Spezia Is Not Just for Lunch

Spezia is easy to overlook, because it’s so consistently good.

I work down the street from Spezia, and it’s the popular choice for our holiday parties and going-away luncheons.

Its back rooms are often filled with professional groups, so I am probably not the only one to think of Spezia as a “business lunch place.”

My wife and I experienced Spezia after dark for the first time on a recent Saturday, and we came away predominantly pleased.

We started with the somewhat disappointing Artichoke Crab Dip ($9.95). The dip was a little too cold, and the crab tasted like it was from a can.

The bread, however, was warm and crusty, and our hard-working server must have spent 45 seconds carefully mixing the olive oil and spices for dipping.

For her entrée, my wife ordered the Hunter’s Bacon-Wrapped Pork Loin ($19.95). According to executive chef Brian Reilly, the pork is wood grilled with game spices and topped with a burgundy au jus. It was accompanied with cremini mushrooms, sautéed spinach, and mashed potatoes.

My wife wants this entire review to be about that delicious spinach, which was ever-so-slightly wilted and sprinkled with olive oil.

The pork loin is cut for big eaters. It’s at least 10 oz., with a nice char on the outside, and smoky and succulent on the inside. It was too much for her to finish, so we took home a large portion.

Our server mentioned that Spezia is “famous for flatbreads,” so I tried the Lobster Flatbread ($14.95). The lobster chunks were accompanied by pesto sauce, asparagus, red peppers, and finely shredded herbs that I believe included basil and parsley.

The herbs were the stars; they blended perfectly and nicely accompanied the slivered asparagus and toasted bread.

The dish actually might be better without the lobster, which seemed a little dry.

Reilly said in a later phone interview that Salmon ($19.95) is his biggest seller. It comes grilled with lemon pepper and served with roasted vegetables and pasta. As with most Omaha restaurants, steak dishes are also big here.

Spezia is currently offering fall and winter specials, according to Reilly, including a Squash Risotto with toasted hazelnuts and gorgonzola cheese ($20).

“We get a lot of calls all year for our winter specials,” Reilly said.

You’ll have to wait a while, but I can also vouch for Spezia’s late-summer Heirloom Tomatoes menu. The memory of a fresh tasting BLT has stayed with me for months.

The rest of the menu features six salads, and a wide range of steak and pasta dishes. Spezia’s wood-grilled broiler receives its own section, offering seafood, chicken and duck entrees in the range of $18-$28.

The food is the main attraction at Spezia. The brick-dominated interior is pleasant but not particularly memorable. The snug bar seems like a nice place for a drink on a cold night.

“We’ve always had a big wine selection,” Reilly said, “but we just got a nitro tap system which allows us to have higher-end wine sold by the glass.”

Spezia is located in the old La Strada building on 72nd Street. It does a busy lunch business, due to its central location near several major employers, as well as its broad Italian menu.

Dinner is also popular here, as I learned, but Spezia’s relatively small parking lot sometimes creates a perception of crowding.

“Our parking lot gets so full that it makes people think we are busier than we are,” Reilly said. “Parking is sometimes a challenge, but there is another lot that is available.”

Spezia is part of a small chain of Italian restaurants, with locations in Omaha, Sioux Falls, and the Okoboji lakes area. It’s been open in Omaha for about eight years, and appears to be thriving.

Through the numerous meals I’ve eaten here, nothing has fallen into the category of “the best thing I ever ate.” The menu is fairly traditional and conservative, as you’d expect from a chain.

However, I’ve also never been disappointed with anything, and the service is consistently attentive.

Spezia’s strength is its overall high quality and consistency. If you’ve been here for a business lunch, think about coming back for dinner.

Spezia, 3125 S. 72nd St, Omaha, 391-2950 http://www.Speziarestaurant.com/Omaha, Hours, Mon-Thu, 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Friday, 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Saturday, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., Sunday, closed

posted at 04:51 pm
on Sunday, December 04th, 2011

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