808 E. Center St. ( )
Milwaukee, WI 53212
808 E. Center St. ( )
Milwaukee, WI 53212
November 5, 20145.0
After two recent visits this is rapidly becoming not only my favorite Italian, but one of my favorite restaurants overall in the city.
It does seem to be a bit of a hidden gem. Perhaps it’s the location? One may not think they are going to find food this decadent and tasty in the assuming Riverwest space. But that Centro does not assume is part of its charm.
The décor is classically understated. Dark wood, a marble counter, simple lighting and beautiful black and white art set against white lines and cozy tables will welcome you to come in and stay awhile. The lower level dining room boasts “Chef’s Table” seating as well as tables for about 40. The upper level is home to a small bar and high top table seating for about 20. They do not take reservations, so if you arrive after 6:30pm on most nights prepare yourself for a wait, but one that will be well rewarded with a fantastic dining experience.
Service has always been exemplary here, and my most recent visits continued at that high mark.
One visit was with a large group of friends and we planned our arrival to coincide with their 5pm opening to ensure immediate seating. The wine list is simple yet has offerings for most palates. And the craft cocktail menu is also on the small side of standard these days, but the drinks are crafted very well. I opted for the House Made Rose Sangria ($9) on both recent trips. The fruit infusion with a light handed splash of simple syrup in Dripping Springs Rose blossoms into the perfect summer cocktail.
Some of my friends ordered the garlic bread ($5) which was made with fresh Sciortino’s and topped with garlic and parmesan. And the PEI mussels ($10) were braised in tomatoes, shallots, garlic and lemon and served with fresh garlic crostini. The taste I had of each was spot on perfect.
I choose the Seafood Risotto ($17). Large succulent scallops, plump shrimp, and fresh clams were married in a sauce of tomatoes, peas and garlic and dressed with parmesan and garlic. The warm bowl arrived radiating a pleasant stream of steam and beautiful Italian scents. No resting at under a warming light here. Kitchen immediately to table is something Centro prides itself on and it does not go unappreciated. The dish is garnished with an oil dressed arugula, whose peppery tastes was a fantastic amuse bouche. The risotto was cooked perfectly and the added parmesan made for a fantastically creamy dish. I should note that one of my friends who ordered the same dish grew up in Spain, feasting on fresh seafood nearly everyday and he declared this “the first dish I’ve had in Milwaukee that truly reminds me of eating back home”. That’s some high praise and after one bite you’ll see why.
We closed our group meal with an assortment of desserts. The one I opted to taste was the Flourless Chocolate Cake ($7). This was not overly heavy and leaning toward fudge as some flourless cakes do. This one has a lightness about it that was a good balance to the hearty chocolate tones of the dish. And it made a great close to a wonderful meal.
On my most recent visit and friend that heard me rave about our group dinner wanted to try things for themselves. We choose stools at the kitchen bar, which allowed a the perfect view of the crafting going on in the open air kitchen. The chefs were friendly and happy to interact and comment on their creations.
We started with the White Bean and Basil Dip ($8). The fresh pureed beans had the slightest accent of basil and a dash of lemon juice to create so fabulous and fresh flavors. The crisp bruschetta was the perfect slate for the creamy spread.
We have a hard time deciding on entrees and made it a bit easier by order two to share. The first was the Gnudi Housemade Ricotta Dumplings ($15), which were accented with crispy pancetta, wild and domestic mushrooms, spinach and a light hand of truffle oil. The delicate dumplings had a fantastic flavor. The porous exterior expertly absorbs all the flavors in the dish. The mushrooms were so fantastic that I would have loved a few more. The spinach was fresh and the only critique of the dish I have is that baby spinach would have fared better as the larger leaves were a little challenging to spear. But it really took nothing from the perfect layers in this dish.
Our second entree was the Divola ($17). More shrimp, scallops and clams in a spicy white wine tomato sauced that was finished with fresh herbs over a bed of fresh linguine. The heat on this dish was divine. Just enough red pepper spices to stimulate the taste buds, but not at all too much so that it diminishes the other flavors of the dish. The seafood was all very fresh and very plentiful and you could not go wrong ordering this classic dish.
We opted to finish our entrees rather than saving room for dessert, all though there were plenty of special options beyond the three standards on the menu.
Writing this review makes me long for my next visit!
December 30, 20115.0
I am a pasta freak. In fact, when I was growing up, my mother thought I might have some sort of nutritional deficiency because I couldn’t get enough of it. Well, that hasn’t changed much and so this wonderful place called Centro- serving primarily pasta- has shot up to my Top 10 list!
The food is fantastic; our server Emily was friendly, knowledgeable, very accommodating (I’m going to ask for her whenever I go with a group!) and never lost her smile; Ruth did an excellent job of squeezing in our rather formidable party of 15 (roughly half of their total capacity); the place is open and cozy at the same time; and since the kitchen is smack dab in the middle of the dining room, we watched the sole chef manage an outstanding job of getting our meals out to us in a timely manner.
Bottom line… you should really check this place out!
My favorite of all the appetizers we had! But if you don’t like garlic, you may want to steer away from this one.
I was rather surprised by the skimpy portion of meat but the vegetables and cheeses were great… actually, I’d have to say the best goat cheese I have ever had.
I’ve never had just straight-up tapenade… it’s usually accompanying something. But dolloped on the flatbread, crostini and baguette that we had took the edge off it.
I can’t say enough good things about this dish! I have friends and family members that are celiacs or are gluten-intolerant, and they all say the same thing: the thing they miss the most is really good bread and really good pasta. Sacrifices have to be made… certain shapes of pasta hold together better, so spaghetti and fettucini are out. Bread crumbles but if you toast it, it seems to stay together better.
Then comes Centro and their fantastic, gluten-free pasta. I ordered the futtucini alfredo (and added broccoli), so it was made with their GF linguini and I couldn’t even tell the difference! For someone that has consumed mass quantities of pasta in their lifetime, that is remarkable.
Down with evil white flour… go to Centro!
These dishes from the Centro Cafe menu are contributed by Menuism users directly, as part of a restaurant review, or as part of an image upload.