25 West Houston Street between Greene and Mercer
$196 for two, with five drinks, without tip
I knew I shouldn’t have ordered the $22 glass of Barolo but the guy behind the bar gave me a taste after I picked the $16 Muraglie and convinced me that it was the better way to go. It was a very good glass of wine and I gingerly drank it with the meats and cheeses that we ordered as appetizers, as well as with the asparagus salad topped with fried duck prosciutto and egg. For $20, we had a choice of five cheeses and salumis: we split the cacciatorini, the sweet coppa, the finocchiona and the Calcagno with the Testun al Barolo. I loved the subtle spring taste of the trout main dish with the fava beans, sprouts and sweet peas; a few pieces of morels upped the price to $28.
I have walked by Centovini several times but never paid much attention to it because it looked far too dark from the outside. I thought the space would be a little too romantic to meet a friend, so I was surprised at how bright it actually was inside. We sat at the bar under the massive mirrored lamp and even felt like a surgery can be done right on the marble-top counter. The rest of the restaurant is quite handsome, with a beautiful wall of wine shelves in one end and a lounge area in another.
The service was unobtrusive because they knew to leave us alone the entire time we were there. The bartender seemed to just show up whenever we needed to refill our wine glasses. And as to not interrupt our conversation, we would nod and just give him an okay–that makes for a very hefty bill after two and a half hours.
You can still get away with a much simpler dinner–and less wine–before heading to Angelika Theater without spending too much. A three-course prix-fixe is available every night for just $38 while brunch on weekends goes for $18. Centovini isn’t Lupa but I think it’s a good spot to start the night off right. Just make sure you don’t order the Barolo.