"As Italians, we're all about romanticizing," says Gino Rocco, dining room manager at the revived Centro Ristorante. "We romanticize our food, our women, our movies." Italians also romanticize their restaurants, as Rosebud Restaurants is doing with Centro Ristorante.
The menu is a nod to old world Italian restaurants—family-style pastas (mostly made in-house) and chops, softball-size meatballs, large wooden bowls of dressed-down salads, classic Italian cocktails with slight twists. All of this is framed with an interior that hints at Centro's bustling past but modernized to try to appeal to the young River North clientele.
Framed artwork, like a portrait of Marlon Brando as The Godfather and a dreamy take on the old Centro exterior, hangs on the walls. Yet the many technological advances since then are present, most prominently in tabletop iPads flashing rotating images of dishes and large flat screen TVs in the bathrooms. "It's not your father's Rosebud," Rocco says.
Chef Joe Farina, a Rosebud vet, has returned to run the Centro kitchen. "It's Rosebud food—,food we have been successful at for 40 years," he says. "Two-to-four ingredients per dish."
This is evident in everything on the menu, from an arrabiatta dish with gigantic imported fusilli to a bone-in chicken oreganata. Dessert options are all house-made (except for a ricotta cheesecake baked by Farina's mother), including gelato. A housemade pumpernickel onion bread is filled with hidden caramelized onions that spill out when broken into.
Drink options feature the tweaked classic cocktails and a wine list that focuses on Italian and California reds. The "State and Hubbard" is the house cocktail, a mix of Amaro, Maker's Mark 46, and San Pellegrino blood orange soda. Dom Perrignon will be available by the glass.
The full menu is below, Centro Ristorante is reopening on Monday.