In my family, we honor momentous occasions by going to eat at the honoree’s favorite restaurant. As kids, my sister and I loved Arirang, an hibachi restaurant in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. For the last few years we’ve celebrated my mom’s birthday at Beast in Prospect Heights. My father usually enjoys Le Gamin, also in Prospect Heights (and down the street from Beast).
Recently, my family had a celebration worthy of a trip to Manhattan. My father had just completed his first week back to work, after taking part of the summer off to recover from hip surgery, and we decided to go to Centro Vinoteca, a “modern, yet classic” Italian restaurant in the West Village.
I know what you’re thinking. Emily–you’re gluten free, and you went to an Italian restaurant? Crazy, I know. But this restaurant is special and, if you really look for it, you don’t have to deprive yourself of eating at Italian restaurants if you’re careful about the items you choose. (And you inform the waiter or waitress of your allergy.)
Centro Vinoteca, led by Executive Chef Beau Houck, is known for its’ selection of wines and organic market ingredients. The menu has staples such as pasta and pizza but also features main dishes that rotate depending on which produce is available in the market. As a New Yorker, I love shopping and eating green market food. What’s better than a restaurant that values local vendors and fresh and healthy ingredients? In a city filled with lots of edible temptation, one can be easily swayed. But when you find a restaurant like Centro Vinoteca, where you can eat well without breaking the calorie bank, how can you say no?
Now, for the good stuff: our meal. We all ordered the Caesar salad (mine sans croutons and sardines), which was served with a very light dressing and sprinkled with parmesan cheese. I loved that the lettuce wasn’t served chopped or torn but rather presented as whole leaves, as if someone plucked each from a bunch and placed it on a plate. Simple and delicious.
For dinner I chose the Roasted Organic Chicken, which came over a bed of tiny boiled potatoes and a roasted red pepper and tomato sauce. Since my days in Spain, I’ve become obsessed with red peppers. The color of the sauce was so bright and the taste was incredibly rich and fresh. Again, simple, and not over-seasoned. The chicken was tender and lightly covered with salt and pepper. Just perfect.
My sister and father had the potato encrusted salmon and my mom had the roasted scallops with polenta. Needless to say, their plates were clean at the end of the meal.
Finally, for dessert, my family sampled a vanilla panna cotta with minted blueberries and a chocolate lava cake, which came with the most amazing whipped cream I’ve ever tried. (Note: The chocolate lava cake does contain gluten, but other dessert options at Centro Vinoteca include house-made gelato and sorbet, so there is always something to try.)
Centro Vinoteca is on the upscale side and thus a bit more expensive than your average Italian restaurant. Main dishes range in the $20s, with pastas and appetizers a bit lower in price. The restaurant is located on 74 7th Ave South, between Barrow & Bleecker Streets.