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.