It seems fitting that Cinco Cantina & Tequila Bar opened in the Village of Merrick Park this past Cinco de Mayo. Not only are the two "Cincos" in sync, but the holiday is celebrated more here than south of the border, just as Cinco Cantina's food is much more American than Mexican.
Cinco is part of restaurateur Carmine Giardini's Palm Beach-based Carmine's Restaurant Group, which made its name on Italian cuisine, so one can't be blamed for trusting his lasagna more than his Mexican chicken lasagna (a layering of poultry, peppers, sour cream, cheese, and corn tortillas).
Actually, that dish wasn't necessarily Giardini's idea; he hires professionals to come up with menus. His selection of Miami native John Belleme as Cinco's opening executive chef seemed an excellent choice; Belleme has impressed at numerous Palm Beach establishments over the years (most recently at Giardini's Umi Fishbar and Grill). However, after four months, Belleme left and Nunzio Billante (formerly of Rocco's Tacos) took over and put his own spin on the menu. About a month ago, Billante was replaced by Manuel Nuñez, who consulted for El Scorpion in South Beach and worked at Broward's Cantina Laredo and Tijuana Taxi Co. For those keeping score, that's less than eight months in operation and three chefs.
Complimentary chips and pico de gallo are brought to the table at lunch, but they cost $3 at dinner. The former are thin and dusted with spices and annatto, which doesn't do much except turn your fingers orange; the salsa fresca was flecked with cilantro.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
Read the full review of Cinco Cantina & Tequila Bar here.
View photos of Cinco Cantina & Tequila Bar here.