In a parade of shops on the Holloway Road is an Italian restaurant called 500. The name is a reference to the little Fiat Cinquecento car, pictures of which adorn the walls of the little dining room. The restaurant has a dozen tables, low lighting and a casual feel, with wooden floor and no tablecloths. The restaurant opened in 2008, its chef a gentleman called Mario Magli, who after moving to London worked at The Neal Street Restaurant and also Passione and Fifteen prior to moving here.
Starters were priced between £7 and £8.30, pasta dishes at £11.80, main courses £15.80 to £16.80, side dishes £2.80 to £3.80 and desserts between £4.60 to £5.80. The Italian wine list started at £15.50 and had labels such as Villadoria Gavi de Gavi 2013 at £27.50 for a wine that you can find in the high street for a just under a tenner, Refosco Cabert 2012 at £26 for a wine that retails at about £11, and Geografico Castello Tricerchi Rosso Montalcino 2009 at £37.50 for a wine that you can find in a shop for around £12. Bread was apparently made in the kitchen, the best being carte di musica flatbread, though focaccia and white bread could have been much fresher.
Salad of white crab meat on a bed of thinly sliced courgettes had vegetables that lacked much flavour, though the crab was fresh enough (11/20). Slices of smoked tuna topped a salad of tomatoes and samphire, onions, croutons and capers; the tuna was pleasant enough, but the tomatoes were watery and also lacked flavour (11/20).
Bruschetta with mint, peas and goat cheese was simple but enjoyable, the peas having acceptable levels of flavour, the mint well controlled and not overwhelming everything else (12/20). Spiral pasta (strozzapretti) came with a ragu of beef, red wine and tomato, the pasta nicely cooked and the ragu having good flavour, the dish accurately seasoned (13/20).
Caramelised rhubarb with strawberry sorbet was served in a cocktail glass and was distinctly unappealing in appearance, the shreds of rhubarb in jelly vaguely resembling worms in aspic. The sorbet was fine and the rhubarb flavour did actually come through, but this won't be winning any presentation prizes (10/20). Vastly better was classic tiramisu, made from scratch in the kitchen, and having both good texture and plenty of coffee flavour, the savoiardi sponge fingers having nicely absorbed the coffee, the zabaglione filling good (14/20).
Service was friendly. The bill came to £48 a head, but that was with one of the better wines. If you had three courses, coffee and shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical bill would come to about £45. The restaurant 500 is not somewhere to which you would make an excursion, but it is a pleasant neighbourhood place at least making some effort in the kitchen.