SPQR is one of those restaurants I have been meaning to visit for the longest time.
See my video review HERE.
This Italian restaurant has consistently been on Michael Bauer’s Top 100 Restaurants list for several years running. I was excited to get a table there the day before they closed for the Christmas holiday!
SPQR has, to my surprise, much fewer tables than I’d expected. In spite of that, the noise level was ridiculously high. You won’t need to yell, but your “inside voice” may go unheard.
My first course was a beautiful chicory lettuce salad with roasted pear “butter,” almonds, goat “cheddar,” and a light, fruity pink pepper vinaigrette. When you break down all of the fancy-schmancy terms, it really was just a classic salad. That doesn’t mean that it was any less delicious. The vinaigrette, despite not living up to the pepper in its name, was a sparkling dressing for this refreshing little pile of chicory and radicchio.
I coveted my dining companion’s toasts, which I’m sure would have gone well with the “roasted” (it wasn’t) pear “butter (read: purée).
Among the TEN pasta dishes available (two were sold out), the squid ink chittara was one of the stand-outs. After all, who could resist the promise of Dungeness crab and sea urchin in a seafood broth? (The Muscovy duck and mushroom lasagna and the buckwheat tagliatelle with cider bacon-braised suckling pork were also very tempting.)
The pasta, which lacked the ocean taste of squid ink, was much better tossed in the rich seafood broth before tucking in. The generous amount of crab meat was succulent and the roe was an excellent touch. While the dish delivered everything the menu had promised, I wasn’t wowed. It was very good, but I had been expecting so much better.
One look at the guinea hen dish and I knew I had made the right decision among the four secondi on offer. The breast glistened with moisture and the skin of the thigh was a gorgeous golden brown.
It was love at first sight.
I cannot rave more about SPQR’s twist on holiday turkey! Tender breast of guinea hen encapsulated a juicy stuffing made of (I believe – lest my taste buds deceive me) other parts of the hen. Taken with a few pumpkin seeds, one bite of the bird was dreamy perfection. The mushroom brodo was creamy and tasty, but really took a back seat to the guinea hen and vegetables.
This tea set-up is cute.
That is all.
My Italian-Californian fusion buttermilk panna cotta was delightful. Too-firm but nonetheless buttermilk-y panna cotta was a nice accompaniment to the moist persimmon cake. The ice cream was forgettable, but THE CAKE!
Now, if it had been a buttermilk gelato with the persimmon cake…
(Will offer consulting services in exchange for desserts!)
Considering portion sizes here, a big eater would be satisfied with a four-course meal (like the classic Italian meal). Whether you choose a salad or an antipasto, you will definitely have room for pasta as well as a secondo.
Service is warm, just like the atmosphere. This is the sort of place that is ideal for lingering over a pot of tea. It is cozy and romantic, and the dark tables and candlelight give SPQR a sensual yet casual vibe.
SPQR is a pretty good choice for date night. While it can be just a tad loud, the atmosphere and vibe make your intentions clear! The winners here are the secondi, but the pasta choices are creative, mouthwatering, and worth exploring further.