Centro Vinoteca

I am preparing for Thanksgiving by eating as much as I possibly can before Thursday so my stomach is ready for large consumption.  Seriously though, I need to take a chill on going out and eating and of course drinking.  Last night, we went to Centro Vinoteca for dinner.

As I am still obsessing about the recession, a little update on walking through the West Village en route to dinner last night.  Walking down Bleeker was like walking through a morgue.  It was truly eerie.  Very few people were out.  The stores were shining with their 70% off signs.  70% off specially picked items.  Hello…put the whole thing at 70% off but whatever.  Bar Q had only one table filled.  It was a gasp moment. Centro Vinoteca wasn't exactly booming either. 

Centro is not that large although there is an upstairs area that I didn't check out.  The bar area, when you walk in has about 10 seats and a few high cocktail tables with seats too.  Most of the seats at the bar were fill.  There are only 8 seatings areas downstairs.  2 of them are huge round couches that can actually sit 8 but we were sat at for four.  It was kind of weird.  We ended up moving to something that appeared smaller but wasn't.  It was a moment where a thought went through my head, should we go somewhere else?

Our friends arrived and we sat down and went with it.  The first round of drinks had to be sent back.  2 of them arrive with flat bad tasting tonic.  But, then we began to order.  We were out with a couple, who I have such a great time with.  First of all, they love to taste and drink.  What could be bad?  Always communal eating. 

We started off with a variety of appetizers from the bar and from the menu.  Some things were really good and others were just okay.  A small plate of marinated anchovies…nothing to write home about.  Shrimp and chickpea fritters were okay.  Chopped pieces of shrimp and chickpeas rolled and dipped in some type of bread crumb, deep fried and served with a lemon aioli.  It was a tad mushy.  We also had something similar with cauliflower which was nice.  The cauliflower still had a good bite to it and the parm crust which was crispy outside really worked.  The winner was pizzetta.  So good that we ordered a second one on our second round of food.  Very thin crust pizza shaped in a rectangle and cut into small squares.  Tiny pieces of sausages that had been pan fried and crispy over a very thin layering of shaved cows milk cheese with greens over the top.  I think the crust was made first and then they put the toppings over it and let the heat melt the cheese since the sausage had already been cooked.  Really delicious.  These all came from the small bar menu.

From the appetizers portion of the menu we split 2 salads.  Escarole salad tossed with mushrooms, hazelnuts, shavings of pecorino cheese and thinly sliced Granny apples.  The apples were the key.  Escarole has such an intense flavor that the apples change the salad.  I really liked it.  We also had the grilled octopus.  Always a favorite.  Grilled octopus with small sauteed and fresh greens mixed together on the side.  This was a real winner and we ordered it again for the next round.

Honestly, I could have been done but we just kept going.  As we reordered the octopus and pizzetta and got 4 more things.  Thick round pasta with a rich tomato sausage sauce.  Very good.  We also had the black ink pasta with shrimp, cockles and a spicy sauce.  I had one bite as I was seriously hitting the wall.  The sausage stuffed chicken sounded interesting.  A roll of chicken that had been sliced into individual pieces that had been stuffed with sausage and served with polenta on the side.  A big thumbs down on this.  Really garlicky and the whole combo didn't work.  The steak was fantastic.  A rib eye, perfectly cooked and just a really great piece of meat.

Funny enough, when we walked in, we bumped into a group of 8 that we found out were eating there for the first time too.  Centro Vinoteca was impossible to get into when they first opened.  Clever because the food is good and the space is small.  Glad I finally got there.  Worth the wait.