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Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Spasso is all about 'Only Good Food'

The little triumvirate of restaurants at the south end of the village is changing. We were introduced to Ariete last month and now Spasso is taking up residence. The Taurus is the third in the group.

I met with the new owner of Spasso, Chef Gaetano Ascione, who has taken over the Calamari space at 3540 Main Highway. He is back in town after spending five years in Chicago at Gioco Restaurant, which he turned into a Michelin rated hot spot from its former self. He is familiar here in Coconut Grove for being associated with La Bottega in the Grove and in Coral Gables where he had his Gaetano Ristorante in the Hotel St. Michel in 2008.

Chef Gaetano Ascione
Gaetano took me around the space to show me what is new. To be truthful, the menu is really what's new - and the staff. The kitchen is the same, but during my visit, there were about a dozen people turning the old kitchen into a sparkling stainless steel workspace.

The dining room is basically the same, too, they plan on painting and doing a few things here and there, but there is no major reconstruction. It's all about the food at Spasso.

Gaetano would not be specific about the menu, he wants to keep that under wraps until opening (maybe in a week, maybe more), but he says it will all be authentic Italian food, all from the original source and the original recipe. When I asked him what type of food he would be serving exactly, he said, "Only good food!"

If you order spaghetti with marinara sauce, the sauce is not some new fangled sauce, it is the sauce created 300 years ago! Most of the food is gluten free as there is a lot of meat - all from Chicago; items like veal, dry aged beef and lamb. 

Gaetano, who has a wife named Lia, and three children, is a native of Naples, Italy, he began his culinary career in 1970 with a degree in Hotel Training from State Professional Hotel Management Institute in Salerno, Italy. He immediately started working as a Chef de Partie in Italy and continued onto Germany, England and the Bahamas. He served two presidents - Carter and Reagan. This citizen of the world speaks five languages - Italian, English, Spanish, German and French. He has a Master's Degree in Hotel Training.

In 2001, he was a finalist for "The Chef Of the Year" for The World Gourmet Summit in
Singapore and he served as a Consultant to Taj- Mahal Group of Hotel in India, Hilton Seoul in South Korea, Marchese Piero Antinori of Antinori Winery in Florence, Italy.

One of his prized possessions, he told me, is an autographed photo of himself with Nelson Mandela, he cooked for Mr. Mandela, too.

We're looking forward to trying Gaetano's food. We'll keep you posted on when the opening day will be.

Spasso is an Italian word that means enjoyment, entertainment, amusement.

For linking to this one story, just click on the time it was posted & just this story will open for sharing - only through social media. Not copying and pasting.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quite an impressive resume' but what does the term "owner" mean? Does he rent or own the space and everything that goes with it?. Is it really his or does he just work for a corporation?

January 26, 2016 8:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow everything is gluten free! All the fad dieters who have no idea what gluten is nor have any medical need to avoid it will be happy.

Off topic: When did Calamari close?

January 26, 2016 9:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Calamari gone? They seemed relatively successful.. Another one bites the dust, huh, seems that only Taurus and The Tavern can stand the test of time in the Grove.. Maybe Cheesecake Factory.. has done well for years too, (they do have a wide menu at reasonable prices, people climb 3 flight of stairs for a reason). Barracuda survives.. new owners though, Sandbar.. very few make it alive in 1 piece after a few years, or less. Greenstreet, Lulu, are they even safe? Next thing you know Mr. Moes is bankrupt too..

I wonder why these restaurant owners keep trying. Seems that 90% of new food ventures fail real quick. Rents must be astronomical. Honestly, if you were a business owner, wouldn't you think thrice about it?

The BID and the great new Commissioner should give this some deep thought. There's something wrooong, really, really wrooooong here. The City's Business plan must be Flawed. Seriously Flawed ! (Must admit I watched 'Stripes' again last night).. What's the average, 90% of new restaurants fail and shut down within 3 years? Wild guess. This little village could use a new business manager, that's for damn sure. CI

January 26, 2016 10:08 AM  
Blogger reid prevatt said...

mr moes wAS NOT A food place. it was A booze place. he owned it til he cashed out. Rents are high but some of these places there is no quality or bang for the buck. Quite frankly the Grove has not looked so good in many many years. No business manager needed just supply and demand.

January 26, 2016 2:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

When Gaetano was the owner of the restaurant at the Hotel St Michel, we tried it one night. One of us (we were 4) ordered a plate of plain pasta as a side. Well, Gaetano said that it was not possible because it would not be a good combination, so he refused to give us what we wanted. What an arrogant man! We ended ordering a plate of pasta as a main course and sharing it as a side. So so ridiculous. The customer might not always be right, but he is always the customer. We wrote a terrible review on Trip Advisor and on Yelp, he closed not too much after that. Not that it had anything to do with us only, but lots of people had bad experiences. Hopefully he has learned!

January 26, 2016 3:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who's next? dom-do,-dom-duhhhhhhh..

Get yer shit together, "BID".

January 26, 2016 6:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is this Calamari or one of the other places there ?

January 27, 2016 10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been a while since I peruse the Grapevine. Still good reading except that nothing has changed in the way of comments. Here is a post about a new restaurant coming to town and not a single one of the usual suspects has anything good to say, except for comment 2:04.

Comment 3:33: Sometimes, if you want to expand your culinary horizons, you need to listen to the Chef. That is why they have the title Chef, as opposed to Cook. Cook is what you have at home when you can afford it. So you get to say things like, "Oh Cook, for tonight's rissotto, how about a plate of plain pasta on the side? Gluten free, of course."

But when you go to an establishment with a Chef-owner, you kind of want to defer to their expertise and recommendations. Otherwise there are places such as Burger King, where I understand you can "have it your way."

People who write terrible reviews on Trip Advisor and Yelp because they did not have things their way are usually seen for what they are: vindictive blowhards. And no one takes their review seriously (except, perhaps, other vindictive blowhards). So don't fret, the restaurant surely did not close on your bad review. Likely the Chef received a great offer in Chicago.

Calamari did not "close" because business was bad. No mystery there. It just changed owners, as the establishment there has done various times. And the new owner is a chef, and guess what? He want to change the menu. How novel.

I'm guessing the plain pasta eater will by-pass the opportunity to sample this new menu because of the 8-year grudge.

The sky is not falling on Coconut Grove, CI (Chicken Ittle?)"Seems" is a rather vague term. Where do you get your statistics? I'm guessing Social Media. Business in the Grove could not be better. Restaurants are flocking here. So much so that some that are already here are going for a 2nd restaurant. But I am sure that too will become a problem for some of you (Oh the traffic. Oh the noise. Oh the foreigners) -- Mildred Pierce

February 04, 2016 9:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the comments of Anonymus at 9:24, I am a chef, trained in Italy and besides knowing how to cook anything Gaetano can offer, I know that when a customer wants something, especially a simple side, you give it to them!

February 05, 2016 3:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just returned from my first and last meal at Spasso. It was the worst meal and service I have had in the last 15 years. Waited 7 minutes for a host to seat us with no one in sight (we finally seated ourselves). After seating ourselves we were finally given three stale half slices of bread (really!). My "seafood" dish had one half eaten shrimp and about 8 clam shells (I couldn't find the clams) slightly smaller than my thumbnails. That's it. My wife's dish was equally bad. We left joyful, knowing that we would never have to return. So sad to see the former Calamari Restaurants departure.

February 23, 2016 8:38 AM  

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