A traditional take on Italian

Cinquecento Cucina makes perfect pasta

Over the past two years The Atlantic Avenue Art Block has brought many cool venues to Inglewood from the tasty selections at Bite Groceteria and Gravity Espresso & Wine Bar to the stunning Esker Foundation art gallery. Another standout tenant on the list is the Italian restaurant Cinquecento Cucina or 500 Cucina as it is also known.

Making plans to meet a friend for dinner after work on a sunny fall night I arrive early enough to check out the room. The space is bright and energetic with polished concrete floors a glass-tiled open kitchen and large windows everywhere. It’s big too with plenty of seating for large or intimate parties. And even though it’s been dismantled for the winter months ahead Cucina also offers a sunny patio for our all-too-short summers.

Once my friend arrives we scan the mostly Italian wine list. It’s helpful to have an idea of what you’re going to order as the list provides pairing suggestions based on what you’re having offering great options for tomato-rich dishes different types of meats and cheeses and pastas.

We decide to start with the 500 bruschetta ($10) — an antipasti trio of roasted red pepper eggplant and mushroom with slices of toasted baguette. Topping the bread with a spoonful of mushrooms I get a nice hit of truffle flavour. The eggplant is tasty too offering a good spicy kick. The only bland bite comes from the roasted red peppers — I’d love to see them replaced with a traditional tomato and garlic option.

We also get the Saltspring Island mussels ($15) served in a grappa sauce with sautéed red peppers and shallots. My first few mussels are great and then I get one that isn’t plus there are about four or five that didn’t open while cooking. It’s not a big deal but perhaps worth the mention. The sauce is mild but we like the flavour. The only thing missing is extra bread for sopping it up — one quick request to our server and we’re happily obliged.

500 Cucina offers a wide array of traditional Italian dishes like cheese and cold cut platters thin-crust pizzas osso bucco steaks seafood salads and more but tonight the pasta menu calls.

I go with the tagliatelle ($18) a dish comprised of long flat ribbons of pasta made with San Marzano tomato sauce fresh basil and fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s great. The noodles are a nice al dente and the sauce pops with a bright fresh flavour. I’d definitely have this dish again.

My friend orders the rigatoni ($20). Again the noodles are perfect and the Bolognese sauce is excellent — featuring tender and flavourful minced lamb in a tangy San Marzano sauce the dish is topped with a handful of shaved Parmigiano Reggiano. It’s so good she grabs a to-go order for her jet-lagged mom.

For dessert we try the tiramisu ($6) and it’s a pleasant end to our meal. The layered ladyfinger cake is decadent and creamy with that booze-soaked touch you look for in this layered sweet.

Overall I’d say our visit to 500 Cucina was a good one. I liked the room and our server Gino was kind and attentive. We didn’t love every dish we ordered but there was nothing terrible either. I’ll be back for another plate of pasta.