If you snag a seat at Centro Vinoteca—not an easy thing—turn first to the menu of small bites called piccolini. It sounds as if it’s hard to go wrong at this two-month-old Village spot, where robust flavors in simple combinations are drawing crowds.
Standouts among the piccolini include truffled deviled eggs, eggplant cakes with ricotta, arancini (fried rice and cheese balls), prosciutto-wrapped grissini (breadsticks), Gorgonzola dip with grapes and walnuts, and rock shrimp sautéed with white wine and garlic. Good bets among the slightly larger antipasti include Dancing Ewe Farm ricotta sformato and a cracker-thin grilled pizzetta with spicy house-made sausage, Stracchino, and arugula.
More substantial primi and secondi from Chef Anne Burrell (Savoy, Felidia) also satisfy. Hounds recommend lamb Bolognese with crispy gnocchi, spaghetti with olive oil–poached tuna (with tomato, fennel, and bottarga), and pancetta-and-rosemary-crusted baby chicken. Fish dishes excel; two winners are seared red snapper (with cauliflower ragu, olives, caperberries, parsley salad) and crispy skate in acqua pazza (with scallops, calamari, rock shrimp, fregola, fennel salad).
As a vinoteca, Centro does not disappoint. The wine list is deep, all-Italian, and reasonably priced, says food10011. Service is attentive and smooth—a pleasant surprise at a restaurant that has been jammed practically since its opening. “This is clearly a hot place with a fun buzz,” notes jcooper.