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Portland, ME - Cinque Terre, 555 or somewhere else?

My wife and I are heading up from Boston for a weekend in August to celebrate our 5th Wedding Anniversary. We are planning on a Sea Dogs game Friday night, Duckfat for lunch on Saturday and the big question is where to go for dinner on Saturday night! I currently have a reservation at Cinque Terre but would be willing to switch it if swayed. Just as an FYI for location we will be staying at the Portland Harbor Hotel and are pretty open to different cuisine options.

I have been to Street & Co. a few years back and loved it there but was hoping to try one of the new places.

So do you think I should stick with Cinque Terre?

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  1. We went to Portland for the first time a month ago. We ate at Fore St., 555, and duckfat. I have to say that 555 was one of the best meals I have ever eaten. The food was creative and delicious, and the service was amazing, highly recommended. Fore St. was good, but was totally overshadowed by the previous nights meal at 555. Duckfat was a great lunch spot, and we wandered over to the shipyard brewery afterwards.

    1. I'm pretty attached to both CT and 555, so flip a coin (depending, perhaps, on whether you can get a reservation, even now!). You may also want consider some of the other fan favorites that are a little down the list: Bresca, Evangeline, or Caiola's. And for pure white-table-cloth elegance and excellent food, Back Bay Grill. In Portland, you can't go wrong! You'll probably get some recs for Hugo's, but before selecting that, you might want to scan some recent posts from other Hounds.

      1. Cinque Terre sounds like a great place, the reason it didn't make my list is that I am in New Haven, which has a vibrant italian population while 555 offers unique dishes that I wouldn't find here. Coming from boston I don't think you are lacking in great italian food.

        1. I twice found Cinqua Terre disappointing so I never recommend it. I enjoyed 555 but it didn't live up to my expectations from all the positive press/feedback.

          Hugo's is a very special meal but I haven't been since menu change. I would suggest Bresca or Evangeline.

          7 Replies
          1. re: merrvally

            Could you tell me what made it disappointing? Have you been there recently? My family could not get a reservation at Fore Street this coming Sunday, so we thought we'd try CT. If you could give me some more details, I'd be very grateful.

            1. re: Epicure

              I really don't care for Cinque Terre. The menu is way to limited for me.
              Their sister restaurant VIGNOLA is better for me, but the new greek restaurant in Portland EMILITSA on Congress St is excellent.
              I called Fore St in the last 2 months 5 times for a reservation, and was turned down each time because not enough notice. I told them that they will never hear from me again. They have a attitude at Fore Street, and too independant for me, so i will take my credit card elsewhere, where I am appreciated, and wanted as a customer.....

              1. re: irwin

                I've also had disappointing dinner at Cinque Terre, wildly inconsistent with some entrees being excellent, others average to poor. After our most recent experience we won't go back. Too many other great restaurants in Portland. I agree with recommendation for Brescas. They have truely outstanding food - every course was exceptional. If you can get a reservation, grab it!! Also like 555. Heard good things about Evangeline, but haven't been there yet.

                1. re: irwin

                  We ate at 555 last summer and were a bit disappointed. The food was good, but not great (certainly didn't live up to the hype of the chef being written up in Food and Wine) and the service was inattentive (my husband's iced tea was NEVER refilled the entire evening) and pretentious (we asked if it would be okay if we first ordered some appetizers and then chose our entrees and were informed that the chef had designed the menu in such a way that the entire order HAD to be placed all at once).

                2. re: Epicure

                  Most disappointing at Cinque Terre was the service. It was inattentive and not knowledgeable - a crime with all the great, professional wait staff in Portland. Also, the food was mediocre...we dined shortly after visiting Liguria and their attempts to recreate some of the traditional dishes and fell short. It was also very expensive compared to the price/value/quality of some of the other top-notch restaurants in town - including Hugo's, etc.

                  Having said that, it's been a few years since we've been there. And they have also been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement which may have improve their ability to recreate the simple ingredients and exciting flavors of the actual CT. I will not likely return, however, a risk being disappointed again..too much else going on in town.

                  1. re: merrvally

                    Thanks for the information. As it turns out, I called Fore Street yesterday afternoon and got a 9:30 reservation for this Sunday. Since we'll only be in town for one night this time, CT ultimately sounded like a less than ideal choice. The menu does look interesting, however, as you point out with your comment about the farm-to-table movement, so I'd probably be willing to try it during a longer stay in the city.

                    1. re: merrvally

                      Your service comment is interesting. I've eaten at CT several times in recent years, and have never found the service less than perfectly attentive, while at 555, we had a deplorable service experience last October. Guess it goes to show that in many fine places, on any given night things may be disappointing. As to "farm-to-table," that's become very much of a Portland trend in recent years, and I can't think of single high-end eatery in town that DOESN'T pay heed, and advertise the fact. I know a number of grower/vendors in the local ag market, and it's one of the things that's making Maine agriculture a come-back story.