La Spezia's New Menu Will Change How You Like Your Italian Food
In 2016, two twentysomethings decided to open La Spezia, an Italian hole-in-the-wall with the ambition, determination, and energy gained through years of training in the kitchen. It's always a gamble to open a new restaurant, and even more so when you're two unknowns challenging a city's norms, in this case, Quezon City's.
The city was the first challenge to overcome by owners Sean Yuquimpo and Aaron Shiu. Back then, they told us how it was a struggle to make customers understand the value behind the prices: "The neighborhood... they won't pay for P400 carbonara in QC, but they will if it's Makati."
Three years later, the pasta still doesn't come cheap but is nevertheless worth it.
The carbonara is actually P450, and it's probably the best P450 you'll pay for a dish of pasta, egg, and cheese. Back then Yuquimpo and Shiu wanted to become a neighborhood trattoria that would survive with a loyal set of customers. They might have just succeeded a little too well. La Spezia has developed such a regular following it's become difficult to change anything on the menu. And when you're a pair of talented millennials, that can be a problem.
"We tried it on quarterly specials, but it didn't work," explains Yuquimpo. So they're thinking of expanding the menu, with exciting new dishes that challenge the status quo.
Seafood seems to be the theme of the new roster: pulpo is sous vide then grilled to perfection, giving a light tenderness underneath the deliciously charred surface; the uni pasta is a little more fashionable than what we're used to at La Spezia, but the unabashed depth of the sea urchin with the al dente pasta will definitely last beyond the trend.
It's the tanigue, however, where the pair shows off their skill. When you're resigned to crusty brown pan-fried fish steaks, the light, white, and tender tanigue drenched in a bright and fresh pesto sauce is a welcome shock. The fish is only very quickly fried to maintain that deliciously buttery texture; the pickled cucumber on the side adds a refreshing tone that makes it perfect for summer.
To rival its steaks, Shiu also presents a rack of lamb paired with classic mint jelly. La Spezia has a propensity for creating textures and each piece from this lamb is a gorgeous medium rare, juicy, tender, and flavorful. The white beans at the bottom contrast the melty mouthfeel of the meat, while the arugula gives a bitter-fresh break in flavor.
Dessert is always a little more playful at La Spezia: Its current lineup, after all, has poached pears with balsamic vinegar and ice cream with ginger and figs. Its version of a lemon tart is deconstructed and inspired by breakfast. Chiffon is toasted to resemble toasted white bread while the meringue is made to look like a sunny-side-up egg complete with a runny apricot and peach "yolk." You eat it the way you would your breakfast toast. It's just the right amount of sweet and tart that we really want to have it for breakfast, too.
Some habits are tough to break, but La Spezia may have just created new ones.