By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
This is exactly what a neighborhood restaurant is supposed to do: serve good food in a romantic atmosphere at reasonable prices, and Centro has nailed it. We sat on the banquette along one wall, where you're practically elbow to elbow with your fellow diners — but the proximity just makes it that much more neighborly: It's easy to strike up a conversation. The neighbors to our west were having Belgian endive salads, and they looked delicious: walnuts, watercress, radicchio, and Gorgonzola with balsamic vinaigrette, prettily arranged; to our immediate east, a couple of gay tourists were digging in to a mozzarella Caprese. Meanwhile, we were dealing with our sausage and onion pizza ($13.50), a thin-crust pie that would have fed four as an appetizer: creamy mozzarella napped against a nice, sharp tomato sauce, quality sausage sliced very thin so it had crisped in the oven and curled at the edges, and sweet carmelized Vidalia onions. The crust, though not brittle, bubbly, or blackened like you'd get from a super-hot oven, had a bit of sugar in it that was really pleasant with the savory toppings. Two people could make a very happy meal out of this pizza and a bottle of red wine.
Crab cakes ($11.50) were a seriously rich starter, plush and fatty crab inside a brittle, caramel-colored crust, drizzled with a reduced cream and butter sauce and sprinkled with dill. For our main dishes, we ordered the linguine nere ($16), house-made fresh black squid-ink pasta topped with tender rings of calamari, sautéed shrimp, and wilted arugula in a spicy tomato sauce. It was luscious — the pasta rich and delicate against the al dente seafood and the bright, piquant greens and tomato. We were slightly less impressed with veal limón ($18.50). The parsley lemon sauce was accomplished, but the meat, pounded extra thin and left unbreaded, was flavorless and a bit dry.
All the sweets except ice creams and sorbet are homemade. Our waitress told us rum cake ($5) was her favorite, so we took the bait and ended up with an unforgettable dessert. Four layers of yellow sponge cake soaked in rum syrup were separated with alternating chocolate and a vanilla Italian pastry cream, the whole thing topped with stabilized whipped cream. The final effect of all this effort was light and smooth, cool, simultaneously rich and refreshing, with a sophisticated but never overpowering background note of rum. Writing about it now, I'm jonesing for another taste — clearly I need to go back for further "research."
Restaurants are like children, right? They've gotta have smart, loving parenting, and Centro's definitely got that department covered. But it takes a village to raise one. With the whole of Northwood Village passionately behind this venture, failure just isn't an option for this baby.