position on the menu. Purists will be looking for sweet ricotta, but I’m a sucker for mint chocolate and loved this clever ganache-laden play on a square of “After Eight.” James said his tiramisu – not too sweet, with a gloriously creamy mascarpone – was amazing. And I accepted.
Perfect for: Broaden your Italian horizons (and also, possibly, your girth).
How much: We spent $368, with cocktails and wine, for three.
Address: Shop 1/E/415 Remuera Rd, Remuera, Auckland, tel (09) 869 8080
by Yvonne Lorkin
Well, I’ve never had a Grapparita, Rum Kopioni, Vermuttino or Kirchinato, but dangnabbit Spiga, you got me ready to go! Once you’ve licked your chops through the curated selection of cocktails, vermouths, spritzes and spirits down to the wahzoo, you’ll be very happy to see that the lista dei vini is as eclectic as it is electric. It’s practically obligatory to start with sparkling and, in addition to the attractive Perlage Canah organic prosecco, there is a light and sparkling Lambrusco from Chiarli, (a 162-year-old producer from Emilia-Romagna) and Billecart Brut Reserve if you MUST have champagne. Apart from just three exceptional local wines (Clearview Reserve Chardonnay, Craggy Range Te Muna pinot noir and Trinity Hill Homage syrah), the rest of the list is devoted to almost every Italian region imaginable and all but one are available by the glass. Hooray! White wine lovers, here is your chance to sample verdeca from Puglia, arneis and gavi from Piedmont, and verdicchio from Marche. Fans of red can make their way from Tuscan Chianti, Sicilian Nero d’Avola, Montepulciano from Abruzzo, Amarone from Veneto, Aglianico from Basilicata and Brunello from Montalcino.
The Birre (beer) selection includes four beers from two producers Menabrea and Amarcord and, if you absolutely must sip cider, then Zeffer has you covered. Nice Spiga, very sippable indeed!