Chef Ballet at Centro Cafe

Butternut squash lasagna

Butternut squash lasagna

See this butternut squash lasagna? Looks good, doesn’t it? Ooh, it was! Layers of noodles, cream sauce laced with rosemary and roasted butternut squash from the chef’s own garden. It’s a customer favorite at Centro Café, back on the menu this fall by popular demand. Come to Food Slam Friday night and you will get to taste this delight from yourself!

Chef Josh Unser's culinary ballet

Chef Josh Unser’s culinary ballet

Centro Café is an unassuming gem tucked into Center Street in Riverwest. Just inside the door, a counter, where my husband and I had the pleasure of dining, faces a row of burners and a grill where Chef Josh Unser does his culinary ballet. We watched him grill calamari and scallops, and choreograph pan after pan of Italian pasta dishes of seafood, fresh veg and classic sauces. In addition to the butternut squash lasagna, Josh made us a bowl of Arancia, a dish he created for the menu consisting of cavatappi, chicken, olives, capers and artichokes draped in an orange tomato sauce and topped with shaved parmesan. The brininess of the ingredients give this dish a nice tang and it may have changed my mind about capers for the better. Centro offer many gluten-free options, including the butternut squash lasagna and other pastas, making it a treat for those avoiding the wheat.

mmmm, arancia!

mmmm, arancia!

Having a front row seat for Josh’s work made us plan for several more trips back to try the other dishes. It seems you couldn’t go wrong with any of them. The room is lively and not too loud making it a great place for a meal that also lets you appreciate your company. There’s something classically romantic about it too, without being all candles-and-roses cliché.

tiramisoooo good

tiramisoooo good

You can argue with me, but I think tiramisu is the perfect dessert and Centro’s is quite perfect at that, all lightness and coffee served in a sweet little glass. Do yourself a favor and save room for it. It’s the perfect last bite of a meal… and for this year’s blog.

last bite.

last bite.

My musical pairing: Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong – “Cheek to Cheek”  It’s sweet and romantic as a dinner at Centro. Like the food, every note is clear and uplifting and that bit of swing reminds me of Josh tossing pans of pasta and sauce over the burners with such grace. When Ella and Louis come together at the end, you get that lovely warm feeling of the last sip of wine and last bite of tiramisu.

by Food Slam blogger Steph Kilen

Good Times and Danke! Gracias! Cheers! Thanks! Ta! You Rock!

Good times were had by all at the 10th annual Food Slam this past Friday night. Thanks to all you spectacular Slammers for coming to eat, drink, bid, and support WMSE, making Friday’s fiesta the biggest, funnest, and successfullest Slam to date!

And hey, check out that sweet video up there expertly shot in a gritty, dizzying, hand-held style by yours truly, Food Slam blogger Erin Harris. I think I missed my calling, Milwaukee. Writing, schmiting. I was meant to be a cinematographer on classic films such as Saving Private Ryan, etc. JK. But do dig the tune by magnificent Milwaukee musician and musical mastermind Rick.

Oh and big, big thanks to the fine local establishments that provided the awesome auction items, and a special shout-out to the following delicious vendors for supplying the tasty vittles:

Anodyne Coffee Roasting Co., Atomic Chocolate Co., Ball ‘N Biscuit Catering, Beans & Barley, Blue’s Egg, Bolzano Artisan Meats, Centro Cafe, Chubby Cheese Truck, Eat Cake!, Hector’s On Delaware, Indulgence Chocolatiers, Jake’s Deli, Jow Nai Fouquet Thai, Kasana Concierge Gourmet, Martita’s Mixers, Maxie’s Southern Comfort, McBob’s Pub & Grill, Milwaukee Ale House, Molly Cool’s Seafood Tavern, The Noble, Outpost Natural Foods, Paciugo Gelato, Purple Door Ice Cream, Red Rock Saloon, Revolucion Mexican Restaurant, The Rumpus Room, Sala da Pranzo, SPiN Milwaukee, Times Square Bistro & Pizzeria, and The Wicked Hop

Nectarous! Cheers! See you next year!

–Erin Harris

Centro Cafe’s Luscious Lasagna

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Riverwest’s smackdown, dynamite Centro Cafe is bringing its A game to the WMSE Food Slam this Friday at the Grohmann Museum on the campus of MSOE. For all you vegetarians who’ve had enough talk about salami and reubens and tuna and reubens and meat and meat and meat, chow down on Centro’s luscious lasagna layered with leeks, roasted butternut squash, garlic, and rosemary. It’s got this cream sauce, see, that makes you swoon, and the leeks are heaven, and the squash melts in your mouth, and it all comes together like the way a good band comes together, when everyone’s firing on all cylinders and you can believe in harmony and unity and perfection. And then there’s Centro’s vegan Caesar salad, which is cunningly creamy (how do they do it? Tahini and silken tofu, I think), fantastically fresh, and succulently snappy. These dishes are gonna shine as stars of the show come Friday night. You won’t be able to get enough.

And, while I was at Centro, I also tried their gluten-free pasta with marinara sauce, since I usually (except in anticipation of the Slam, when I get to write this blog) roll gluten free, and had shamefully not previously made it to Centro, though I had heard great things about their GF options. The pasta is good, you know, as good as gluten-free pasta can be, but what makes that dish is the well-balanced marinara sauce–bright, fresh, garlicky, rich, and neither too sweet nor too astringent. It hit the spot, I’m tellin’ ya–it was on the mark. I felt like Goldilocks, Slammers–the porridge was just right. Fo shizzle.

And regarding tickets, I really don’t know what to tell you. No, I’m kidding . . . I think there are a few left–maybe two–so if you ain’t got yours, hit up the station down at 820 N. Milwaukee Street during business hours (9 a.m. till 6 p.m.) through Thursday for a fix.

–Erin Harris

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