There’s something about having a pint in a historic building that is reminiscent of a small town back east. Where people still talk to each other, surrounded by well-worn exposed bricks, the sound of cars whizzing by Old Town Tustin’s Main Street outside.
Such is CENTRO, where two tables of strangers are quick to say hello and offer suggestions, “because you look new here.” Granted the front of this Italian osteria is rather tight, reminiscent of a small communal table coffee shop, whose eclectic interior matches the broken tile wood-burning oven that makes up the matchbox-sized open kitchen.
CENTRO is a true mom and pop Italian eatery, with scratch eats, and the beer and wine, all made by family. The dad, Enrico, manages all the operations at their Paso Robles winery, from vine to glass. The mom, Daniela, handles sales and marketing “and has developed quite an affinity for wine blending and sampling.” Son Sandro, the beer enthusiast, can be seen making the house beer under the brand Archaic Ales, brewed a few feet away from where it’s poured.
At many tables there are happy hour glasses of house wine, but I opt for a flight of house beers, coming away with a new favorite, their Honey Cream Ale. Just a kiss of honey malt shines through this velvety-smooth beer. Pulling off an ultra-clean cream ale when done properly warrants a couple pints, just to be sure you didn’t miss anything. It’s incredibly crushable, lawnmowerish in the best way possible. Their IPA, Golden Ace, is hopped with authority, making me do a palate double-take with Bear Republic’s classic Racer 5, which is also on tap among other local craft beers.
The food menu is full of Italian bites, with several antipasti, salad, and panini options, but the Margherita pizza is always a great way to start. The pizza is cracker thin with a gentle wood-fired char, tangy sauce, and splotches of white mozzarella and fresh basil tying it all together. At least a dozen other pizzas call your name, even the dessert Pizza Nutella, which is coated liberally with the hazelnut spread and dusted with powdered sugar like an Italian version of a crêpe.
CENTRO is at 140 E. Main St. in Old Town Tustin. centrotustin.com