Italian food ups the charm when it is served family style. Large portions on large plates that require strength and a bit of dexterity as it is passed around the table. Perhaps it’s best described by the most overused phrase in traditional cooking: “just like grandma used to make it”.
How would grandma’s cooking fare in a New York restaurant? when our tastes for Italian are honed by Locanda Verde, Marea, and Del Posto? When I think about these restaurants, it’s an image of a candle lit dinner for two, rather than the lively family affair that we see on television shows, or in Olive Garden commercials…..
In a city filled with Italian heritage, there is then obviously a need for grandma’s cooking and dining table to be brought up to standards we’ve come to expect. Trattoria Cinque in Tribeca seeks to fill this void with a hearty dose of Italian charm.
Like most restaurants in Tribeca, the space is much larger on the inside then it appears from the street. The restaurant interior is designed to evoke the feeling of an Italian automotive factory, and auto themed photos can be found along the restaurant’s brick walls.
True to its name, the restaurant features only 5 selections per category. This applies to the wines (in categories), appetizers, pastas, mains, and even dessert wines. This of this as the abridged all-star menu, finding middle ground between a posh Italian restaurant’s tasting menu and the tome-like menus at family eatery’s.
The start of any meal at Trattoria Cinque should be the unique thin pizzas. Despite the flat-bread like crust, the pizza is filled with flavor from the dough to the toppings. I was especially fond of the pork cheeks, collonata lard & mozzarella pizza, which overwhelms your taste buds with the rich flavors you can only get from pork fat.
Next up on the procession of food would be the pasta, all of which looks deceptively simple, but hides complex flavor. The Pappardelle del Giorno was a showcase of how delicious fresh home made pappardelle can taste. Meanwhile the Bucatini Cacio e Pepe was rich with the flavor and texture of cacio di roma cheese. If you ordered appetizers or pizzas, then the pasta is best ordered to share.
Finally the meats, or as the menu calls it, “5 large plates”. Already stuffed from the pasta dish, the seductive aroma of lightly charred seafood once again opened up our appetites. I was thrilled to see that the seafood was minimally prepared, just grilled to enhance the natural flavors of the seafood. On the other plate, beautifully seared lamb chops were coated with cheese and served on a wood block. The cheese on meat combination was a bit too rich for my taste at this point of dinner. Had it come 15 minutes earlier, I might have devoured my share.
For those of us who did not grow up with Italian grandmothers, gather a group of 7-10 friends and enjoy a spirited dinner with apéritifs, pizza, and pasta at Trattoria Cinque. It’s my romanticized version of an Italian family dinner, one that I plan on experiencing repeatedly.
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From the Notebook: This meal was complimentary, though it did not affect my opinion, nor were we required to write about the meal. The owner spoke about his desires to open a pizzeria, if he does I’ll be first in line.