Osso bucco — a Wednesday night special at Centonove.
Centonove, the newest restaurant to open in Los Gatos, welcomes you with Italian gusto.
Step inside its compact, convivial black and white dining room with splashes of marinara red, and you may hear Executive Chef Carlo Ochetti heartily conversing with customers in his native Italian.
Indeed, Centonove (Italian for “109,” its numerical address on W. Main Street) is like a neighborhood trattoria transported from Italy to the South Bay. Shelves lining a brick wall are stacked with wine bottles, packages of pasta (even gluten-free ones), and big cans of tomatoes to give the feel of an Italian groceria. Small tables fill the main room, which also sports two bar areas — one to enjoy a quick coffee, the other known as the chef’s counter because it fronts the kitchen, including the red-tiled, wood-fired pizza oven.
Executive Carlo Ochetti.
Manning the pizza oven.
That’s where Ochetti, formerly of San Jose’s Il Fornaio, holds court. He chats easily and often with diners at the black marble chef’s counter, asking how everything is or explaining how a dish was put together.
A gluten-free pizza at Pizza Antica at Santana Row.
After hosting a cooking demo in August at Santana Row in San Jose with Chef Bradley Cenyowa of Pizza Antica, he had me intrigued.
Responding to customers’ needs, Pizza Antica — which has four locations — had begun to offer a gluten-free pizza crust.
It can quite challenging to get the texture just right in gluten-free bread and other baked goods. But Cenyowa is such a fan of the gluten-free crust at the restaurant that he eats it, himself, even though he does not suffer from celiac disease.
He invited me in as a guest of the restaurant to try it for, myself.
If you’re gluten-intolerant, the server will hand you a separate gluten-free menu to peruse — a nice touch. My husband and I — neither of us have issues with gluten — got both menus just to check them out.
The always busy restaurant.
We started off with the bacon, lettuce, tomato chopped salad ($10.25), which the kitchen thoughtfully split onto two plates for us. The salad is a tumble of textures in every fork-full. You get crunchy romaine, crisp bacon and fluffy bits of hard-cooked egg. There’s just enough Dijon dressing to coat everything, but not drown it.
If you’ve ever wanted to perfect pizza-making at home, now’s your chance.
Join me at 6 p.m. Sept. 19 at Macy’s Valley Fair in Santa Clara when I host a cooking demo with Chef Howard Bulka of Howie’s Artisan Pizza in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village.
Bulka, who left the world of fine-dining to research the fine points of pizza making, will show you how to create a superb dough using a starter that will add so much more flavor to your crust.
Meatballs at Howie’s Artisan Pizzeria in Palo Alto.
Howard Bulka is one of those chefs who will get fixated on something, then research and tweak it to death until it’s just right.
Such was the case when he decided to trade decades of preparing fancy, fine-dining, prixe-fixe menus for pizza instead.
Howie’s Artisan Pizza opened in Palo Alto’s Town & Country Village four years ago. Crowds have been lining up ever since for the pizzas, constructed with a bread flour-dough, which takes two days to mix and proof before being turned into pies that are baked in a gas-fired brick oven at 600 degrees for 5-6 minutes.
These are multi-dimensional crusts with puffy edges of air holes that provide chew and crunch, and centers that get thinner and crisper.
The whimsical art work on the walls.
The dining room.
Recently, I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. We started with the Chinese Chicken Salad ($10). The generous-sized salad is more than enough for two to share. A mountain of chopped romaine is tossed with cucumber, green onions, peanuts, cilantro, chicken chunks, crispy won ton strips and a creamy, mustardy dressing. It’s almost like an Asian version of a chopped salad.
Huckleberry sorbetto at Campo 185.
Months ago on a lark, just because I happened to be wandering through downtown Palo Alto on a chilly afternoon, I stopped into Campo Pizzeria to grab something warm for lunch.
At the time, the name of the restaurant included the word “pizzeria.” Back then, the kitchen was also headed up by Chef Sean O’Brien, formerly of Myth, Gary Danko and Zinnia, all in San Francisco. I remember the pizzetta dough as quite crisp and the cup of minestrone truly impressive in the way it maintained the integrity of each and every vegetable.
Fast forward to earlier this month, when I was invited in as a guest of the restaurant. Now christened Campo 185, in reference to its address on University Avenue, the “pizzeria” moniker had been jettisoned, though pizzas are still on the menu. What’s more, a new chef now runs the place — Robert Holt, former executive chef of Marzano in Oakland.