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Centro Vinoteca -- review

Had dinner last night (Friday) at Centro Vinoteca -- Anne Burrell's (of Iron Chef fame) restaurant. We were excited after reading reviews of flavor filled piccolini (small, tapas style Italian apps) and the creative pasta dishes. Unfortunately, neither the food nor the service met our expectations. Dont get me wrong, there was nothing "wrong" with either: the service was relatively competent (there when we needed him, but not hovering), and the food was at times quite tasty (the antipasti calamari noodles were perfectly cooked and bathed in a light lemon broth -- yum!). However, our server was clearly not familiar enough with the wines offered by quartino, and the food was, on the whole, quite unremarkable.

We started with 3 piccolini: Truffled deviled eggs (quite good, but really just deviled eggs with some truffle oil -- a great, cute concept, but hardly a culinary feat); Eggplant and ricotta cakes (slightly overcooked, blackened from the pan, but great spice and creamy ricotta saved the dish -- if I were the chef, I would not have let the burnt cakes go out, but at Centro, the burnt portions were covered up by the cheese. While the overcooking might not have been visible to the eye at first glance, it did not go unnoticed by the palate); and the Arancine (risotto balls -- good, but not revelatory by any means).

For antipasti we shared the fried zucchini blossoms with fresh late summer vegetable panzanella (the panzanella was the best thing on the plate -- fresh and well seasoned, quite good, while the blossoms themselves were nearly flavorless. I must admit that they did work texturally, with the crisp fried exterior and the warm, creamy goat cheese literally bursting from the inside with each bite. For us, the texture was not enough to overcome the lack of flavor. Would not order these again), and the Calamari noodles with black olives (as I said earlier, the best of what we ordered for the night, in my opinion. Note: my SO liked the piccolini the best. The calamari was served noodle style (cut in curly strips) served in a bowl with grilled bread (perfectly grilled, grill marks and all, with great flavor) and a lemon broth of sorts that had a little bit of spice on the back palate).

For mains we shared two pastas: the farroto with lobster, peas, mint and oregano and the lamb bolognese with crispy gnocchi. The farroto was ok: the lobster and peas were both well cooked -- each retaining the proper texture. Again -- while the dish was alright, it lacked a certain flavor profile -- a depth of some sort, and just left me underwhelmed. The bolognese was similarly disappointing, the crisp gnocchi were definitely not crisp. In fact they were kind of soggy. The bolognese itself was quite good, and topped with fried onions (who can complain about fried onions, really?), but it didnt make me want to have more than a few bites.

We also shared a cheese plate (3 italian cheeses), which was much more substantial than we had expected -- 3 large pieces of cheese, with grapes and raisins on the vine and walnuts. NO bread was served at any point throughout the dinner, even with the cheese, nor was any explanation given whatsoever as to what kind of cheeses were served. Not cardinal sins, by any means, but little things that added up throughout the evening to leave us less than compelled to return. We ended the evening with the sweet tarallucci with salty caramel. Perhaps the most unremarkable part of the meal. The caramel itself was fine, but the cookies could have been store bought. Who knows, perhaps by this point in the meal (after many courses and a few quartinos of Italian red wine and a glass of port), my lack of excitement over the dish could have been more from being fully sated than from a real problem with the dish itself. For now, I have to give the dish the benefit of the doubt.

All in all, I would not recommend Centro Vinoteca, nor would I say that it should be avoided at all costs. With the millions of restaurants in the city, there are far better meals to be had, and I certainly won't be running back to give it another shot.

Grades:
Service: B-
Food: B- (torn here between a B and a B-)
Ambiance: B+

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  1. i went last night and after being told it was a 30 minute wait, we were told it was going to be another 30 minutes......but the bartender was nice enough to get us 2 seats at the bar to eat and it was SO worth it. First of all, you completely fail to mention that the pours of the quartino are VERY generous. I had a great glass of vetliner for $11 and it ended up being a very hefty glass. Second, there are hooks under the bar for a woman's purse. This is so key, i can't even explain how appreciated it is by women. Anne was there working her buns off in the kitchen. It was great to see the chef there...For being fried, i thought the zucchini blossoms were ridiculously light. Though the gnocci was very heavy, i didn't expect it to be crispy. it was too moist. The piccoliniwas great - we had both specials. Lots of great corn.

    They definitely do have to work on their service. I too was surprised at the lack of bread we were given. No one should ever have to ask for bread. But i think they'll work out the kinks. They've been packed since day one and i think it's only going to get worse after Bruni reviews. Definitely a West Village young crowd!

    1. I went last Saturday and wasn't really impressed. Had stuffed mushrooms (tasted like canned), zucchini fritters (good), skate acqua pazza (over-fried to the point of shriveling, but still not crisp), gnocchi (agree they were heavy), cherry crostada (good).

      1. We went to Centro Vinoteca Friday night. We didn't have a reservation and walked in after 6 PM. We were seated by one of the two GQ hosts at one of the tables in the bar area (with view of kitchen). The bar was crowded (almost all 30 something females) but no standers near us until the end of our dinner. The atmosphere was lively (can get noisy) and the music was mostly Stones. We had a nice bottle of wine and the following:

        Piccolini:

        Fig with bleu cheese and walnut (special) - okay, too many walnuts, nothing memorable

        Fried cauliflower wedge with parmigiano crust and agliata (creamy garlic sauce) - this was delicious

        Sardines (can't remember if these were piccolini or antipasti) - never met a sardine I have not really enjoyed. Tasted more like herring (young sardines?)

        Eggplant cakes with ricotta - good, not overcooked like kiworan79's experience, nothing special

        Antipasti:

        Grilled scallops with baby arugula (special) - delicious, scallops were cooked perfectly

        Primi:

        Ravioli lluovo with sage butter sauce and guanciale - can't comment on the unsalted Italian bacon since I don't eat meat. The single ravioli was delicious and even better once we got some bread to mop up and devour the burst of sauce once the ravioli was pierced with a fork.

        Service was relaxed but attentive. It would have been nice if server anticipated our need for bread and had replaced a few more plates.

        A few of the dishes were very good. Not a place we would be in a hurry to return to.

        1. Had dinner there last weekend, and my experience was similar to those already posted. Some of the dishes were good, but a few were just eh; service definitely lacking.

          The maitre d' and another gentleman working the floor downstairs who seemed to be a manager, were not particularly warm or welcoming. We had to flag down a busboy to bring us a bottle of water, as our waiter did not stop by the table for some time after we had been seated. As others have posted, they forgot the bread. They didn't serve it until we wanted some to mop up the lamb bolognese, and asked if they served bread at all. (I didn't see any on other tables.) Our server neglected to mention that the plum crostata was a pear crostata when we asked about and then ordered it for dessert. (This might not seem like a big deal, but I don't like pears, so it made a difference. Not to mention his reaction was simply "oh yeah, they changed it" when we brought it to his attention.) All of this added to an overall impression that the front of the house really doesn’t care whether their guests are enjoying themselves or not.

          I agree on the truffled deviled eggs. These could stand to be served a little less cold, to bring out their flavor, but there'd probably be a DOH issue there. Fried cauliflower was excellent; arancini, ok; eggplant cakes, eh; stuffed mushrooms, also eh. Goat cheese cheesecake with roasted figs, not bad. The clear winner was the fried gnocchi with the lamb Bolognese. The gnocchi were excellent - crispy outside, tender inside - my favorite dish of the night. And one worth returning for, but the chilly reception/lax service was a turn off, so I would not rush back.

          1. I usually try to refrain from writing negative reviews, but the service we received during lunch here was so bad, I had to mention it. Everything started out fine - nice space, seated right away, menus in hand. However, when our food arrived, that's where it goes downhill. The server brought out a pasta dish instead of the cuban sandwich I ordered. I even pointed the dish out on the menu for him when I placed my order. Ok, so no big deal, they'll just bring out the correct dish. So, they take my plate back, but not my companion's. We ask them to please keep her pasta dish warm and bring out both items when they are ready. We wait. And wait. We start trying to make eye contact with our server - actually, anyone that worked there. What was most unbelievable was the fact that one girl was purposefully trying to ignore us - would literally turn around a certain way so she wouldn't have to face our table. I don't like to shout or touch people for attention, but after we waited over 15minutes with no food, no acknowledgment of our wait from ANYONE that worked there, I was starting to get annoyed. So, when we finally had to obnoxiously shout to someone to get any sort of attention, the server doesn't apologize, but snaps at us that the food is almost ready.

            Are you serious? I will never return to this restaurant. Oh, and I asked for half of my sandwich to be wrapped up to go. They never brought it out. We didn't bother to ask or wait. Knowing the way they run this place, they probably threw it away anyway.

            No one ever mentioned anything regarding our over 20 minute wait for our replacement entree. It's like they were a little kid who was embarrassed to admit fault. Ridiculous.