Fish is unusually various, with three or four choices each night. A big piece of excellent grilled swordfish — it’s line-caught and local — comes with romesco and flavorful eggplant caponata. A special of whole red snapper has its head on, the sweet fish set off by roasted potatoes and hot long peppers, a dish not to pass up for its intensity, which seems to work better than subtlety in this place.
There’s also a parchment-cooked local sole, the fish firm and flaky but delicate. The parchment is pulled open but left on, which is a nice presentation; servers should steer diners who order this dish toward a side of vegetables, as there’s nothing inside but fish and a bit of potato and leek. Broccoli rabe with hot chili flakes and garlic would overpower it, but Brussels sprouts with pancetta and thin slices of aromatic candied orange would be perfect.
Full-flavored Mediterranean branzino comes out of the kitchen sizzling hot and well matched to its bed of braised escarole. Less harmonious is the lobster served one night as a special. Tossed with squid ink spaghetti and fresh Fresno chilies, the crustacean is nicely prepared but you can’t actually taste it anymore once you’ve had a bite of the peppers.
Louder flavors are, in general, more successful at Cinquecento. The saltimbocca, thick pieces of veal wrapped with prosciutto and sitting on creamy, slow-cooked cabbage soaked in Marsala, is a very good dish, whereas porchetta, which looks beautiful and has a nicely crispy skin, falls flat, especially when roasted parsnips have too much fiber and are undercooked. Osso buco is classic, the meat braised to a melting consistency, the risotto with bite.
But after two hours of relentless noise, it’s almost a relief to get to dessert. Your best bet is a slim slice of toasty warm olive-oil zucchini cake, which comes with vanilla gelato melting on top. Lemon sorbet is grainy and not quite lemony enough, and bay laurel panna cotta is just too subtly flavored; the bay is undetectable (the restaurant seems to have figured this out and has recently replaced the bay with chocolate).
One night someone asked for Cinquecento’s equivalent of a combo plate, cookies with a glass of vin santo. But our server, in the dinnertime din, just heard cookies, and brought a plate of assorted biscotti. This was no big deal, really. So we asked for the check and made for the door, relieved and at last in the quiet night.
Anne V. Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.