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One of the benefits (if you see it that way) of living and dining in Manhattan is that celebrity sightings are a part of everyday life. Last week, I gave a brief take on the celebrity chef phenomenon , and of course, within a couple of days, I found myself sitting at a table behind Anne Burrell (Mario’s Sous Chef on Iron Chef America), in her chef’s whites, straight out of the kitchen, and Bobby Flay (himself an Iron Chef). It was midnight, and the Italiano and I had jaunted through the midnight rain to Centro Vinoteca, for a quick meal.
The celebrity gossip:
First, Bobby was wedged, snuggly, into one of the banquettes, between two beautiful blondes, neither of who was his wife, Stephanie March, of Law and Order fame. And no, neither blonde was Burrell (does her particular shade even constitute “blonde?”) Now, I’m not accusing…just observing…
Second, Anne sat at Bobby and Co.’s table for quite awhile, until she moved to the corner banquette to finish her evening with Michael Stipe and friend. I was particularly amused by this spotting since I just remarked on what an odd relationship Stipe seems to have with Burrell’s Kitchen Stadium partner, Mario Batali. What is up with the R.E.M. front man? Who’s whose groupie here? And isn’t he vegan? Are you telling me cooks like Batali and Burrell host him at their meat-centric restaurants and feed him vegan food? What gives?
On the food/restaurant:
I have eaten at Centro Vinoteca several times and had great experiences. And I am still really excited to try their new breakfast menu. I like the way the place looks and the menu gives me paroxysms of delight for all its piccolini (small plates), filled pastas, inspired specials and exuberance for frying. However, when I ate there late Friday night, I felt the dishes that came to our table suffered from the distinct “last-plate-out-of-the-kitchen-doesn’t-get-my-greatest-love-and-attention” syndrome. Which is unfortunate, because the West Village should be a late-night neighborhood, where the desire for a midnight meal shouldn’t confine you to a fluorescent-lit diner or a $150 dinner for two consisting of small plates of somewhat soggy zucchini fritters, oddly fishy-tasting deviled eggs and slightly dried-out gnocchi with boar ragu. And, I regret letting myself be talked into a dessert by our cute waitress, when I knew I wasn’t in the mood. Even sugar couldn’t do much to brighten my outlook at this particular meal. The problem, I think, is that Centro Vinoteca is purportedly open until 2am. What this really means, however, is that the bar is open until 2 and you can pay your dinner bill and stay to drink until that hour. The kitchen, however, shuts down at 12am. So sitting down to eat, as we did Friday, at twenty minutes ’til the hour, meant that we were probably the last table served food that evening. Our waitress was patient and attentive, but the kitchen’s fatigue was evident as the dishes that have delighted me in the past didn’t quite live up.
The show put on by the celebs at the tables in front of me was intriguing, but I guess I wasn’t distracted enough by the Foodluminaries to not notice the lackluster cuisine. When I return to Centro Vinoteca, and I soon will, I’ll be hoping for more star power in the kitchen than in the dining room.