Big. Bold. And Roman. From the walkway leading to the main entrance, the lighted stairway up to the main dining room, and pillars filled with bottles of Campari, Cinquecento has brought some panache to the South End.
Space: The main dining and bar are located up a set of dizzying stairs. Slightly raised circles are lighted to give an entrance that I imagine you’d see in Vegas. Ladies, step with caution if wearing heels. The Friday evening crowd was pulsing with excitement, so much so that it was difficult to hear our dining companions despite being seated at a very small table which was not ideal for the numerous appetizers and salads we ordered to share.
Cocktails: Two things jump out on the cocktail list: a large selection of amaro and a Negroni flight. The flight consisted of a traditional Negroni followed by two iterations, which were really like two separate cocktails. Despite being tasty 3 ingredient cocktsils, you might not associate either with a Negroni if you didn’t already know it was part of a flight. It would’ve been nice to see closer variations of the classic Italian cocktail, like an aged Negroni or one with Aperol or dry vermouth perhaps. For something lighter, try the Finocchio. The egg white (not listed on the menu, but in the drink) brings a delicate smoothness to this aperitif-type drink.
Appetizer Highlight: Grilled Octopus. I’ve had good and not so good experiences with octopus, and this dish may have surpassed the other good ones. Perfectly-grilled with a lot of flavor, the texture was palatable and the taste was spot on.
Add Some Greens: The Kale Salad and Brussels sprouts are great options that go above and beyond a typical house salad. Portions are large enough that even the four of us could each have a few bites.
The Dish I’d Go Back For: Rigatoni alla Norcia. Ground fennel sausage allows each bite to have all of the flavors of the dish. After a few appetizers and salads, this portion was large enough for leftovers.
Good, but Not Great: Jon is a huge fan of Cinghiale, a classic Italian dish with a wild boar ragout. Because it’s difficult to find, he was excited to try it at Cinquecento. Unfortunately, their addition of raisins really brought a sweetness to the dish that, in his opinion, took away from the usual richness and flavor of the boar meat.
Great for Sharing: A salumi plate consisting of very thinly-sliced meat, with large portion sizes for everyone at the table to enjoy.
Final Thoughts: I don’t quite see Cinquecento as a high-end Roman trattoria, but rather as a fun, new spot to meet friends and share some food. The large space isn’t really like anything else in the South End and I was pleased with all of the options for shared plates amongst friends.
Cinquecento is located at 500 Harrison Ave in the South End.
Have you been to Cinquecento? What did you think?