I’ve always been a fan of the Aquitaine group’s restaurants, so when I heard about Cinquecento their new Roman style trattoria in the South End it quickly made my list to try. When I started hearing rave reviews from trusted (foodie) sources it moved to the top of my list even more quickly. I went in with the bf recently on a Sunday night and we enjoyed a multi-course meal, sampling as much of the menu as we could possibly eat!
We started with several antipasto selections to share including the bruschetta, veal tonnato, and the special (a duo of lobster ravioli and cannelloni). The bruschetta was a nice twist on the classic dish, and instead of your traditional tomato topping this came with burrata, speck, and a pignoli-currant marmellata. The crusty Italian bread was grilled perfectly, and all of flavors just worked together.
The veal tonnato consisted of several pieces of thinly sliced braised veal topped with scoops of tuna aioli and bits of toasted garlic. Veal tonnato is one of my favorites, and I loved this preparation with the toasted garlic. Our sever (who was quite knowledgeable about all of the dishes and their origins) explained that in Italian this dish is called Strangers on a Plate because the veal and the tuna are so different, they shouldn’t go together, but somehow they just work.
The lobster special was also delicious; lobster ravioli is another of my favorites, and I inhaled this dish almost too quickly to notice Cinquecento’s distinct flavors and characteristics, but I thoroughly enjoyed both the ravioli and cannelloni.
For our second course, we shared a salumi plate. There were several meats and cheeses available, which could be ordered a la carte, or as a custom plate with three or five selections. Of course we chose five: the finocchiona (fennel salami), soppresata piccante, culatello (similar to prosciutto but much leaner as it comes from the back of the leg only), robiola and parmigiano reggiano cheese. This came out on a board with pickled red onions, peppers, and sliced carrots. I loved this dish, and especially loved trying some of the more unusual cured meats I hadn’t heard of.
For our third course, we each ordered a half order of pasta (the menu lists the full entrée portions but all are available in half sizes). The portions were large, but surprisingly light and I had no trouble finishing my tagliatelle Bolognese which was made with veal, pork, and pancetta in a very light tomato sauce without cream. The orecchietee with radicchio trevisano and rapini served with garlic, chili flakes and olive oil was simple and well done
Next was a surprise course from the kitchen and one of my two favorites, a poached quail egg with fried pig’s tails. I’ve never had a quail egg done so simply before; it’s always been overpowered just enough by the other ingredients that I wasn’t able to fully taste and appreciate its difference from a chicken egg. This was the best egg I’ve ever had (in part due to preparation, I’m sure) and I’ve been having a hard time putting into words the difference in flavor, but I’ve settled on subtler, cleaner, and more delicate. The fried pig’s tails were perfect with the quail egg, and this felt like a gourmet take on bacon and eggs.
My entrée, the porchetta was my other favorite dish. The skin was crispy, the layer of fat just right, and the parsnip and cherry sugo were excellent complements. I was way too full to try a bite of the special braciolone over rigatoni, but it looked like a good hearty dish for a cold winter night.
I did manage a small taste of the dessert, a zucchini cake topped with a scoop of vanilla gelato. Like several of the earlier courses, I enjoyed this both for its flavors and the opportunity to try something new and different.
Overall, the food and service at Cinquecento were fantastic, and I will definitely go back. Despite having tried so much of the menu, there were several dishes I’d love to try. The restaurant is a great addition to the South End, and already seems to be filling a void in the neighborhood’s authentic Italian options.