Five-0, Ogunquit

Five-0 is gearing up for their tenth season, and I can feel the energy and enthusiasm as soon as I walk in the door. The restaurant closes for three weeks at the end of February and owners Donato Tramuto and Jeff Porter bring their management team to Italy. When the restaurant reopens in mid-March, the staff is back, refreshed and inspired.

Soon, Five-0 will be filled with seasonal visitors, but for now locals enjoy a relaxed and cozy restaurant. My dining companion and I order a drink in the lounge, and find a couple at the bar eating dinner and catching up with the staff.

The martini list includes popular drink requests, and while the signature Five-0 cosmopolitan is tempting, I order the bartender’s choice martini. Inspired by his recent trip to Italy, Gary Pucciarelli creates a Burnt Sienna martini served straight up. It’s made with St. Germain, orange juice, Stoli orange vodka, Campari, and a splash of Lambrusco, an Italian sparkling red wine. The martini is tart, but the brûléed orange slice adds a balanced sweetness. After a snack of warm castelvetrano olives, rosemary, and roasted garlic, I’m ready for the meal.

The dining room is carpeted and decorated with mellow green and brown accents. Tables line the wall closest to Shore Road and windows allow for natural light. Throughout the evening Porter and Tramuto check in with customers and chat with guests.

Our server, Lisa, has been working at Five-0 for ten years. She tells us that the early spring menu has popular items and new seasonal dishes. We start with a sampling of three small plates to share: the crudo of the day, artichoke arancini, and the mushroom and leek ragout. The salmon crudo is paired with basil and Meyer lemon and tastes very refreshing. The arancini, four small rice balls, come with a generous helping of whipped goat cheese and are golden brown and crunchy. The risotto inside is creamy, and I see tiny pieces of artichoke. The mushroom and leek ragout served with toasted crustini is rich and creamy, and I’m glad it’s a small portion. I could easily make a meal of these small plates since it’s a fun way to share and sample different items.

For appetizers we opt for a chilled beet terrine and the truffled lobster en croute. Chef James Walter sends out a generous portion of beef tartar seasoned with pickled fennel, and topped with a quail egg. The beet terrine is layered with goat cheese, giving it a brilliant purple hue. The baby arugula and balsamic drizzle adds both bite and sweetness to the earthy beets and the toasted hazelnuts provide texture. This dish is a perfect transition from winter to spring.

I smell truffles, and can’t wait to try the dish I’ve seen others order all night. With its golden brown pastry top, the truffled lobster en croute it looks like a little pot pie, and when I cut into the crust, I smell shaved truffles, lobster, and vegetables. At first the creamy soup under the pastry seems like bisque, but celery, carrots, potatoes, onions, herbs, and large pieces of lobster meat make it more of a chowder. And once the pastry dough absorbs the liquid, the broth thickens even more. I don’t want to stop eating, but the crew just returned from Italy, and there’s pasta to try.

Each pasta dish— (handmade eggless pasta with pesto, traditional Bolognese, lasagna with kale and chicken sausage, and spaghetti and clams) —sounds delicious, but the minted gnocchi piques my interest. In addition to the perfectly toothsome gnocchi, the dish has English peas, spring onion, and small Maine shrimp. There’s plenty of cream, but the addition of mint and lemon confit elevates the flavors, adds brightness, and ties it all together.

Porter tells us about their visit to the Fèlsina winery in Chianti, so I order a half bottle of the 2009 Berardenga Chianti Classico to go with the entrees. It’s 100 percent sangiovese, deep red, with a smooth, slightly fruity flavor. It doesn’t overpower the pasta, and is a perfect complement to the lamb entrée and crimini mushroom risotto.

Served with stewed cannellini beans, salt cured fennel, and roasted tomatoes, the Australian lamb chop is cooked to perfection. Like the beet terrine, this dish reminds me that spring is around the corner; the beans and fennel are reminiscent of winter while the tomatoes and lamb represent a new season. Together, they work in harmony.

We finish the meal with a warm molten chocolate cake, roasted blackberries and mocha gelato and an exceptionally airy mascarpone and ricotta cheesecake. The two sauces that accompany the cheesecake add sweet and tart flavors; one is a creamy vin santo sauce made with Tuscan dessert wine and the other a tart blood orange syrup.

My visit to Five-0 is well timed for a perfect experience; —the staff is refreshed and inspired by a three-week break, the restaurant is still awaiting the busy summer season, and the spring menu is fresh and new. It’s no wonder Tramuto and Porter are celebrating their tenth season; they are gracious hosts who make every guest feel like part of the family.

50 Shore Rd. | Ogunquit | 207.646.5001 |

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