Stockton Record Restaurant Review & Critique
Published Thursday, Feb 2, 2006

"Slow down to savor La Spiaggia's service,
food worth your time"

Describing the delicious food and the lovely atmosphere at La Spiaggia,
one of downtown Stockton's newest restaurants, without complimenting
the impeccably attentive and friendly service of head waiter Gerardo Bautista
would be like Jeff Gordon forgetting to thank his crew chief after a victory.

Bautista can't serve everyone, obviously, but hopefully,
his attentive and professional service is emblematic of the rest of the staff.

There are some dining experiences that deserve more than 30 minutes of your time,
and La Spiaggia merits at least an hour, with service and atmosphere that
pamper your body and food that seduces your taste buds into languorously
savoring chef Jake Cuff's creations for more than three chews and a swallow.

"We actually make everything here from scratch, except the sausage and the bread,
and we're going to start making our own bread in about a month," said Cuff, 25,
who acquired his culinary skills from working with chefs on the East Coast.

La Spiaggia, which loosely translated means "the beach" in Italian,
opened last fall in the Waterfront Warehouse. During a recent dinner visit,
every dish, from appetizer to entrées and dessert, was beautifully plated
and delivered in timely fashion.

An appetizer of hot spinach and artichoke dip ($7) came topped with
Parmesan cheese in a large ramekin surrounded by toasted baguette slices.
It was chunky, cheesy and temperature perfect (not too hot).

The entrées were like getting Christmas presents.
There was grilled Pacific snapper with a raw tomato cream sauce served over
crisp polenta with wilted spinach ($16) and shrimp Alfredo ($17), enriched with
imported, two-year-aged Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

The Alfredo had five good-sized shrimp and a rich, creamy sauce lacked the
dots of oil often found floating on the surface of this kind of sauce when it
"breaks" or separates.

The grilled snapper fillet was large, almost the size of a paperback book,
and cooked perfectly, flavored only with salt, pepper and a little oil. The fish came perched on three large triangles of polenta that was crispy on the outside and
soft on the inside, perfect for swiping through the fresh tomato cream sauce
and stacking with the spinach.

"I'm really proud of that polenta," Cuff said.

For dessert, the panna cotta ($6) got the nod. Prepared by pastry chef Jeff Lovotti,
the light custard had perfect texture and was covered with
a sweet red raspberry sauce.

Stockton, it's time to hit "the beach."

LENS Editor Linda Hughes-Kirchubel

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