Cinquecento Trattoria, tucked in against the corner of the West Elm design store, is the newest addition to the Liberty Village dining scene. Occupying the beautiful, all-glass building that was formerly Carole's Cafe & Kitchen , the restaurant's second location is definitely on a grander scale than the smaller original location on King West .
Excited that this appealing location is open for some evening action in this daytime-focused area, my friends and I arrive hoping for a seat on Liberty Village's only rooftop patio aside from Brazen Head . When we request to sit up top, we're informed that the full menu is only available downstairs, while the rooftop serves only pizza. We then suggest the street-side patio, but this patio is not licensed. Hoping for both alcoholic beverages and a crack at the full menu, we pick a table inside, and thanks to the large, open garage doors that cover the front of the resto, we're patio-adjacent. Close enough.
We begin with the daily antipasto bar selection ($15/small). Today's platter includes prosciutto and salami, as well as marinated zucchini and peppers, mushrooms, olives, parmesan, tomato/bocconcini salad, and seafood salad. We enjoy the seafood salad. The meats and cheeses, though not particularly interesting or impressive, are pleasing enough. The platter overall is nothing special, and the marinated veggies could definitely use some inspiration.
From the appetizer menu we are also curious about the fiore del sud, described as eggplant carpaccio, stuffed mussels and citrus olive oil, but unfortunately after ordering our server returns to tell us that they don't have this dish.
We are kindly offered an appetizer on the house, and so we select the Lila ($9), a salad of arugula, mushrooms, parmesan and lemon olive oil. This familiar, zesty combination goes down well but this salad is offered on so many Italian cards in Toronto and this version is not the best we've had. What appear to be the same mushrooms on the antipasto platter might have been better done raw.
Options for main dishes include pasta and risotto (gluten-free options available), pizza, and secondi. We decide to try an item from each section, and from the pastas we choose the spaghetti alla chitarra ($17 - top photo), which is spaghetti with clams, breadcrumbs and pepperoncino al'olio. The pasta is very disappointing; the clams are tough, and the dish itself lacks flavour. Spice from the peppers and texture from the breadcrumbs seem absent, and not even parmesan and pepper flakes can save this.
From a selection of classic pizzas, we go for the quattro stagione ($15), a pie topped with mushrooms, artichokes, olives and prosciutto. The pizza arrives uncut, and unlike how it's often prepared with each 'season' separate, this one arrives with the toppings sprinkled evenly throughout - the whole thing covered with generous strips of prosciutto.
Having the pizza served this way makes it easier for sharing as we each get a taste of all the toppings, and I thankfully avoid having to fight anyone for the artichoke-topped slices. Terroni or Libretto this is not but nonetheless it's decently satisfying.
We also try the salsiccia ($21), consisting of ricotta-stuffed Italian sausage wrapped in breaded eggplant, topped with rapini and sided with fresh tomatoes and salsa verde. Some garlic and seasoning on the rapini would have really added to this dish but the sausage is very tasty and the eggplant done parmesan-style adds another welcome element of flavour. The salsa verde seems a little out of place, but the salsiccia has enough flavour without it and is one of the favourite dishes at the table.
Though service is very pleasant and accommodating, the sense of newly-opened restaurant jitters is definitely in the air. The presence of a camera at our table causes an obvious stir, resulting in an odd exchange with the owner and vague references to theft of the chef's ideas and art. A strange approach for sure, but navigated expertly by the friendly server who manages to keep the mood relaxed and welcoming.
In a city with so much great Italian food available , it's difficult to impress with a menu of classic Italian dishes unless they're either done especially well or include some kind of creative twist.
We don't leave with the sense that Cinquecento's food is particularly exceptional, but it does offer simple fare somewhere in between pub food and fine dining in Liberty Village, and a great rooftop to share a pizza with some friends on a nice evening.
Photos by Taralyn Marshall