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Joe Fresh

An innovative Boston trattoria pumps up the postprandial coffee

Author Jolyon Helterman



THE ESPRESSO AT CINQUECENTO, recently opened in Boston’s South End by the Aquitaine Group, isn’t just good. It’s remarkably good. Strong, clean and aromatic—and hot in a way that jolts your memory about temperature as a coffeemaking parameter—it’s topped by a tawny crema frothy enough to be mistaken for the crown on a cappuccino. This would be high praise for an artisan java joint. For a midpriced Roman-style trattoria, where the coffee is an after-dinner drink, it’s downright extraordinary.

For that, you can thank Cinquecento’s staff barista, who’s charged with ensuring the restaurant’s coffee service is more than mere afterthought. Order a cuppa with dessert at your typical eatery, and chances are your drink is coming from an industrial-sized dispenser or an automatic espresso maker. Here, it’s brewed to order by a trained specialist who serves it at your table like a caffeine-pushing sommelier.

Aquitaine culinary director Christopher Robins says the decision to upgrade the espresso service came about during a fact-finding trip to Rome, where a brainstorming session was fueled by a flawlessly brewed round. “We were making a list of all the things we liked about restaurants in Rome, and what we wanted to bring back to Boston. Excellent coffee was way up there.”

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