When I come across a solid restaurant concept, I like to sometimes pretend that I know enough about the business that can dissect why it works.
I was up for the challenge at Trattoria Cinque on Tuesday. This newish neighborhood spot in Tribeca is a good find — crowd-pleasing trattoria-style Italian run by Italians in a venue that could just as easily be the spot for a low-key, midweek meal with a friend (or three) as for a birthday dinner production for 20.
As far as I can ascertain, here’s why it works:
Start with stylish, but unpretentious, decor: From the street, you want to walk inside.
Stunning (original) exposed brickwork, vaulted ceilings, brown leather banquets, industrial matte black lamps, backlit bottles of lemoncello, chairs and other accents painted official Ferrari red paint — I was told the design is intended to channel the Ferrari factory, circa 1950s, and it works. It’s fun without being gimmicky.
Keep the concept simple: “Cinque” is Italian for “five” and, appropriately, the menu has five beginnings, five pizzas, five big plates, five pastas, five endings.
On top of that, the entire menu receives a makeover about five times a year, to account for seasonality, popularity and whatever else. Plenty of room for the kitchen to engage with the crowd and evolve responsively.
Make it accessible: The most expensive thing on the menu at the moment is a $25 ribeye steak that’s aged for weeks in a meat locker on site. That’s cheap, especially for this neighborhood, but my favorites of the evening (I didn’t try the steak) were priced well below that.
The first thing I’ll be back for are Trattoria Cinque’s thin, oblong pizzas ($11-$12) like the pizza con gorgonzola e, a delicate, ultra-thin crust pie that is finished with white truffle oil and fresh ground pepper. It’s cooked perfectly and evenly throughout, and somehow, that thin crust holds itself together long enough for you to get it in your mouth.
Also: A fantastic Caesar salad ($10) that is only deserving of such a production:
Each one ordered is prepared from scratch at a tavola, or a large, wooden table placed prominently and dramatically in the main dining room. It’s dining meets spectacle, old world style.
And before I come back for the brasato di Manzo — braised beef short ribs with white polenta ($20), the hearty meat and potatoes dish I ordered on Tuesday — I’d dig into the list of pastas, all of which are made in-house. Entrée portions of pasta dishes run $14-$18, like most of the menu.
Eventually, we got around to desserts … but by then a bottle of grappa and a bottle of limoncello had showed up on the table. It was time to relax.
TIP: Trattoria Cinque is currently offering a “Pie,& Pigskin special” on Monday nights where $15 gets you a pie and two . And, presumably, some NFL football on the TVs in the bar area.
Want more food shots? There’s a photo of the frito misto plate — fried calamari, shrimp, artichoke hearts, and lemon slices — after the jump: