Centrale Italian Parlour

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Centrale Italian Parlour recently opened on Madison Street in the heart of Tallahassee’s College Town District.  The fancy name aside, the focus of the restaurant is on home cooked Italian-American inspired dishes prepared with fresh ingredients. Following a day of work-filled fun, Kirsten and I headed to Centrale for dinner, hoping for a taste that would remind us of our recent trip to the boot shaped peninsular.

The restaurant is tastefully appointed with a relaxed atmosphere. Fancy dress is not required, and the crowd was a mix of college students, families, and couples on first dates. Seated at a cozy table for two we dove into the menus. Various appetizers were available including fried olives, chickpea fries, and Centrale’s meatballs. They all looked appealing, but I felt the pull of the arancini (rice balls) and we ordered a plate to share.

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For our entrees pizza, pasta, sandwiches (a new addition to the menu), and main dishes (including stuffed chicken Parmigiana) were available. Kirsten selected the Red Face Calabrese brick oven pizza. I saw one of my favorite pasta dishes on the menu, Cacio e Pepe (cheese and pepper), and eagerly ordered a serving.

Six arancini arrived in a paper lined dished topped with grated cheese and served with a side of mariana sauce. True to their name, the tiny round rice balls were perfectly friend and full or delicious creamy risotto. I asked our server if the rissotto was available by the bowl (or bucket) and was regretfully told it was not a regular menu item.

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With the appetizer cleared from the table the entrees arrived. The Red Face Calabrese was topped with pepperoni, soppressata, pork sausage, Calabrian chile, and basil. The square pie had a crisp outer crust with a nice bit of chewiness. The toppings were plentiful, and nestled among warm melted mozzarella. The combination of delicious cured meats paired well with the spiciness of the chili and freshness of the basil. The small pie was large enough for us to share and still bring home some for breakfast the next day (served cold it was a delight). The pizza was reminiscent of a good American Italian experience, rather than a truly authentic Italian pie, in line with the restaurant’s focus on Americanized Italian dishes, and it hit the spot for our dinner.

The Cacio e Pepe was served in a Parmesan frisco bowl. Tender bucatini (thick spaghetti adjacent pasta with a hole running through it) was tossed with Peccorini Romano cheese, black, and pink peppercorns. The first taste reminded me of Rome and the edible baked cheese bowl added a fun spin to this venerable dish. Despite a request that the pasta be cooked al dente, we were disappointed that the pasta lacked its trademark texture, but overall the dish was a winner.

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To bring the meal to a conclusion we ordered gelato. Chocolate and pistachio gelato was served in an old fashioned ice cream parlor glass with a pair of spoons. While the chocolate was good, the pistachio was amazing.  Rich, creamy, with a great pistachio flavor it tasted like it was flown over from Italy that morning.

Service throughout the meal from our server Mia was friendly and attentive.  Centrale is a welcome addition to Tallahassee and should be on everyone lists searching for satisfying Italian fare. The restaurant is located at 815 Madison Street and can be contacted at (850) 765-6799. For more information, including hours of operation, visit Centrale on Facebook www.centraleitalian.com.

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Sweet Tea & Bourbon’s Rating:
Atmosphere: A
Taste: A
Presentation: A
Service: A
Cleanliness: A
Price: $$

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