Students looking for a trendy, more upscale restaurant in College Town will like the new Centrale Italian Parlour. Here’s the twist: So will you.
Sure, there’s pizza on the menu, but diners will also find less typical items such as a charcuterie board, a porchetta (pork) plate, orichette pasta and blackberry-olive oil cake.
Centrale has crafted a fun setting to please its young patrons while making it classy enough to draw other generations. The space, which formally opened Oct. 7, is a sibling to the adjacent Madison Social and both are run by the group For the Table Hospitality, which has the entertainment market cornered on the street. It also operates the Social Catering service, The Gathering private event space above Madison Social and the upcoming Township German pub opening across the street in a few weeks.
Centrale serves lunch and dinner and you can grab a pie until closing. Order pizza from the counter window on Friday and Saturday until 3 a.m.
On our Saturday night visit, about a dozen well-dressed young women were celebrating a birthday at the restaurant’s wine bar or “Somm,” short for sommelier. The restaurant’s general manager, Jeremy Fowler, who is a certified sommelier, was smoothly moving
from one end of the narrow bar to the other, ensuring the wine was flowing as breezily as the girls’ giggles. This bar subs as a community table when it’s not reserved and the place is packed. There’s a larger, second bar at the front.
The restaurant has an open, retro look with black-and-white decor and old-school tile floors. It can get a little loud, but remember, you’re in Millennial territory. Garage doors open to the outdoors. Centrale has patio seating with accents of flowy white curtains.
Centrale doesn’t have a large menu but it’s interesting and affordable, even on a student budget. The most expensive items are two $21 large pizzas, each big enough to share.
Your dinner starts with a small, complimentary bite. On our visit it was four slices of focaccia with ricotta, both the bread and cheese house-made, finished with a swirl of basil oil. Nice.
Our table shared a delicious starter of arancini, seven golf ball-size balls of risotto, breaded and fried. Even better: Dip into the homey marinara sauce.
Well-seasoned chickpea fries are good and crunchy, served with a savory pumpkin ketchup dipping sauce with a hint of cinnamon. Flavorful, and my husband scarfed them up, though I confess to craving good old-fashioned French-fried potatoes.
Centrale’s chopped salad comes in two sizes ($9 and $12). We opted for the larger version for two to share, and it was terrific, a refreshing medley of radicchio, soppressata, provolone, avocado and caramelized onions drizzled with a rich buttermilk-herb dressing that adds a subtle tang.
Another favorite: the panko-crusted chicken Parmesan, which features tender white-meat cutlets stuffed with a thin layer of mozzarella, and lightly fried to a golden brown and finished with marinara. The chicken was a hit, but a bit lonely on the plate. We ordered a bowl of spaghetti for $5 extra but Centrale should consider adding it as part of the dish. Other a la carte sides include charred broccoli and crispy marbled potatoes.
Pasta dishes are generous portions, including our serving of orecchiette. The pasta, which gets its name for its ear shape, was tossed with perfectly cooked shrimp, the whole affair in a garlicky basil pesto sauce spiked with a bit of serrano peppers to give the dish a slight kick.
Cacio and pepe, meaning cheese and pepper, is a traditional, minimalist dish from Rome. This is indeed a simple serving of pasta with Parmesan Romano and fresh pepper, served in a bowl made of Parmesan cheese. The pasta was quite good but the bowl could have been crisper. You can ask to sub gluten-free pasta.
Centrale serves four brick-oven pizzas at small (12 by 12 inches) and large (12 by 18) sizes. We were in the mood for the basic Old School Square pie with pork sausage ($4 extra). The crust was crisp on the outside, soft and chewy inside, nicely browned. But there are other more intriguing options. You can get toppings of pork and cracklins, a pie with Calabrian chile peppers and Italian meats or the NY Salad Pie, with a topping of romaine and arugula, red onions, cherry tomatoes, Parmesan and mozzarella.
The blackberry-olive oil cake was tempting for dessert but we couldn’t resist the roasted hazelnut and banana tiramisu with lady fingers, a big square that’s rich and creamy and oh so Italian.
Friendly, attentive youthful staff. A pitcher of water is set on the table but the servers still checked to ensure our glasses were full.
Centrale serves cocktails and beer, but specializes in wine, with 35 selections by draft, the glass or bottle. Varietals on tap include a
pinot noir, malbec, rose and sauvignon blanc. The restaurant’s version of Happy Hour is called “Benvenuti” (meaning Welcome) with discounts and pizzas served each hour. Drink discounts are also offered during a late-night happy hour.
When you go…
Centrale Italian Parlour
815 W. Madison St.
Starters and salads $5 to $10; pizza $12 to $14 small, $18 to $21 large; pasta and main dishes $12 to $16; sides $3 to $6; desserts $6 to $8.
Monday to Friday: lunch 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner 4 to 10 p.m., happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m., pizza from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday: brunch 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., dinner 4 to 11 p.m., pizza 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Centrale Italian Parlour is a fun venue that works for all generations. It will likely be a place students will want to bring a date, or even their parents, for a good Italian meal without driving across town.
Tallahassee Table Rating
Worth the Drive