Drago Centro has been my go-to destination for post-work cocktails, wine, and bar bites ever since I started working downtown last year. On my latest visit to the restaurant, I managed to pull myself away from their unbeatable all-night happy hour for a proper dinner in the main dining room.
Instead of my usual $5 white wine and piping hot flatbreads, I indulged in bubbly prosecco and plates of silky pasta. After experiencing the fancier side of Drago Centro, I have an even greater appreciation for this urban oasis of modern Italian dining.
Chef Celestino Drago, who also owns Enoteca Drago and Il Pastaio in Beverly Hills and the yet-to-debut Osteria Drago in West Hollywood, opened Drago Centro in 2008. Its location on the ground floor of the City National Plaza attracts a diverse crowd of suited gents, serious couples, and happy hour revelers.
On the evening of my visit, Chef de Cuisine Ian Gresik had the night off, so sous chef Michael Neflas took care of our party of three. In addition to warm rolls to start, we shared a serving of “Le Cozze” ($13). The steamed mussels were simply but effectively prepared with white wine, garlic, and chile flakes. Toasted crostini was on hand to soak up the broth.
There were also bowls of “La Zuppa” ($10), a roasted yellow corn soup with a sopressata corn ragout, served tableside (not pictured). The little squares of salami punctuated the sweet soup beautifully, making me wonder why bacon gets all the glory.
And then came the pastas, six to be exact, all served family style. Our first trio of pastas included “Le Fettuccine” ($19), a fresh egg pasta with jumbo lump crab and zucchini flowers in a spicy tomato sauce. The bright tomato sauce paired like a charm with the sweet crab while the luxurious noodles seemed to go on for miles.
The “Tagliolini Neri” ($19) seduced me with its scent of lemon verbena before I even took a bite. While the aroma was simply intoxicating, the flavors were even better. Tangled in the squid ink tagliolini was a collection of perfectly cooked mussels, clams, and shrimp.
Rounding out our first wave of pastas were adorable “Agnolotti” ($19) filled with ricotta and zucchini in a brown butter sauce. There was a lightness and a brightness to this dish that captured the spirit of springtime.
The second wave of pastas brought the “Garganelli” ($19), which my dining companions hyped up quite a bit beforehand. The gently ridged tubes, which were adorned with sausage crumbles, Parmesan, and fennel seeds, were as dynamite as promised.
Adding variety to our spread was a pitch perfect “Risotto ai Funghi” ($19) that magically tasted light somehow despite its buttery and cheesy foundation. Even though I was about to burst with noodles by this point in the meal, I had to go in for seconds of this one.
Another favorite of mine was “Le Pappardelle al Fagiano” ($20), a heap of inch-wide pappardelle coated in a deeply satisfying roasted pheasant and morel mushroom sauce. The wider-than-expected noodles had a wonderfully silky texture and possessed a most pleasant bite.
The final savory course was a soulful serving of braised oxtails over polenta, “Coda in Umido e Polenta” ($16). Paired with the fork tender oxtail morsels were fried onions, carrots, celery, onions, and a gorgonzola crème.
I had my heart set on the “Bomboloni” ($10) even before I arrived at the restaurant. However, upon seeing the dessert menu, I was torn between it and the chocolate and olive oil mousse. Fortunately, our waiter had the perfect solution—small servings of both!
The doughnut, which was served with a lemon cream, an apricot biscotti crumble, and vanilla whipped cream, was as delightful as I had anticipated. Freshly fried and served warm, the bomboloni melted in my mouth.
“La Terrina” ($10) was equally impressive with its soft layers of olive oil, hazelnut, and chocolate mousse. There was also a crunchy strata that my dining companion Darin likened aptly to a Kit Kat bar.
If you love handmade pastas like I do, then a visit to Drago Centro is an absolute must. Every noodle is made with care, and twirling and slurping are encouraged.
525 South Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90071
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