For Valentine’s Day, Jed and I went to La Spezia in Tomas Morato. I suggested the place after some crammed research on my part. We initially wanted to go back to Bellini’s – our favorite Italian place – but I insisted I wanted to try something new. I would try my hardest to explore new places this year.
Also, I started taking Italian language classes, that’s another reason why I’m trying so very hard to explore what it would be like to eat (or in my head pretending to savor, inhale, imagine) real Italian food. Not that it’s a rarity because, hello, spaghetti anyone?
La Spezia is described as a “hole-in-the-wall,” specializing in authentic Italian cuisine. However, it’s far from being a hole in the wall. The interiors look that of a beautiful bungalow, with a spacious al fresco dining area. Inside, the place boasts of countryside wooden tables and chairs. The atmosphere is cozy — date-night cozy. The ceramic, ocean-inspired china was also a nice touch to bring together a clean, pared-down, Mediterranean vibe.
For the antipasti , we tried their ever-famous Burrata (whole mozzarella di buffala with grilled corn, extra virgin olive oil, and balsamic modena). Almost all the tables ordered this for the appetizer. I haven’t had burrata before, so this is a first for me.
I love the texture of burrata. Burrata is fresh mozzarella and cream. It’s chewy and velvety like the delicious texture of chewy chocolate chip cookies. Taste-wise, it wasn’t salty at all. You know you’re eating cheese but the fresh kind. Combined with the salad components of the dish, this appetizer is definitely a tasty, refreshing start to our meal.
For the pasta course, or as the Italians call it “primo,” we had the classic spaghetti pomodoro e basilico. That’s basically sundried tomato pasta with basil and parmesan cheese. This is a classic for a reason, and if you know me, this is something I actually cook at home. Of course not exactly as polished as this but I’d say pretty damn close. So there wasn’t much of a surprise here. Now that I think about it, what did I expect? That it will taste like steak? It’s the same ingredients! So no, this pasta dish was not memorable at all.
Our second pasta course was called Pasta al Tartufo – a very creamy concoction made of truffle cream, black truffle, and almonds. Now this one’s memorable but not in a good way. A miss for me. I never understood the appeal of truffles. I see it on TV and the French are all over it. It’s supposed to taste heavenly. All I tasted (and smelled) mind you was an earthy combination of mushroom and heavy cream. It felt thick, it tasted thick. The heaviness was offputting that you sort of wish there was acid added somewhere somehow. I began to order soda after eating this.
Let’s try a different angle, shall we? Let’s go for an “after” photo.
There you go! Our secondi or main entree was a four-hour braised lamb shank with couscous. I loved this dish. I don’t think I’ve disliked any braised dish in my life. Slow cooked meat always tastes great, and this was no exception. It’s like calderata taken one step further. I’m not usually a fan of couscous. The texture feels like I’m eating mature coconut meat shreds.
By this time, I was done with my red wine. I needed something acidic. Like good old Coca Cola. I don’t know what it is with most Western cooking, the oil and butter and cream combination always leaves me grasping for a dose of serious refreshment. Sometimes everything feels too greasy.
I couldn’t resist ordering dessert despite my wallet’s protests. Unfortunately, this dessert was one of the most disappointing ones I’ve had. That’s quite a statement because I’m usually easy to please when it comes to sweets. I love my desserts. I like them not too sweet, lots of texture, with a few surprise rolls and punches in between. This ice cream and pear dessert was too strong. It’s bitter, it’s too sweet – acidic sweet. The vanilla ice cream in the middle is like the only solace in (pun intended) a desert of bitter-tasting stuff. I wish I could say more good things but it just made me sad.
As I look around the Valentine’s Day crowd dining in La Spezia, I’d say this place is not for the poor and downtrodden. The ambiance is perfect for a romantic dinner. The food, as you can see from my photos, is more than Instagrammable. However, for the hefty price I paid, I would have expected nothing less than perfect to be honest.