Image: Promenade in Summer

Last Updated: 6/9/2020

Current Status:  Centrolina and its sidekick across the walk way, Piccolina, are doing sit-down service starting June 10.  Centrolina will have a prix-fixe menu.  Reservations on Tock.  You can continue to order Take-out and delivery plus the Market remains open.

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Before Times Review:

Last visited: December 2019

Centrolina’s chef, owner, and guiding spirit is Amy Brandwein.  For years she has worked in and around DC, finding ways to elevate cuisine often above the circumstances of the location.  Centrolina is distinct and personal in its vision.  It is refined Italian cooking produced with focus and touch.

The focus is evident in the menu.  It is a daily printed piece of paper reflecting the ingredients in season and on hand.  There are a handful each of apps, pastas, and mains.  Creativity was on display in an antipasti dish that combined braised oxtail, tuna sashimi, red wine sauce and little dollops of horseradish.  It sounds crazy.  It was crazy good. There is always a wood-fired fish option.  The pasta ranges from decadent to more sublime.  You are more likely to find pappardelle with rabbit, or gnocchi with sweetbreads than you will find spaghetti and meatballs.  On a recent visit, suggestions of Japanese cuisine were present in several dishes – the Bianca spaghetti with squid in a dashi-like basil broth; the glazed Hakurei turnips with the lamb.  Desserts are in the capable hands of Caitlin Dysart and she continues the combination of skill, tradition, and inventiveness for the last course.

The wine list is thoughtful with a focus on Italian.  Like the cuisine, it does not settle for a sprinkling of wines from key regions and call it a day.  It is not a deep list, vintages tend to pick up in the 2010s, but it is broad, covering lesser known regions in addition to the standard-bearers.  It pulls less obvious bottles into the conversation.  A new somm recently took over the reins, after a bit of a gap from the one that constructed the list.  It will be interesting to see the list develop in the coming year.

The location is in the heart of the shiny development in City Center.  The high-end rent probably adds a few dollars to each dish, but it is worth treating yourself.  The space recently went through a remodel. The main kitchen, dining room, and bar area remain unchanged, but the market area that used to open up into the dining room has now been shunted off to a smaller space with its own door.  There is now a large private dining area in its place.  As a result of the remodel, the whole place is a little less distinct but a little more formal – and hopefully more profitable.

The upwardly mobile professionals living and working in the neighboring blocks are lucky to have the access and means to eat at Centrolina frequently.  For the rest of us it is a treat that justifies making a trip.

Other Guidance:  Attire ranges from locals walking in wearing casual garb to those dressed up for a night out.  Vegetarians and GF can do okay here, but the menu is centered on pastas, two-three fish dishes and 2-3 meat dishes.  So if you are V and GF, the choices narrow fast.  The restaurant has no stairs and is accessible from the walkway.

Rating: Worth Paying for Cab
Cuisine: Italian
Neighborhood: Chinatown/City Center
Address: 974 Palmer Alley NW, Washington DC
Website: http://centrolinadc.com/
Reservation: Tock

Other Critics/Voices:

Washington Post: Tom was 2.5 but upgraded to 3.0 in 2018!!!
Washingtonian: #15 in 2019;  #41 in 2018; #51 in 2017; made it in 2016 too.