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Jun 9, 2013 06:17 PM

Cinquecento--Much Anticipated, Very Meh

As a South End resident with fond memories of Rocca, I was psyched when Cinquecento first opened. The initial menu didn't thrill me, so my bf and I decided to wait a bit, let the restaurant get the opening kinks out, and go when a new menu excited us. That visit happened last night and was fairly disappointing.

We made an 8:00 reservation and got there around 7:30 to snag a drink at the bar and check out the situation. I had read other reports of the place being noisy, and while it was still pretty reasonable at the beginning of the night, the decibel level was a not-so-dull roar by the time we left around 10:00. Bar service was prompt and friendly (just wine pours) and we were seated around 8:05.

We started with the fried artichoke hearts and mushroom soup, plus a bottle of dolcetto d'alba. The artichoke hearts were very lightly fried with a good balance of lemon, olive oil and chopped parsley--very tasty first impression. The mushroom soup was drizzled with basil oil and was extremely smooth, not too cream-heavy. Both of the appetizers were very good and we were excited for our entrees to come. This is unfortunately where the train went off the rails.

My bf ordered the spaghetti al gamberi and I got the bucatini alla carbonara. The lag between the appetizers being cleared and the entrees coming out was probably around 35 minutes, which is a little bit longer than I expected. The shrimp dish looked immediately disappointing, as the shrimp used were the size I'm more accustomed to seeing in shrimp fried rice from the local American-Chinese food joint. The shrimp were overcooked (not hard to do when they are 1/2" across) and the ratio of guanciale to other ingredients was far too guanciale-heavy.

My dish, while visually presenting better than my bf's, was overwhelmed by black pepper. I enjoy a peppery carbonara, but this was a slighty carbonara-y pepper. The pastas used in both of our dishes were nicely cooked, but couldn't be rescued from the other problems with the dishes. Part of the reason that the entrees were so disappointing is how good the appetizers had been.

We finished eating, mulled over whether we would give the restaurant another chance (we will), and asked for the check. The first check came, we submitted a credit card, and finished sipping our wine. When the bill came back with the slips to sign, the receipts inside totaled a bill that was $40 more than the first version. We examined them and the credit card had been run for the bill for the table next to us, which was promptly reversed and corrected when we called the server over. A mistake that could happen to anyone, sure, but just another annoyance lumped onto the end of the meal.

We will give the place another try and hopefully the next go will be closer to the bar/appetizer phase of the meal than the waiting/entrees/bill phase.

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  1. "The lag between the appetizers being cleared and the entrees coming out was probably around 35 minutes"

    It was 45 minutes+ when I ate there a month or so after they opened. Disappointing to hear it hasn't changed much so many moths later.

    1. We ate there just after they opened and had a similar experience in terms of wait time, although it was even longer, closer to an hour from when we ordered to when we got our apps! They ended up handling it fairly well and comping us a few dishes, and I chalked it up to opening issues since it was so close to when they had opened. But it sounds like their timing is still off. I also thought it was somewhat expensive for what we got, even with the comping. I'm not going back anytime soon.

      1. I've been going maybe once a month since it opened. I have my complaints: it's *really* loud, the bartending is typical Aquitaine Group (little consistency: some fine bartenders, some not so fine), and they call themselves a Roman joint but don't serve cacio e pepe.

        But I haven't suffered the dreaded timing issues that posters are citing here. I'd call the pacing leisurely, and I've had one instance of a mis-heard order (that noise!), but 45-60 minute lags between courses, no. Maybe my habit of ordering three or four small to mid-sized courses here helps.

        5 Replies
        1. re: MC Slim JB

          I wonder if the increasing noise in places like this really is beginning to impact the service. It's not only an issue of not hearing what people are saying but the effect that contant noise has on the psyche. The poor service may be wait staff that is so battered by noise they can't work efficiently.

          I wonder if OSHA could get restaurant noise under control.

          MC Slim, you think it is worth going back despite the noise. Who, besides me, won't even try it or will not go back because of the sound levels?


          1. re: BostonZest

            "I've been going maybe once a month since it opened" sounds like he thinks it's worth going back despite the noise.

            I don't do that well with noisy environments, but haven't found it at all unbearable the 2 times I have been. It may have helped that our table was along the rear wall both times.

            I've worked in deafening bars and find the suggestion that the staff 'is so battered by noise they can't work efficiently' to be a stretch. However, it sounds like the sound is a real concern for you, so my suggestion would be don't go. There are plenty of other Italian options to try and it's not like Cinquecento distinguishes itself as a must-dine destination.

            1. re: BostonZest

              I wouldn't put Cinquecento in my top five favorite Italians in town, but it has several things going for it at the moment: it's convenient to me, the menu is broadly crowd-pleasing, it has maybe the nicest patio in the neighborhood, and it's newish, so friends often want to try it.

              I have found certain times and seating locations that are less punishing from a noise standpoint. As I mentioned, though, the roar has resulted in one mis-heard order.


            2. re: MC Slim JB

              Sounds like you should order the bucatini carbonara for a close cousin to a cacio e pepe.

              1. re: Bob Dobalina

                I've had the carbonara several times, and it doesn't seem much like cacio e pepe to me. (I haven't noticed the pepper overdose cited here.) The main flavor is guanciale, and I especially appreciate the use of jowl. The more common choice in American Italian restaurants is the safer, less-interesting pancetta.


            3. Agree that it's noisy & not as good as sister restaurant Gaslight also on Harrison (can't gripe about free parking though!), but we had a lovely anniversary dinner. Restaurant acknowledged the event with a free glass of champagne and spruced up our dessert. Food was good and service was attentive.

              2 Replies
              1. re: carneyvore

                I think their food is heads above Gaslight's. I ate at the latter last week and it was very disappointing.

                But admittedly I have only had apps at Cinq and have only sat at the bar. Everything I've tried has been good. And bar tending has been good as well.

                1. re: C. Hamster

                  Sounds like whoever is in charge of cooking the apps should be elevated to head chef!

              2. FWIW, we went for brunch a couple of weeks ago and I had the heavily black peppered Carbonara as well. It wasn't really my cup of tea either, but it would appear that's the profile they are going for with that dish.