For Marnay’s birthday celebration, we made reservations at Chef Amy Brandwein’s Centrolina, located in CityCenter DC. We were 15 minutes late for our 8:00pm reservation—our fault, although we did call ahead to let them know. However, we were not seated until 8:35pm—their fault. They acknowledged it and made up for it, though, with a gratis cheese plate. Not the first time that I have seen this technique in a restaurant and I think it works really well to engender good will.
Centrolina (pronunciation: “Chen-tro-leena”) specializes in housemade pasta dishes, which we were most excited about. We ordered one small plate, one large plate and two pastas. The melone with cucumber, tomato and extra virgin olive oil was refreshing on a hot day, although it would have been better if the salt and pepper was applied evenly. The few bites I tried with salt and pepper were markedly better than the ones without.
The branzino was a standout, with its crispy exterior. The crisp skin and tender flesh went well with the cool butter beans and yogurt sauce it was resting on. We would get this dish again.
Centrolina needs to hold on to the server we had. She was in charge of the entire room and extremely knowledgeable about the menu. She gave us our space but also understood when we needed some help. Marnay’s Mom loves Prosecco, although it was not on the menu by the glass. Instead, the server steered her towards a glass of Franciacorta, a sparkling white from Lombardy made using the champagne method. That means that it undergoes secondary fermentation in the bottle, as opposed to a steel tank like Prosecco.
As mentioned early, we were excited about the pasta dishes. My take is that they were mostly good, although a bit of a mixed bag. The fusilli with tomato, fennel sausage and calamari was delicious, the salty sausage and the chewy calamari going particularly well with the fusilli. The neri, or squid ink pasta, with tuna crudo and spicy nonnata di pesce loaded with Calabrian chiles was good, but also could have benefited from more salt. I have had a similar dish at Osteria Morini in the Navy Yard which was considerably better.
It’s worth noting that the fusilli was the only dried pasta on the menu. I could taste the difference, in favor of the dried pasta. It held its chew and soaked up more sauce than the slippery fresh squid ink pasta.
We tipped off our server that it was Marnay’s birthday, so the pudding-like budino we shared for dessert came with a candle on top. Centrolina is a solid restaurant with good, but not amazing food. It is worth a trip if you are in the area.
Paul: Fusilli pasta
Centrolina: 974 Palmer Alley NW, Washington, DC 20001
Closest Metro: Metro Center