Local Italian restaurant Spezia is home not only to some of the greatest cuisine in the Omaha area, but also to some of the best staff. Operated by managing partner and head chef Brian Reilly, Spezia has employed Heather Bagshaw as a professional server since 2007 (just three years after Spezia’s grand opening!). With over 15 years of serving and hotel experience prior to her current position, Heather knew right away that she wanted to work at a fine dining establishment like Spezia.
Heather appreciates the family environment that Spezia provides for its patrons and its employees. “I can’t imagine not working here,” she says. “The food is spectacular…my customers are so great, too.” Customers return the compliment by having nothing but fantastic things to say about Heather and her fellow staff. It’s no surprise that Heather is so popular—she knows her regular customers by name and even knows most of their favorite dishes!
Tom Dolan, a financial advisor, has been a regular at Spezia for 24 years, and his Thursday lunch group always asks for Heather. “She was our server for years,” says Tom. “She always makes a point to come say hi and catch up. She greets each one of us individually and makes sure we’ve enjoyed everything. She’s the reason we go there.” In addition to the outstanding service he receives each time he enters Spezia, the delicious food and the convenient location keep Tom coming back.
One of the reasons Heather is so proficient is her passion for her work. “Some people hate going to work,” Heather says. “I actually look forward to going to work. It’s my family.” Tom attests to her positive attitude and dedication, noting that “she’s very professional and works a lot of hours, and she seems never to be in a bad mood.”
As far as the food goes, Spezia’s dedication to quality is palpable. Brian starts every single morning preparing and caring for their signature wood-fire grill. “We build the fire in the morning, and it spreads out as the coals break down,” Brian says. “We’re constantly adding logs to the fire, so it’s constantly changing.” Because the heat is inconsistent, cooking on a wood-fire grill is a difficult skill to master, Brian explains. “It’s not like we turn the gas on and the cook knows exactly where to put the steak—there are a lot of variables. The smoke and flame come through and sear the meat, and the fire keeps changing.” Ultimately, you end up with a great steak.
The grill, which uses a variety of hardwoods like ash, oak, and cherry, is what truly sets Spezia apart from other steakhouses in Omaha. For example, Brian explains, “You might have a restaurant downtown that sells prime, but if they stick it in a gas grill, you don’t get that same flavor.” Having eaten at many other restaurants in town and sampled many steaks, Brian can honestly say that the best steak he has ever eaten “was cooked right here on this grill.”
Along with this artisan cooking, Brian points out that the source of any protein is just as important as the grill it’s cooked on. In 2017, Brian began a partnership with the Greater Omaha Packing Company. When Brian asked them where he could eat one of their steaks locally, they simply replied that no one had them—they ship their meat to New York for the large Manhattan steakhouses and even as far as China, Russia, and Indonesia. Brian worked hard to strike a deal with the massive distributor to acquire local meat in-house. “The big thing for me is building these local relationships,” Brian says. “When we first started this venture, they had no way of getting their meat to us; you had to buy 20,000 pounds.” Now, Spezia exclusively offers certified 1920 Omaha Angus beef from the Greater Omaha Packing Company.
After the best beef has been acquired, there’s still the aging to consider. Aging beef is an art form, developing tenderness over the course of 30 to 90 days. Once the meat has been aged to Brian’s liking, he slices it each morning to be offered on the day’s menu. This process not only gives the meat added flavor but also allows time for the muscle tissue to break down and tenderize, delivering a sumptuous experience for diners. “We just don’t get tired of hearing people say, ‘That’s the best steak I’ve ever had in my life!’” Brian concludes.
If you’re looking for a restaurant where the steaks slice like butter and the wait staff knows your name, look no further. Call Spezia at 402-391-2850 to book your table today!
Written for Women’s Edition October 2018: https://www.womensedition.com/omahaoutandabout