Cinqueterre: A Few Names, But One Fantastic Eatery
Their sign says Cinque Terre Restaurant. Their business cards say Ristorante Cinqueterre. Of course, they mean the same thing, but a business shouldn’t make things harder for the folks calling 411.
But trust me – this place is worth the effort.
I’d meant to rave about Cinque Terre after my first visit, but didn’t. After last night, however, I can confirm that this place is one of North Beach’s finest restaurants and, sadly, one of its least crowded, which belies the quality of the food, service, and experience.
Located at 641 Vallejo, just off Columbus, Cinqueterre is just a few doors off the heavily beaten paths of North Beach, but where tourists seldom venture, locals will find a hidden treasure of a restaurant with a menu ranging from traditional gnocchi to some very unusually adorned pastas.
The interior is a festive orange and tan with photos and items from the stunning, cliffside Italian region that gives the restaurant its name. The waiters are Italian, friendly, attentive, and eager to recommend their favorite dishes and wine pairings.
Speaking of dishes – on my first visit, I had the Cannelloni All’Asitce, a crepe-like pasta stuffed with Maine lobster in a zucchini and sundried tomato saffron bechamel sauce. It was magnificent. Last night, I went for the Penne Giovanna, dressed in a shockingly green spinach cream sauce with pine nuts. The pasta was perfectly cooked and the sauce, while still plenty creamy, was filling without putting me in an immediate food coma. My Dad, who searches the world for gnocchi as good as my grandmother used to make, was quite pleased with the offerings there.
Though the food is excellent, try to keep yourself from clearing your plate if it means you won’t have room for dessert. No North Beach Restaurant opens without its own take on Tiramisu, and Cinqueterre’s version is light, generous, and perfect for sharing with other, nearly overstuffed, dinner mates. Hopefully, however, you’ll have brought enough people to also get the espresso flan which is unlike anything you’ve ever had – it’s absolutely the best thing to ever come on a chocolate-sauce drizzeled plate – smooth, creamy, original, and complex.
Finish your meal with a cordial of limoncello or a strong italian coffee and then immediately call your friends and tell them to give this find the business it deserves. It’s just that good.
Cinqueterre Ristorante – 641 Vallejo Street (at Columbus), 415-402-0895, entres range from $10-$20, wines by the glass and bottle from $6 (glass)- $25 (average, bottle).