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Oct 11, 2007 10:18 PM


anybody tried this new restaurant?

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  1. Had lunch there -- full follow-up report can be found at

    Short version: very good, but not yet up to the standards I've grown to expect from Charleston/Petit Louis/Pazo. Will definitely try again when time and money allow, once they've had some time to work out the kinks.

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      1. We had dinner there saturday night. The food was very good to excellent. We started with salumi and found it to be excellent. The portion was also very generous. We moved on to the rabbit tortellini and the cuttlefish stew. The rabbitt tortellini was good and the pasta was perfectly cooked, it just fell a bit flat in the taste area, but I will admit my palate tends to go for richer dishes. The cuttlefish stew was excellent and probably the highlight of the meal. Next we had the suckling pig and the lamb. The lamb was also excellent and prefectly prepared. The suckling pig was also well prepared. It was much more delicate in flavor than I had expected, but it worked well. We finished with a cheese course and a molten chocolate cake. The cake was had a salted caramel center and was served with coffee Ice cream. The combination was excellent and a good finish to our meal.

        Now we come to the service. We are not slow eaters and do not tend to linger, but the meal was a three hour commitment. This was due to the food coming out of the kitchen extremely slowly. Our first course came quickly, salumi does not have to be cooked, so that makes sense. The waiter wanted to clear our small plates we were using to share the salumi course before we were finished because he said the next course would be right out. We quickly declined and he retracted the request saying he was sorry to rush us, but the management wanted a certain pace. We found this funny since the next course actually came twenty minute later. That pace continued throughout the night. It was not just us, but other tables around us were commenting on the slow kitchen. The slow kitchen was certainly not our waiters fault, but it took two requests to get the coffee we ordered with dessert. The service was trying to be carefully coordinated, but some people are obviously still trying to get up to speed. Different people were responsible for water service and coffee service and they did not seem to be communicating well with the servers.

        These issues will soon be worked out and the restaurant will be running smoothly. We plan to give them another month or so and try it again to see if the kitchen learns to keep the pace the restaurant is trying to acheive.

        I am sure we will be seeing a good deal of comments on the portion sizes and the prices. The portions are small and the prices are high, but the food and service should in time stand up to the prices.

        1. re: Annapolis07

          The chef is the former sous chef from Maestro. Apparently, he is the only survivor of Fabio's staff that stayed "local" with the other twelve all going to Fiamma in Manhattan.

      2. It's awesome. I had lunch there last week. A real Italian restaurant -- no Americanizing whatsoever. We weren't wild about the fritto misto (too dry), but we had a terrific salumi called Finocchiona. The agnolotti were terrific, and we liked the butternut squash soup with ravioli. The wine list had a lot by the glass, and some very interesting choices. I want to go back and try everything on the menu!

        1. I ate in Cinghiale twice last week. It has been many years since I have been so excited about a new resto in B-more. My excitement comes from the fact that this a classy place that serves Italian food of the sort you get in Italy in non-tourist areas. It reminded me most of a resto in the canal area of Milano. The menu has not a tomato on it; the salumi is hill-country Italian. It is not yet as good as Bocaccio, but it has unlimited potential.

          First, the downside: service was not professional. On my night visit, the maitre de was clueless and clumsy. In an empty resto we were seated in Siberia, and our request to move was not well received (although granted). Service was helpful (water glasses get filled every 3 minutes), but the wait staff was spotty in its knowledge. Moreover, a waitress corrected my Italian, a no-no to begin with, but she was wrong. "Chitarra" should be pronounced with a "k" sound, not a "ch" sound. I was surprised at the quality of service because so many of the personnel came from Petit Louis (I even recognized the sommelier).

          Now for the good stuff. The place is beautiful. Lots of wood and windows and faux antique mirrors in a minimalist way. The all-Italian wine list is outstanding, and the wines by the glass list may be the best in town.

          The food was somewhat mixed. The pastas were superb--I've had both the angnolotti and the sausage--great fresh pasta, excellent fillings, and really good sauces. The antipasti were not as satisfying; the fritto misto was dry and rather bland, and the sliced lamb also was bland. The "charcuterie", as they call it, was somewhat mixed; fantastic fennel salami, excellent bresaola, good porchetta, and so-so pancetta. But it was the last that excited me the most. The pancetta was served in the Italian style with lots of crudo (raw fat) attached (think the white part of uncooked bacon); I thought it lacked flavor, but I was so excited by the presentation and what it said about the goals of the resto. The pork terrine also was uncompromising--it had the texture of head cheese, which I don't care for, but it had plenty of flavor (pate it was not).

          The desserts. A semolina and olive oil cake and panna cotta were very good. Actually, the panna cotta was wonderful.

          Once they clean up the service, the place will be great. I did not find it over-priced, and although I have seen posts on other sites complaining about the size of the portions, I had no problems with the size. I did not expect Sabatino's. But the best part was the refusal to compromise for American tastes (well, the salads are a compromise, and there was a blue crab pasta.) Maybe this means the B-more resto scene has finally matured.

          16 Replies
          1. re: tartuffe

            I agree with much that has been said about this restaurant. However, I have to say that the small portions are unacceptable. Unacceptable to the point that I probably would not return until this was rectified. These are portions that are served as part of a tasting menu that would serve 5 or 6 courses of these sizes. The entree portions are simply not substantial enough to stand alone as a meal. Nonetheless, they are doing a lot of things right at this restaurant. It could potentially be the place to go. Wine list is outstanding.

            1. re: Bryan1555

              Interesting comment. More than likely it might be realistic to note that larger portions might necessitate larger prices. For years (dating at least to Maria's 300 in the early '70's, later Russo's) Little Italy was about large portions and, for the time, good but relatively nondescript Italian. Over time much of Little Italy stood still while D. C. Italian took off. Today, restaurants like Bocaccio are better than their neighbors but still pale next to the best of D. C. Even though both the Lab and Maestro have closed D. C. still has Obelisk and Tosca as well as d'Aqua in the city. My guess is that part of going to the next level is adapting to the concept of smaller portions as an effort to hold prices down. I realize that I am being simplistic but excepting the mediocre Il Mulino much of the best Italian I've had on both sides of the Atlantic has involved portions that were relatively small. I mention Il Mulino because the Manhattan original was quite good but it's nationally expanding outposts are only middling in the several I've been to. But Il Mulino in all of its locations was about excess-only in NY was the excess tasty. (and very expensive!) I have not been to Cinghiale but I have eaten the chef's cooking at Maestro when Fabio was not there. He is good, very good and could take Baltimore Italian to the next level. I just doubt very seriously that the next level is going to have portions anywhere near what you might be used to.

              1. re: Joe H

                Joe-If you have not been there, how can you comment? I have been and would agree with others that for the prices the portions are small. I really think they could make the portions bigger and still survive. The portions of Sulumi and Cheese are huge and than you get to the pasta and mains and literally get a tasting portion. On average you are getting a three course tasting for $50 and will not leave full. This is fine if everything is spot on and to date it is not. Time will tell.

                1. re: Annapolis07

                  Because a number of other restaurants from D. C.'s new "The Source" to The French Laundry have similarly small portions. Many one stars in Italy have smaller portions. I've also been eating Italian in Baltimore for 35 years (I've been to probably every single restaurant in Little Italy over this time plus Trattoria Alfredo in Glen Burnie (and elsewhere) and most have larger portions than what I've found in many better restaurants elsewhere. I believe there is an expectation on the part of many in the Baltimore area to see portions of a certain size and Cinghiale (which I will go to) represents a portion that is going to require an acceptance for many who are use to seeing more. Most of the $15-18 apps at The Source in D. C. are three or four bites total. Main courses which are $26-60 are six to ten approximately. Portions of pasta in, say, Bologna, are much smaller in their better restaurants than what I've found in Baltimore in the past.

                  1. re: Joe H

                    I just wonder if they will be able to convince the people of Baltimore that their tiny portions are worth the price. If they get the service to the level of their place next door, I say yes. If not it will be an uphill battle. When we ate there people all around us were commenting on the portion sizes, so it seems to be an issue. Also, who says good food only comes in small packages? We ate at Babbo in NYC a few months back and were stuffed after their $75 tasting menu.

              2. re: Bryan1555

                Totally agree, Bryan. Portions were really really small, and I don't think that it helped that the plates were so large. It made the portions look even smaller, if that's possible.

                The other thing that bugged me was the service....just too much and too overdone, and it seemed like too many staff. For instance, there are too people for each table - and it was obvious the staff who clearly "works together" on serving all the tables, don't communicate very well with one another. For example, we were asked several times by different people if we were ready to order. We literally did not know who our actual server was. We placed orders for cocktails with one person, then were asked by another person if we wanted cocktails - you get the picture. It was as if they were all scrambling but never checked to see if we had ordered yet. Confusing and distracting.

                When it comes to Wolf/Foreman restuarants, the Baltimore eating public expects so much more....and rightly so, given their reputation. Hopefully the service will improve once it works its kinks out. The portions won't change, I'm afraid....but it is incredibly well-done, I think very authentic Italian food and definitely takes Baltimore Italian up a notch.

                1. re: tennisgal1206

                  I did not object to the size of the portions, and Im a big guy. Other posters are correct; we expext "Italian" to mean red sauces and immense helpings. That is not what you find in the best places in Italy or NYC--A Voce, for ex, is similar to Cingiale.Keep the prices and my weight down

                  1. re: tartuffe

                    I haven't tried this particular place yet, but I would like to point out that in Italy it is the norm to order multiple courses: a pasta course followed by a meat course, for example. The smaller portion sizes you find in Italian restaurants reflect this. At the end of the meal, you are quite full.

                    Does Cinghiale expect people to order two main courses, as the Italians do? If not, then the small portions can be an issue.

                    1. re: Roland Parker

                      Yes, to their credit the servers explain that the menu is designed to be a three or more course tasting. I think people are objecting to the prices even with that in mind.

                        1. re: hon

                          My husband and I had dinner at Cinghiale Friday night. I wanted to love it...however; it unfortunately did not live up to our very excited expectations.
                          The place is really beautiful, and we had really high hopes when we were seated and greeted by our server. We ordered the antipasti for one and two cocktails, thinking that that would tide us over as we took our time perusing the menu. We also were given some bread (which was yummy, but we ran out of olive oil rather quickly - a bottle on the table would be very nice!)
                          The antipasti arrived and all I have to say is: YAWN. I don't eat lamb, but my husband loves it and said that it was really blah. The olives were good and the peppers were ok...not bad, but nothing made us go oh yum either. Word of advice - choose your own selections if want antipasti...
                          OK, we still had high hopes. We took out time with the menu and to our server's credit we didn't feel rushed. We ordered a bottle of decent wine - not the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. Now, we've eaten in many upscale restaurants in NY, Paris and CA. But this was only the second time we ever encountered the "server as wine taster" experience, the first being Petit Louis (coincidence?) The server brought our wine and 3 glasses, and proceeded to pour herself a rather hefty taste. I'm sorry, but I have to agree with my husband when he said "I don't give a d*** what SHE thinks of the wine, the ONLY opinion that matters is MINE". And I have to agree - when I pay for a whole bottle of wine I want to drink every costly drop myself, thank you very much!!!!!
                          OK, we didn't let that spoil our anticipation of a nice dinner so on we went. I ordered the cuttlefish stew and a small portion of the gnocchi with shrimp. My husband and I split the roasted beet salad, and he had the suckling pig.
                          It was...ok. The cuttlefish stew was probably the best. It was flavorful and I did finish every drop. The salad was the only thing that I felt really was too small - the beets were tasty, but there was small not worth the the cost. The gnocchi was ok. Not bad, but not really really yummy - I wanted something that made me say "I could never make this at home!"..alas, that never happened. And the pig...well. my husband said it was swiney (which to him is a compliment), but it didn't knock his socks off either.
                          Ho hum, we finished our meal and ordered espressos. By this time we had been served by many people - and somehow we seemed to tick off 2 servers when we declined dessert or anything else besides our coffees. I found the service to be a bit...cloying?! I felt attended to and not ignored, which is a good thing, but I also felt...I don't know how else to describe it except to say: marketed to. It reminded me of the first time we went to Pazo and the server asked us not how we liked the food but "and how are you enjoying your Pazo experience?". Please!!
                          So with tip the bill came to $200 and (yes, we got a nice bottle of wine but it wasn't THAT nice". I just didn't feel that the price to value ratio was there. I don't think we'll be back in a while. Which is a shame, because I agree with the previous posters that Baltimore really could use a true "Italian" place where you get the real authentic food. I hope that things shape up...I look forward to everyone else's reviews.

                          1. re: sistereurope

                            I'm still curious about thei salumi, house-made and otherwise, which seems to make them unique in Baltimore. Nice review.

                            1. re: ko1

                              Yes, it might be a better experience to sit at the bar on the enoteca side and feast on salumi and wines by the glass!

                              1. re: ko1

                                Baltimore is growing up! This is real Italian, and the days of Little Italy's preeminence may be numbered. My first visit to Cinghiale on Saturday evening was a real winner from start to finish. It was a special occasion dinner for us, and as requested when the reservation was made, we were led to a quiet room outside the loud hustle and bustle of the main dining area. The place, as noted, is lovely to look at - with a very long bar stretching along the back, and an antipasti/salumi station set up near the host stand. It reminded me a bit of the seafood station at Brasserie Beck in DC, but with a warmer interior, It was fun to spend a minute watching the fly-wheel crank prosciutto slicer in action, and the antipasti trays being meticulously assembled.

                                Drinks came promptly and as ordered, the bread basket contained some fine foccacia and ciobatta, and a small bottle of olive oil was left on the table after the server poured some for us for dipping. We had one main server, and a couple of food runners, but there was never any question who was attending to us.

                                We started with an order of charcuterie. We were brought a tray with three very ample mounds each of mortadella, shaved suckling pig with pistachios, and braseola. All excellent. My only real complaint of the evening was that there was absolutely nothing to accompany the meats - no bread (despite asking twice), no mustards, no cornichons. Just lovely thinly sliced cured meats. I don't know if this is the norm, or whether service just slipped on this one.

                                We also enjoyed the mildly underseasoned house-made sausage and beans with a pool of superb reduction (that's where all the bread had gone.) Without heavy seasoning, the fresh pork flavor really came through. The pasta course was a sausage stuffed ravioli (declared the best course of the evening, and reminiscent of Chef's time at Maestro) and for me the pungent cuttlefish stew, followed by mains of roast venison and black cod. I had absolutely no problem with the portion sizes, and all were quite well seasoned and delicious. The portions are on par with many other modern restaurants in the same price range, from Restaurant Eve's Bistro, to Central to Charleston across the street.

                                And a Baltimore first for me: the staff decanted our wine (a 1996 Barbaresco) without having to be asked, and were judicious in the timing of the refills.

                                Yes, there were some service glitches, but the place is only a month young and needs time to hit its stride. With over 200 seats, and a packed house (thanks to the American Academy of Plastic Surgeons convention in town - whoa was that a good looking crowd!!!), I left with the impression that Baltimore is really going to like Cinghiale once they come to know it.

                                1. re: crackers

                                  "We started with an order of charcuterie. We were brought a tray with three very ample mounds each of mortadella, shaved suckling pig with pistachios, and braseola. All excellent. My only real complaint of the evening was that there was absolutely nothing to accompany the meats - no bread (despite asking twice), no mustards, no cornichons. Just lovely thinly sliced cured meats. I don't know if this is the norm, or whether service just slipped on this one. "
                                  This is how Batali serves salumi. Looking at the menu, his restaurants seem to be the model for this one, whether they acknowledge it or not.

                                  1. re: crackers

                                    Thanks, Crackers. It's great to hear that you had such a wonderful experience. Frankly, it reinforced my expectations. Cinghiale is also an example of the real loss of Fabio: those who worked with him and the restaurants they will open when they are on their own. By taking twelve with him from Maestro to Manhattan's Fiamma there are twelve fewer future "stars" for the D. C./Baltimore area to have. As least Cinghale got one of the most talented.

                2. Went two weeks ago and ate in the Osteria. There are lots of kinks to hammer out. Service is, as noted, problematic. Food is underseasoned. And I agree with the posts about portion size. We've travelled extensively through Tuscany, Umbria and the Veneto. I don't want Cheesecake Factory portions. But when I looked at the antipasti portions, they were not only smaller than anything in Italy, but also smaller than their ilk in the U.S., e.g. the Batali empire, Perbacco in SF, Vetri in Philly, etc. That's okay if they were stunning--but they were far from it.

                  I want this place to do well--Baltimore desperately needs a modern Italian restaurant. We loved the wine program there (thoughI am exasperated by the Foreman hubris of having the waiter--not even the sommelier--taste first and always) but am not excited to return to spend that kind of money on this kind of quality and service.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: chefdilettante

                    Interesting thread to read through: it is accepted throughout the world that a serious sommelier will pour him or herself a "taste" of wine whether in a glass or in a silver cup around their neck to approve the wine. This is part of what is considered by many to be proper wine service. Part of this service includes decanting a better bottle, "washing" the glass with a first pour from the bottle, a larger stem for some wines and so forth. The theory behind the sommelier tasting the first pour is to confirm that the wine is not corked or has not been exposed to extreme temperature. I have no idea how large of pours the sommelier at Cinghale is pouring but this is an accepted and EXPECTED practice in better restaurants around the world. For myself, in part I judge restaurants on the glasses they serve wine in. Schott Zweisel/Spieglau/Reidel...Vinum, Vinum Extreme, Sommelier? All of this makes a difference, especially with a better bottle of wine. It affects taste, it affects the "nose" of the wine. Swirling a particular bottle is easier in some glasses than others; it also opens the wine up a bit earlier.

                    But I must tell you that in 35 years of visiting Little Italy I never once paid attention to the particular manufacturer of the glass that I drank wine from. I did at Maestro, at the Lab, at Babbo, at Le Calandre and La Pergola. But not in Little Italy. It was just not my expectation. I do at home: from Fortessa our every day glasses are Schott Zweisel Tritan Divas which are fishbowl sized glasses that survive dishwashers (and are worth every penny of the ten dollars or so each costs. When my wife and I visit Cinghale, just as we did at Maestro, we will pay attention to the glass that our wine is served in. And, I look forward to the sommelier tasting the wine first.

                    Some things make a difference. I would like to believe that Baltimore is ready for that difference...

                    1. re: Joe H

                      Oh, Baltimore is more than ready. In the case of the wine, however, I've also been to top resturants throughout the world and have never ever had the SERVER pour WAY more than a "taste" in her own wine glass before serving me. I'm more than capable of judging the wine on my own and sending it back if need be. I believe that a sommelier's role is to advise, period. Again, this wasn't a discrete taste from a silver cup - it was a hefty pour into a GLASS. I'm sorry that I didn't get the brand...