I can’t get used to this alley being here; nonetheless, I love the area, and hope that DC can have about twenty more like it in the future. After the parking gods smiled upon me, I strolled into the bar at Centrolina and immediately wanted to relax with a beer – a DC Brau Peppercorn Saison ($7). About all I can say is, “Damn, I wish I liked this brewery more because it has become ubiquitous, and there’s almost no escaping it.” Anyway, I switched to a Bertani Bertarose ($11) to have with my meal, and I’m glad I did. A friend pointed out that this may have been 3 Stars Brewery, and it may well have been.
The Polpo ($14) was just fantastic – I’ve had Amy’s polpo before, and knew that I was going to like this dish, but it exceeded my already-high expectations, primarily because it came with something I’d never tasted before: Cotechinata – a roulade of pig skin which was cut, texturally, by potato confit – there’s something about the starch in the potato that neutralizes any perception of fattiness (think about how a loaded, stuffed baked potato can absorb butter, sour cream, cheese, and bacon fairly effortlessly). Anyway, it’s an appetizer portion, also came with a celery salad, and was done right – for every ten octopus dishes I’ve eaten, it seems like about one has been executed really well (same with squid), and this was that one.
Casunsei ($23) was a wonderful bowl of ravioli, stuffed with shredded beef, swiss chard, speck, golden raisin, lemon, and butter sauce – ah, yes, it’s those last three ingredients that took this dish from good to great, and you shouldn’t hesitate to get it. It’s not a huge portion, but that really didn’t matter, because I also got a ridiculously large side order of Barbabietole ($9), salt-roasted red beets – this was such a big portion that I couldn’t finish it, and I told Amy (later on, in a text message) that I thought the dish was too large for one, so it might be a bit smaller now. Or, if not, get it for two.
This was my introduction to Centrolina, but was also about the fifth restaurant where I’ve enjoyed Amy’s cooking, and she keeps getting better. There was nothing about this meal that I wouldn’t recommend, and the only reason I wouldn’t get things a second time is because there’s so much else to try here. Centrolina is officially, and strongly, initiated in Italic in the Dining Guide. I don’t quite understand why people are packing Fig & Olive when it seems like the food is prepared in, and shipped down from, New York, perhaps in vacuum-packed plastic bags, but who am I to judge the dining habits of DC 20-somethings.