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Cinghiale

anybody tried this new restaurant?

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  1. Had lunch there -- full follow-up report can be found at http://www.chowhound.com/topics/44873...

    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.

    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 Reply
      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...

                  2. It's nice to read the comments, since I think it's a little out of my price range. Sounds delicious.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: butters13

                      This is a very interesting thread. I have dined all over Europe and the US and I have only had the server taste wine a few times. It is ostentatious, wasteful, and doesn't have to be done with a young (read cheap) wine. I have not ordered a bottle at Cingiale, so I cant comment on its practice.

                      I have found the pastas wonderful, and the salumi a mixed bag. The bresaola and fennel salami were wonderful, however, and I second the rec of the Wine Source for great salumi.

                      As for wine glasses--Gourmet mag ran an article a couple of years ago on Riedel and concluded that the type of glass used made no difference in the sensory experience (altho It's hard, for obvious reasons, to do blind taste tests). But Riedel looks nice, so that helps the experience by itself.

                    2. what is the latest buzz on the restaurant?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Perfectmeal

                        The latest I heard was that the chef, Stefano Frigerio is out and Julian Marucci is in.

                        http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/enter...

                        1. re: Perfectmeal

                          Yes, I was surprised when ate there on Friday to see that the name on the menu had changed. Stefano is indeed out. Actually I was surprised that I hadn't heard about it here yet. We 'hounds are slacking I guess.

                          My wife and I ordered three courses each from the Osteria menu (though we were in the Enoteca side-- didn't know that was an option) The last course for both of us was a half order of pasta, so in essense we had a trio of small plates each. And were satisfied both with quantity and quality. Everything was delicious.

                          But I have agree with many of the reviews upthread about non-food issues. I'm loathe to complain about noise and crowds when I choose to dine at 8:00pm on Friday, when one should expect those things. But man it was noisy and crowded. For some reason the crowds and chaos doesn't bother me at Pazo, and the mirrors and tile floors at Petit Louis contribute a loud, bustling bistro vibe (as intended). But at Cinghiale it's much larger and just doesn't work as well. Maybe it's just that we were seated in a high traffic area, I don't know.

                          But my primary complaint, which is really a response to Joe H's post above, is the wine tasting procedure. (Server tastes before the customer) In a perfect world this would be a great service to the vast majority of people who haven't had enough experience with corked, or cooked, wine to know what they're looking for, and who would otherwise suffer through a miserable bottle of wine needlessly out of fear of saying something wrong. For this reason I applaud the idea. But this isn't a perfect world. Most importantly, Tony Foreman isn't the one standing at every table tasting the wine. Nor is it the restaurant's head sommelier. It's the server. Who may have had a crash course in wine as a pre-requisite for joining the cinghiale team (I know because I got to read the training manual) but who is not necessarily capable or even inclined at 8:30 on a Friday with 200 covers or whatever to give her small taste its due. The reason for the rant is that my server pronounced my Fontodi Chianti as "showing nicely" when in fact it was horribly corked. Of course she was apologetic and a second bottle was brought immediately, all fine and good. But really, can't we agree that this isn't a Michelin 3 star with one or two sommeliers overseeing every aspect of wine service? Ditch the server's pour, I say.

                          1. re: Darin

                            I agree I hate the server wine taste. I suspected they did not have the knowledge to taste it and your story seems to confirm that fact. Now if Foreman or one of the Sommelier want to taste and advise for me that is great.

                            Interesting news on the new chef. I need to get back there very soon to see what has changed.

                        2. I went out to try Cinghiale with my favorite dining companion last night.

                          Seemed right to do with the prix fixe three course dinner. He had Kobe carpaccio with hazelnuts and I had mushrooms to start, for the pasta course he had gnocchi with braised goat and I tried the risotto Milanese (my favorite!) and our entrees were suckling pig for him and caramelized honey duck for me. Teeny tiny portions, thankfully. We didn't order a bottle of wine to go with the meal; as it's too much for me - I guess a side benefit is avoiding the server's pour mentioned above.

                          We finished off the night with drinks and dessert - a couple of scoops of homemade icy things: marscapone gelato and Concord grape sorbet.

                          The pasta course was the strongest, maybe because it's so easy to differentiate between really well executed pasta (which this was) and...not. Service was impeccable, too. Our candle went out and within 3 seconds someone was over to discreetly replace it. Foreman was seen making the rounds all night, but did not stop by our table.

                          Overall it was a pleasant meal. We'd go back.

                          1. I went there last night (late december 2007) for a special occasion with my wife. I want to comment on three aspects mentioned in earlier comments: portion size; service; and value.

                            I'm a big guy with a big appetite. After reading here, I went with the idea of ordering the three course price fix, and adding a salumi plate (three types of sliced meat they pick day by day) to begin with. I ate probably 3/4 of the meat, and my wife ate the other quarter; I also had maybe 1/3 of her pasta course. And this was too much food for me. The portions may appear small on the plate, but the pastas especially are quite rich, and larger portions would be a mistake. (I think you have the option of upgrading to a larger portion of pasta for an additional $10 on the fix price.)

                            The service was fantastic. When we left I realized that we'd been there nearly three hours, we never had to wait, we were never rushed, we never had to look for a waiter to attend. So from my perspective, they've got whatever problems they might have had solved. Or we were lucky; it was a Thursday night between Christmas and New Years, the restaurant was quite busy, but not packed to capacity.

                            Value: Well this is in the eye of the beholder. Our bill was about $200, $250 with tip. I don't eat at that price level more than once a year. But for us it was a memorable meal and was worth it and I would definitely go back.

                            What would I do differently? Instead of the $12 salumi plate and the $9 antipasto plate (both from the enotecho menu), I would order one salumi order (example homemade salami $8) and one antipasto ($4 eggplant). The one thing we had which unremarkable was the antipasto plate -- pickled mushrooms (tasted like pickled mushrooms), cauliflower (perfect and pretty, but also nothing special) and tuna and beans (the best of the the three, but still no "wow" factor). I love the paired wines option because I don't know much about wine, and would do it again. It was too much for my wife, who would order a glass and nurse it through the meal if we did this again. I loved the cuttlefish stew, the gnocchi with cinghiale sauce, and the braised veal shoulder. Cuttlefish and veal both on polenta leading me to generalize -- anything with polenta. My wife had treviso with cheese and balsamic vinegar (treviso is like a cross between endive and radicchio). To my mind this is exactly what an appetizer should be -- very simple dish with complementary flavors that makes you hungry for more. We were both wowed by the sausage filled pasta. She said the dourade (fish) was ok, but she'd try something different next time. I was too full for dessert, but had a bite of her pumpkin pannecotta and it was excellent.

                            1. Had dinner on the wine bar side back in mid-October and found Cinghiale to be quite enjoyable. It's an extreme departure from the Little Italy set and I think that's a good thing. Rustic food, attractively served in the proper proportion. Don't know if I found all the flavors to my tastes but I was able to order "out of the box" and try some new things that I never sampled before. For me, this is desirable and I recommend the restaurant and look forward to going back and see what the new chef has done with the menu.

                              Personally speaking, I hope they don't cower to some of the commentaries and move to the veal parmigiana type menu and super-platter sizes. I hope they stick to their vision and deliver something authentic and exciting to Baltimore. Unfortunately, our beloved city seems to nurture a benign palate and expectation - like the review by Elizabeth Large who oddly stated that the Kale Soup tasted, well, like "kale." Somehow, I would have expected a Kale Soup to taste like kale.

                              1. We ate in the osteria Friday night. The food was excellent (the rabbit tortellini was one of the standouts), and I thought the portion sizes were a refreshing change from the usual Baltimore style of serving more food than I can eat.

                                Our server poured a very tiny amount of the wine into a glass, which she didn't actually taste, just smelled. The amount of wine was so small that this didn't bother me any (other than maybe seeming a touch pretentious).

                                Our biggest complaint about the place was the noise level. The rooms are large and gorgeous, but are acoustically a nightmare.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Hal Laurent

                                  Is that a function of the tile? I remember class at CIA way back when and while the Caterina was a beautiful and fantastic space, all the imported Italian tiles amplified every single conversation to that of a rock concert.

                                2. went here last night as an early birthday celebration. there were 3 of us and we sat in the enoteca side. started off well--the wine was great and not bothered by the small server's pour. we ordered the salumi for 2, which was good (not great)--actually a lot of meat. we also got the grilled calamari, which had a delcious sauce. both my mom and i wanted just pasta so we ordered a full portion of that, while my dad got a half-size of the mushroom macheroni (?) risotto style and the rockfish. i tried the mushroom pasta and i liked it, but i didn't see how it was considered to be cooked risotto style, just seemed like regular pasta to me. i ordered the spaghetti with clams--DO NOT order. the clams themselves were fine--small and not many, but decent tasting, however the pasta itself was dry, sticky, and absolutely no sauce. i tried to see if there was any at the bottom of the plate, but there was just some brothy water. i had high hopes after the sauce in the calamari--garlicky wine sauce. the spaghetti actually reminded me of packaged ramen noodles without any broth. my mom got the sausage filled pasta with a sage and butter sauce. it was not as bad as mine, but definitely not as good as we had hoped after our waitress had raved about how delicious the pastas were.
                                  the bite of rockfish i had i was well-cooked and flavorful--i guess next time i will stick to the fish/meat.
                                  just my 2 cents.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: mshrmlvr

                                    On Monday nite, I went with 5 others ; I was the only one who had been there before. Several of the group have lived all over the world, an they know what they are doing when it comes to food. They loved it. It was not perfect-- no one liked the melanzane antipasti, but the salumi was scarfed up, and the pastas also vanished quickly. The pasta hit was the gli angolotti, stuffed with veal. I bought my first secondi there (the ribeye, I was on an expense account) and really enjoyed it--it was big, properly cooked and lots of flavor. Service was fine.

                                    I suspect that Cinghiale does not have enough quality people in the kitchen, and that's why the food sometimes suffers. And some of the dishes, like the eggplant, are ill-conceived. But it is one of my very favorite fine dining places in town. Maybe my favorite in that price and elegance range

                                    1. re: tartuffe

                                      I am kind of surprised that no one seems to be mentioning the desserts. I have been to Cinghiale several times, and while I think that the food is excellent, it is totally surpassed by the desserts. I was just there a couple weeks ago and had the earl gray and chocolate panna cotta and it was sublime!

                                    2. re: mshrmlvr

                                      Stopped in this evening for a quick plate of pasta. Tried the spaghetti alla chitarra with young chiles and clams. Mshrmlvr, sticky with barely any sauce in the bottom is exactly how mine was served, exactly how it would be in Italy, and exactly how it should be done... avoiding the oversauced overgarlicked mess it's commonly become in the States. Really, a lovely little pasta.

                                      One curiosity question, though, for anybody else who's tried this one. Was yours actually a spaghetti alla chitarra? Mine was spaghettini bordering on cappelini, and there's no way it ever saw a chitarra. I enjoyed it so much I wasn't about to quibble over an incorrect menu, and I Iove pasta secca so I'm not going to complain about it not being fresh, but I'd be curious to know if they actually do a fresh spaghetti alla chitarra and perhaps ran short for the night (it was late), or if a dry, round spaghettini is how it's usually done.

                                    3. We finally managed to sneak over on Saturday and eat in the osteria. With the exception of one clunker (out of six dishes), a really wonderful meal. I have to wonder if some of the criticisms upthread, especially regarding saucing and portions, are due to expectations built by Italian-American rather than Italian cuisine. But like I say, we had one clunker ourselves, so they demonstrated the ability to turn out a less than impressive dish, even if it was the grand exception.

                                      My ladylove's seared foie gras with apples and walnut pesto was a rich, sweet and salty flavor bomb. My "caramelized" forest mushrooms with preserved truffle, ciabatta and thyme handled the mushrooms quite nicely, mixing tender, juicy chunks with lightly crisped frills and fronds. I coveted her primo, the risotto with pears, parmigiano and grappa, but was more than pleased with mine -- the rabbit confit tortellini with preserved truffle and salty butter. They had all the little curls and nubs of a lovingly handmade product, even if the preserved truffle didn't provide the level of earthy oomph I would have liked. The dish is crying out for fresh truffles. The pan-roasted duck with crema fritta, rhubarb compote and red wine sauce may be a little sweet for some, but we both rather enjoyed it. My spit roasted lamb was the only disappointment. When I think Northern Italian spit roasted meats, I think of meat slowly turning over the fire, basting in its own fat and juices, making a lightly crisped, glistening fire-kissed crust that protects the tender, moist meat inside. What I received struck me more as something that had been unceremoniously tossed in the oven for a while. It was overlean, undercooked (ordered medium rare, received VERY rare) and didn't have a hint of fire about it.

                                      But still, five out of six excellent dishes is absolutely reason to return. Pics here, if anybody's curious:

                                      http://www.skilletdoux.com/2008/04/ci...

                                      1. I was curious what Baltimoreans would think of this gem in their Harbor East area, so I checked out these postings about Cinghiale. I'm a New Yorker who has traveled (and eaten much and well) in Northern Italy and personally, I loved it.

                                        Went on Saturday night April 20th by myself and sat at the bar in the Enoteca. Ended up having their appetizer+small primo+main course and the wine pairings. Appetizer was fried artichokes with basil mayonnaise...excellent! They had stripped off all the leaves and breaded and deep fried the stem and bulb of tender goodness. Oh and the wilted arugula that came with it was yummy, too. Primo piatto was their own homemade half-moon ravioli filled with their own sausage, finished in the pan with some butter and sage leaves. The main course was pan fried sweetbreads (but they were breaded and came out crunchy...yum!) with yukon gold potato slices and a very delicate lemon caper sauce. The wines were phenomenal. The Gavi di Gavi white from Piemonte was great with the artichokes and the Langhe Rosso also from Piemonte complemented the pasta very well. They recommended a Ferrari sparkling rose with the sweetbreads and it went beautifully - who woulda thunk it?

                                        Dessert was a millefoglie (their pastry chef knows his stuff) with a rhubarb sauce and the cappuccino was even great!

                                        The waitstaff behind the bar were so nice and friendly - they made me feel very welcome - and they were well schooled about the food and wines.

                                        I hated to leave!!

                                        I truly hope that this restaurant catches on; I'm recommending it to all my Maryland friends and work colleagues.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: epcol

                                          For those that have had their "appetizer+small primo+main course w/ the wine pairings" do they do different wine pairings for a group based on what they order? Meaning if everyone in the party ordered different dishes, do they get different wines? I would assume they would, but I wonder how much thought really goes into this. For the above poster, it seems they made some thoughtful suggestions and wonder how this would extend to a larger party.

                                        2. We finally got around to going Thursday night. I had intended to order wine and nibbles from the enoteca, but the "select your own app/primo/main + paired wines" for $72 (or was it $74?) got me. My dining companion ended up doing the same.

                                          To anwer ingramcol's question, everyone get their own wine pairing. I got a prosecco to go with my prosecco-breaded fried artichokes. My man got a red to go with his carpaccio. So each person's flight is tailored to their food choices.

                                          This carpaccio was heavenly. The onion-skin-thin slices of perfectly flavored, tender, juicy beef were paired with shavings of parmesan, which went wonderfully together, or apart. I can't remember when I've had a carpaccio this nice. I think it even beat Trattoria Alberto's, which is the best I've had in these parts.

                                          The artichokes were also divine. Interesting concept, great execution. The breading was light, crisp, not greasy, and not over-fried. It was also salted to perfection, something I often find lacking. Even the greens were salted perfectly on this dish. The 'chokes had a basil mayo for dipping, but again could stand on its own feet.

                                          The pasta course was sad for me. I am a gnocchi 'ho, and have ordered some seriously amazing gnocchi in Italy as well as the Italian part of Switzerland that just made me swoon. So of course I ordered the gnocchi with duck confit here.

                                          While I can't fault their gnocchi (light, obviously homemade), the pairing with duck just didn't work for me. I guess I see gnocchi more as vehicles for a gorgonzola or butter-based sauce. The confit was like dumping duck stew onto these tender little pillows, and I felt it overwhelmed the gnocchis. The confit, on its own, was very hearty and stew-like. But it just wasn't a good match for the gnocchi. The gnocchs themselves were a little wet/sticky, but otherwise quite good.

                                          Which is sad, because I was really looking foward to the gnocchi course.

                                          The other pasta we got was the rabbit ravioli. Amazing confluence of tastes and textures. I got some cartilige, though, which was unpleasant to fish out with my hand in such a swanky place. There were only 5 raviolis on his plate, which was considerably less than my medium-sized mound of gnocchi.

                                          I had the squab. I almost missed it on the menu, since it was up at the top, in-between the other columns with main dishes. I literally saw it as the waitress was approaching, and decided to try it. I've never had squab before, and wanted to give it a try. Great call. It was perfectly roasted, and the rhubarb sauce was a perfect complement. It came with a shmear of what was called polenta, but this was way too runny. Tough to eat it so wet, but I managed. :) The dish also came with the "pesto" of black peppercorns, coriander, and something else. It was rolled up in a little tube at the edge of my plate, and was absolutely freakin' FANTASTIC. Total flavor WOW, so packed with good, strong, nicely complemented tastes.

                                          As I was eating it, the person who I think is Foreman swung by and asked me how my pigeon was, which for some reason cracked me up. Then he asked if they paired it with a nice Barbaresco, which is what pigeon is made for. I nodded and waited until he walked away to pick up my pigeon leg and gnaw off the remaining meat. I don't care how fancy a place is, if I want to eat with my hands, I will. :) Cooked to medium rare, juicy, tasty, and just divine. I wish the polenta was done a bit better, though.

                                          The swordfish was the other dish that we got and it was perfect. No dressings, sauces, gimmicks. Just a great hunk of fish grilled to medium rare and dusted with salt and pepper. Nothing else was needed.

                                          We had a three-cheese plate for dessert, with one standout whose name I have already forgotten. However, $13 for 6 slivers of cheese is a little steep. Then we tried the chocolate rosemary mousse cake. While good, the only rosemary we could sense was the sprig that they dressed the plate with. They did dust the cake with small rock salt, which was a fabulous foil to the sweet when you got a crunch of it. (Abacrombie does the layer of rock salt on their chocolate caramel dessert much better, and this reminded me of the dessert I enjoyed better elsewhere.)

                                          My dining companion thought that the portion sizes of the pasta and cheese could be bigger. I liked being able to have three courses + dessert and not be uncomfortably full. The cheese, however, was rather chintzy.

                                          The decor, plateware, and ambiance in the bar area are rather swanky. There was this element of posturing from some of the other patrons at the bar that we were rolling our eyes over. We avoid Pazo because of this "see and be seen" vibe.

                                          Which brings me to the service. It truly was top-notch, without a hitch, and everything was timed perfectly. But by the end of the meal, we had gotten sick of being asked if we were enjoying our xx course for the 5th time, excusing her reach, etc etc etc. I know that she has to ask if each course is to our liking, otherwise she can't correct any problems. I know that she is being gracious and polite. But we're slighly more casual, and I feel uncomfortable with that almost "fawning" level of service that you can sometimes get. There are some people that love being bowed and scraped over; I'm not one of them. I wish there was a polite way I could tell servers to take the stuffiness level down a notch---any ideas?

                                          They gave us a printout of the wines we were getting with each course, which was a great touch.

                                          Total for two (1 glass of wine at the bar, the three-courses with wine pairings, pellegrino, cheese plate, dessert, espresso and cappucino) was $200. We thought it was worth $150. He thought the wine pours were light and portions could be larger. I think that they were standard.

                                          I'll definitely be back: when I have some extra cash I don't mind spending, and when I can stomach the "I'm so cool I'm eating here" crowd. I'll probably sit at the bar. (Which was where most of these yentas were, sadly enough.) Hopefully it will be a bit more casual at the bar than getting waited on, so I can enjoy the food without getting the overly-solicitous service that makes me slighly uncomfortable.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: venera

                                            Thank you for specifically answering my question. Sounds like a great meal, and gives me a great idea of what to expect..

                                          2. We were there on Wednesday night and I wished I'd known we were going and read these posts first. We were in Baltimore for JHU graduation and others chose this restaurant for our group. I will say that no one was blown away, but for various reasons (some more valid than others). The place is lovely and our server was friendly, efficient and patient (we are a difficult group). Unforunately, none of the food wowed me...I looked on the online menu just now so that I could remember the names etc of what I had, but it's a different menu than we were offered this week. I had a salad with greens and reggiano that was far too heavily dressed for my day and absolutely the worst risotto I have ever had. It was sloppily presented and remarkably undercooked (unless I'm really confused about risotto?). It was supposed to be risotto with day boat scallops and spring peas. I ordered the full version which had maybe 4 THIN slices of scallop and the "risotto" was barely cooked rice swimming in sauce. We ordered an asparagus salad that the waiter recommended (as he did the risotto) but it never came. My husband and a few others were disappointed with the portion size, but are not necessarily accustomed to eating traditional Italian, nor "fancier" food. I hope other people have had better experiences...mine was not one I would want to repeat.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: mfp79

                                              "I had a salad with greens and reggiano that was far too heavily dressed for my day and absolutely the worst risotto I have ever had. It was sloppily presented and remarkably undercooked (unless I'm really confused about risotto?)."

                                              It's hard to say having not tasted your risotto, but risotto should, absolutely, have a nice, firm bite, and depending on the region and chef, it's entirely appropriate for it to be quite soupy. The risotto I had there was fantastic, and perfectly cooked -- but that doesn't necessarily mean yours was.