For those looking for a delicious and extravagant Italian meal, look no further than Centrolina. Although the food is delicious, eating here is not within the average college student’s budget and should be saved for more special occasions. Centrolina’s demographic is definitely an older crowd at night, but that makes it a perfect destination for parents’ weekend.
In addition to the normal dining area, Centrolina has a market section or “Mercato.” The market is attached to the restaurant and offers fresh pasta, sandwiches, imported Italian cheese and a bevy of pastries and other specialty items. The Mercato is much more casual than the restaurant portion for those looking for a quick but satisfying option.
Centrolina opened in June, so it is a new addition to D.C.’s chic City Center. As I walked toward the restaurant, I couldn’t help but notice all the polished storefronts and bakeries adjacent to Centrolina. The restaurant certainly is in good company.
Overall, the ambiance is charming, but it’s also reflective of the high price point. Everything is refined and echoes Centrolina’s newness. In keeping with Centrolina’s Italian roots, many of the menu descriptions are in Italian, both on the food and drink menu. For those who aren’t Italian majors, it makes the ordering process a bit taxing.
It has a large and open outside patio area, which is packed during the spring, summer and early fall. The color scheme is a cooling blue and white, creating a crisp and clean Mediterranean atmosphere that takes you a world away from the urban D.C. environment.
The menu itself changes according to which meats and produce are in season and most fresh. However, that results in a somewhat limited menu that is nonetheless filled with unique choices such as pan-fried tuna belly, slow-roasted pig and bone marrow. Nonadventurous eaters beware: you will be hard-pressed to find a “standard” Italian dish at Centrolina. Whether that is a negative or positive is up to the diner and the night you happen to pick; you could find yourself entirely uninterested in anything that it has to offer or you could surprise yourself with a choice from one of the many innovative dishes offered.
When it came time to order, the choice was obvious for my friends and me: pasta. That being said, we were tempted by the seafood offered, namely the Branzino ($36). Our waitress was very helpful and steered us in the direction of the Neri ($24), squid ink taglierini with yellowfin tuna delicately plated on top, and the Pappardelle ($23), with veal and beef ragu, milk and herbs and Parmigiano. The visual of the Neri is one of stark contrast. The squid ink dyes the taglierini completely black while the rare, bright pink tuna is placed on top in the center of the plate. The Neri is definitely for the seafood fan; it brought my taste buds instantly to an Italian coastline. Though it was on the saltier side, I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
The Pappardelle is reminiscent of comfort food and is served in a large portion. The ragu melts on top of the pasta and blends nicely with Parmigiano. I could imagine myself curling up with it during
Georgetown’s next snow day, but it was a little heavy for a warm evening in September. Additionally, we ordered the Farro ($9), which is wood-roasted chanterelle mushrooms and pea shoots. On the menu it reads as a vegetable dish, but it is much more like a risotto. This dish was the surprise favorite and is be the perfect accompaniment, since the Farro is a much smaller portion.
By the end of the meal, we could not bring ourselves to order dessert because we were so satisfied with the previous courses. A word of advice to Centrolina diners: bring both your appetite and your wallet. The next time you’re in City Center I highly suggest stopping by Centrolina, checking out what fresh items are featured on the menu and ordering a quick bite at the Mercato.
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