At CityCenterDC’s newest addition, Centrolina, you can sit down for an Italian meal or grab pretty much all the groceries you need to prepare one at home. The first solo venture from chef Amy Brandwein, formerly of Osteria Alba and now-closed Casa Nonna, features a full market, which opened today. Lunch will begin on June 1 and dinner will follow on June 5.
Centrolina’s “mercato” shelves are stocked with Italian pantry items that Brandwein likes to use in her kitchen, including a range of dry pastas, marinated anchovies, crackers, mostarda, grains, oils, vinegars, and much more. Several of the products can’t be found anywhere else in D.C., Brandwein says. Centrolina sells its own housemade products including jams, pesto, tomato sauce, and fresh pastas. There’s also produce, dairy, meats, seafood, and some prepared foods like meatballs. Eventually, Brandwein hopes to sell bottles of wine as well.
“I just think that the actual physical product of whatever you’re cooking is so beautiful. It’s what’s important of me,” Brandwein says of why she wanted to have a market component to the restaurant.
The market also includes an espresso bar that will serve Vigilante Coffee and pastries in the mornings. Later in the day, there are prepared sandwiches.
When the full restaurant menu debuts, look out for antipasti like pickeld, roasted, and fried carrots with lemon, yogurt, and turmeric as well as fried smelts with garlic and lemon. “My whole family on my dad’s side is from the upper peninsula of Michigan, so we used to always eat fried smelts,” Brandwein says.
There are also about half a dozen pasta dishes to choose from, including chiancarelle, which are like very small orecchiette, with tuna and turnip greens or a simple buckwheat pasta with anchovies, garlic, chickpeas, parsley, and pecorino—”a really satisfying down-home country dish,” Brandwein says.
A seared tuna with bone marrow and barbaresco wine sauce is among the list of wood-fired entrees. One carryover from Alba Osteria is a fritto misto made up of fried lamb, chicken, sausage, vegetables, and amaretti cookies that are also battered and fried. Brandwein says the traditional Piedmontese dish never quite got the love it deserved at Alba Osteria, so she’s determined to turn people onto it at Centrolina.
Overall, the menu doesn’t have a particular regional focus. Rather, it’s the amalgamation of Brandwein’s cooking career.
“The brutal reality of the industry is not every chef has their exact choice because they’re usually working for somebody else,” Brandwein says. “So I’m happy to say I created something that is going to let me cook the way that I really always wanted to cook.”
Centrolina, 974 Palmer Alley; (202) 898-2426; centrolinadc.com
Photos by Jessica Sidman