Have you ever wondered about the origins of bruschetta? It seems that official olive oil tasters roaming the Umbria region of central Italy years ago were getting a little nauseated dipping directly into huge vats of the pungent stuff, so they resorted to drizzling it onto pieces of bread.The oil connoisseurs soon began looking for variations on the bread and oil theme, testing a panoply of possibilities. Before long the bread was being toasted and covered with cheese, sliced vegetables, skinless-seedless tomato cubes, basil, touches of garlic, and other spices, with the concoction rivaling the oil itself in gastronomical importance.
Roberto Legrand, chef-proprietor of Spiga in Miami Beach, is not originally from Umbria, but much of that and other Italian regions took root in his soul while he lived in Italy several years ago. He has since become a master of bruschetta himself, capable of producing more than 250 permutations of the simple starter dish. “It’s a great way to begin a meal, a light warmup for the palate,” notes Legrand, speaking in a polyglot’s offbeat accent that reflects the mix of influences you’ll find at his restaurant: heat from Brazil, where Legrand was born; sophistication from Milan, where he studied; languor from Venice, where he worked for a time at Harry’s Bar & Grill; and a dash of speed from the Big Apple, where he plied his trade at trendy Bice.
Spiga’s dining room is one of the most beautiful and romantic in town. The man directly responsible was Peter Hawrylewicz, one of Miami’s premier architects. It was 1994, and having completed the renovation of Casa Casuarina, Hawrylewicz turned his discerning eye to the Impala, one of South Beach’s first boutique hotels. The rich, gracefully curved cherry cabinetry, wine racks, and bar that remain in place today look even better now, imbued with the warm hues of age. The dining room appears almost exactly as it did when Spiga premiered. Not much else has changed about the place, either.