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My dinner at Centro Vinoteca

Jel212 | May 12, 2008 02:30 PM

I called a few hours before dinner to change the reservation - we actually went quite early, at 6:30 on a Friday, so I'm sure we missed out on the "real" atmosphere, but at that time, it was quite serene, the waitstaff was calm, and our waitress was wonderfully helpful, answering our questions and not having a problem at all when we asked for bread (and do ask - the sage-infused olive oil is very tasty).
They have a convenient "glass and a half" small carafes of wine, and I had a lovely montepulciano '06 which was recommended and as easily-drinkable as promised. Since my boyfriend was sticking to his Italian beer, it was just enough for me.
The waitress was very excited to show us all of the new things that were just added to the menu – almost to the point where it felt like she was saying “look, we made improvements!”, which was unnecessary, b/c it was our first time there.
We started with the well-priced piccolo (small plate) of mushrooms stuffed with pork & pancetta. This turned out to be our favorite thing of the evening – the tiny mushrooms (slightly undersized portion, since there were only 4) were incredible – rich, earthly, melt-in-your mouth and somehow both hearty and delicate at the same time. We both savored every chew (can’t really say bite, b/c each mushroom was only one bite – well, two for me, one for him). I almost wanted to get a second order, but by that time the salad came – grilled shrimp over a panelle & zucchini salad with almonds in a bright vinaigrette and a chichpea fritter. The two shrimp were huge - heads and tails on – and perfectly fresh and meaty. The greens were a nice cool contrast, and the vinaigrette, while not unique, was perfectly right-on and added the perfect acid to the dish. The chickpea fritter I could have done w/o – it was oily and its strong cumin flavor seemed misplaced with the rest of the refreshing and light dish.
For my entrée (we selected from the extremely well-priced pasta dishes), I had the calamaretti pasta with cockles, rock shrimp and calamari, white wine, chilies. It was light and delicious, the sauce was buttery, and the seafood fresh. I liked the unique edition of chiles, but since the slices were floating in the rest of the sauce, I felt as though it could done with a bit more chile to make the spice more assertive. Overall, I really enjoyed the dish. My boyfriend got the pici pasta with sweet & spicy sausage ragu, which he adored. While not completely unique in flavor, it was an excellent representation of an easily-delicious dish. The pasta was perfectly toothsome, and I kept stealing bites from his plate. The only thing I’ll say, though, is that the portion was incredibly small – we both looked at it with concern when it arrived. The plate itself could have been dressed a bit more – just a sprinkling of parmesan cheese made it look very average. The taste made up for it.
Dessert was a very unmemorable hazelnut cake with nutella mousse.

Loved the cozy upstairs seating and the low-key décor. I’d go back.

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