Spartico earns 2.5 stars for crispy, cozy pizza in the Grove
Spartico succeeds where developers and architects have failed for two decades: The cozy, gourmet pizzeria makes the eccentrically extravagant Mayfair Hotel feel welcoming. A wood-burning oven beckons from behind glass doors flung open onto Virginia Street, across from CocoWalk. Inside, servers bustle among 10 tables, carrying bubbling, 12-inch pies with toppings like chorizo, speck, figs and shiitake mushrooms. A lively, well-run bar with on-tap craft beers like Orange Blossom Pilsner and Bell's Two Hearted Ale add to the ambience. Open since mid-December, Spartico is slowly attracting locals, who are joining conventioneers and tourists inside the Grove's landmark hotel.
Consulting here since closing Q and Fin in the Design District, chef Jonathan Eismann has crafted a one-page menu of a dozen salads and starters, 10 thin-crust pizzas and a half-dozen pastas plus a minuscule selection of meat and fish.
Eismann continues to tweak the menu while chef Walter Dilibero keeps it happening day to day. Prices are as accessible as the restaurant design, with most pies and entrees under $15.
Ambience: Instead of trying to mimic the Mayfair's blitzkrieg of colors, textures and patterns, it has carved its own homey niche. A second bar overlooking the pizza oven allows diners to enjoy the crackling fire a few feet from the parade of passersby.
- Lightly fried zucchini medallions with aioli
- Spicy pomodoro sauce
- Terrific ground veal spaghetti Bolognese
- Tender chicken limone
- Veal Milanese topped with a refreshing stack of arugula, endive, radicchio, capers, tomatoes and artichoke hearts in a lemony vinaigrette.
- Pizzas with crisp, tasty crusts that easily feed two
- Free valet parking with restaurant validation
What Didn’t Work
- Lasagna overpowered by fennel sausage and presenting as more of a gooey mass than a structured dish
- No "wows" on the dessert menu, instead a typical chorus line of tiramisu, cannoli, crème brulee and molten chocolate cake
- Painfully inexperienced wait staff
- Lack of coordination with the hotel staff - one evening, just before 9pm, a cleaner with bucket in hand began mopping amid diners in the hotel's interior courtyard
- Disjointed music – one dinner began with Bruce Springsteen and the Rolling Stones, then ended with techno dance