I love dining in the South End, but admittedly, I don't venture in that direction as much as I used to, mostly because the parking situation is so tricky.
Two weeks ago a friend and I were trying to decide where to dine for Restaurant Week and after perusing all the menus, we selected Cinquecento on Harrison Ave.
The best part about Cinquecento is that the restaurant has a free parking lot. Not just a few spaces, an entire lot just for their patrons. In the South End, that is what we call a game changer.
The entrance to Cinquecento is very cool. From the street, you walk through a covered space with the restaurant's name painted onto an exposed brick wall. I also love the oversized building number down at the bottom. Cinquecento is Italian for five hundred.
When you enter the restaurant you walk up and illuminated staircase.
The dining room is absolutely gorgeous. It has dim, romantic lighting. My favorite feature is the backlit red liquor bottles surrounding every column.
We were seated in a cozy booth in the corner of the dining room. Our waiter brought us the Restaurant Week menu and the regular menu.
How fun is the wine menu? There are four different consumption options, each marked the shape of the drinking vessel.
We ordered one glass of wine each, Montepulciano for me and Pinot Grigio for her.
Each wine glass is marked with the number 500, right where the bartender should stop the pour. I've never seen that in a restaurant before.
To begin, our waiter brought us a plate of bread with a side of olive oil and salt. The bread was that perfect combination of doughy inside and crunchy outside.
First we shared the ricotta cheese with grilled bread. Can I just say, all bread should be served grilled. Holy yum.
The ricotta was actually pretty bland in flavor, which was disappointing.
Next up, the tri colore salad with arugula, endive, trevisano, gorgonzola cheese and balsamic dressing. After a few bites, we couldn't find the gorgonzola cheese. It was actually sliced into a stick and hidden beneath all the greens. The dressing was excellent and brought the whole plate together.
The salad plate was branded with a 500, just like the wine glass.
We agonized over what to choose for our entrees because there were so many A+ choices. My friend ultimately selected the fettuccine with foraged mushrooms, truffle butter and basil.
A few bites in she commented, "I have to say, to enjoy this dish you have to really love mushrooms. That is definitely the strongest taste. It has a delicious, earthy taste to it. I do love that the fettuccine is al dente."
I went with the caramelized squash and ricotta ravioli with brown butter and toasted sage.
The dish was so sweet and rich that is actually felt more like eating dessert. I wish the plate had some kind of crunch to it. It needed something like crostini or a sprinkle of finely chopped nuts.
Though Cinquecento does have a dessert menu, I had an overwhelming craving for Pinkberry, which my dinner date was happy to oblige.
Overall, I was impressed by the creative design and decor at Cinquecento and nothing trumps a free parking lot. Nothing.
I will say, I've had much better meals in the South End (The Beehive, Masa, Metropolis, Tremont 647), but it was fun to try somewhere new.
What's your favorite South End spot?