Since Barack Obama was elected as president, we've learned a fair amount about the commander in chief's food preferences. He enjoys johnnycakes and peach cobbler, and prefers his burger medium-well with salad on the side. The newest item to add to his list of loves? Tony Mantuano, executive chef of Spiaggia.
Spiaggia, one of the Windy City's premier restaurants, has always been a special occasion favorite for the president and first lady. When the Levy Restaurant group — which owns Spiaggia and handles special catering for the Washington, DC's Verizon Center — learned the president would be at the Bulls-Wizards game last Friday, it flew Mantuano to the nation's capital to surprise Obama with dinner. Mantuano recalls:
When Obama walked out and saw me there, he did a classic double take and said, "What are you doing here?" It was hilarious. He called the photographer over and said, "Take a picture of me with my favorite chef." He said "favorite chef." I've got witnesses!
For dinner, the executive chef cooked Obama his favorite dish from Spiaggia, scallops made in a wood-fired oven, adding that the president "always orders them."
With its cheese cave, floor-to-ceiling views, and 700-bottle wine list, Spiaggia's on my list of Chicago destinations. Hearing how much Obama loves the chef has me coveting a table there even more — and I'll surely try the wood-fired scallops. Those of you who've been to Spiaggia: Are you a fan of Tony Mantuano's cooking?