When it comes to work perks, birthday lunches rank somewhere near the top. It’s always a real treat to ditch our cubes for the afternoon and sit down for a celebratory meal. In honor of my 35th last week, I elected to lunch at Cento Pasta Bar, a two-year-old pop-up inside Mignon, a wine bar Downtown.
Behind the bar is Avner Lavi, a former pasta cook at Bestia and Sotto, two of my favorite noodling spots in town. Here at Cento, it’s a one man show. Chef Lavi takes orders, prepares food, banters with diners, and busses tables. It’s an easygoing vibe, but formal enough to avoid feeling like a dinner party at a friend’s house.
With the new minimum wage looking to shake up the dining ecosystem in the near future, this could be a new model for how restaurants operate.
The setup wasn’t ideal for our party of eight, but we made it work by flanking both sides of the bar.
To start, a hearty loaf of Tribeca Oven bread paired with house-made burrata drizzled with olive oil ($7). The delicate cheese surprised us with its sweet tinge.
We ordered one of each of the three pastas on offer this afternoon. The first one featured fettuccini with nice hunks of Dungeness crab and a healthy topping of burrata ($15). This easy-on-the-palate pasta was a definite crowd pleaser.
My favorite of the trio was the fettuccini with clams, fennel pollen, leeks, chilies, and scallions ($15). There was lots to love about this one, from the neatly de-shelled clams to the unbeatable aroma of the fennel pollen. I could’ve twirled my fork forever…
The final dish featured beet-stained spaghetti with poppy seeds, chives, and whipped goat cheese ($12). Earthy and rich, this dish offered a fresh take on the classic pairing of beets and goat cheese.
Lunch at Cento was thoroughly enjoyable—my only regret was not getting to enjoy my birthday noodles with some vino. I guess this means that I’ll have to return when I’m officially off the clock.
Cento Pasta Bar
128 East 6th Street
Los Angeles, CA 90014
One year ago: Union Square Donuts – Boston
Two years ago: Bestia – Los Angeles
Three years ago: Cafe Artist – Garden Grove
Four years ago: Mile End Sandwich – New York City
Five years ago: Hungry Cat – Los Angeles (Hollywood)
Six years ago: Mori Sushi – Los Angeles
Seven years ago: Amaro Bar at Osteria Mozza – Los Angeles
Eight years ago: Bake-Sale Brownies
Nine years ago: The Art of Making Bánh Chưng
Ten years ago: Naked Chocolate Cafe – Philadelphia