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Spiaggia Reopens Without Its Jackets-Required Policy

 Spiaggia has done away with its jackets-required policy, leaving only a handful of restaurants around town with a dress code.
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CHICAGO — When Spiaggia reopens Friday after a five-month renovation, it will be missing more than its tablecloths.

The tony Italian restaurant at 980 N. Michigan Ave. has done away with its jackets-required policy after 30 years.

The new look, said chef and partner Tony Mantuano, is all about imparting this very Italian notion of "spretzzatura," or nonchalant elegance.

"It's looking good. It's casual elegance, no matter what you wear," Mantuano said. "If you can pull off flip-flops, awesome."

Flip-flops might be a stretch, but now that Spiaggia has kicked off its Ferragamo loafers, Chicagoans can count on two fingers the number of restaurants that requires jackets for men.

There is no mention of a dress code on the Alinea website, but people should know that they "need to look presentable" when coming to dine at the acclaimed Lincoln Park restaurant, owner Nick Kokonas said.

So what's presentable?

"What is art? You know it when you see it," Kokonas said.

It includes jackets, he confirmed.

"We have had people come in in jeans and a coat, and they look fine. We have had people come in in jeans and a T-shirt, and we've sent them away," Kokonas said.

One of those shamed into a sport coat was his friend, Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason.

"We sent him home. He came back with" a jacket, Kokonas said.

Les Nomades in Streeterville also abides by the jacket rule, though "ties are optional. So we're a little bit modern," owner Mary Beth Liccioni said with a chuckle.

She said the intimate dining room, where conversations carry as easily as glances across the room, almost demands a dress code. Not that customers need any hints.

"Most of our clients don't have to be told to wear a jacket. That's just how they dress," she said.

In fact, Les Nomades attempted to get rid of its jackets-required rule a decade or so ago.

"It didn't work. Our guests didn't like it. And besides, the whole tone of the room changed," Liccioni said.

Elsewhere in the Michelin-caliber dining world, even where the dress code is a bit more relaxed, jackets still are implied and certainly appreciated.

At Everest, 440 S. La Salle St., "We ask for proper attire, but are flexible. Jackets for gentlemen are suggested, but not required," chef Jean Joho said.

It's the same story at Sixteen, the restaurant in the Trump Hotel with soaring views of the skyline; Tru, the progressive French spot in Streeterville, and L2O, the fine-dining seafood restaurant in Lincoln Park. Men need not wear jackets, but more than likely they'll show up in one.

But then there's Grace, arguably the fanciest restaurant to open in Chicago in recent years. Here, the nine-course menu costs $205 and jackets are absolutely not required, or even suggested.

"That was something I insisted on from the very beginning," partner and general manager Michael Muser said. "If your money's good enough for my restaurant, why would I have the audacity to tell you what to wear?"

Customers do call the West Loop restaurant constantly asking for guidance on what to wear. His stock response: "business casual." The website says the same.

"It's a new business casual, when a pair of jeans costs $285," Muser said.

"We're not going to turn anybody away over this," Grace chef Curtis Duffy said. "What we want is for our guests to be comfortable."

Just not too comfortable.

"Sandals and shorts might be pushing it a bit," Duffy said.

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