With a soft opening on Halloween, and a grand opening on November 4, Centre Street Cafe is now one month old. Unless, of course, you include the 17 year history attached with the name and the space that the new owners have elected to keep.
“We’ve been asked ‘why’d you keep the name?’ and part of it was because it was important to [the previous owner],” says David Doyle, co-owner along with Maricely Perez-Alers, and Keith Harmon. “But I think for both of us it was important because the name is part of the tradition.”
In addition to keeping the moniker, the new team, who also helm Tres Gatos down the street, will maintain a focus on local produce and a vegetable-based menu with at least 50-percent of the dishes being vegetarian without modification (if it’s modified, vegetarians grow angry).
If you were a frequenter before the renovation, you’ll likely recognize some of the staff, as an open invitation to join the endeavor was offered when the old spot closed its doors. That said, the same comfortable feeling of waltzing in for dinner service in jeans is present, and in the next few weeks an American-style diner brunch service will begin on weekends. The Truck Stop Breakfast will be a permanent fixture on that menu, along with other classics from the original joint (read: huevos rancheros, cuban scramble) being available on a rotating schedule.
While there is a good chunk of the old to hold onto, to focus exclusively on what’s been recycled would do a disservice to the team’s effort to gussy up the place and give it a modern and fresh update for an identity all its own. Edison-style lights hang in rows above the tables, the ceiling has been lifted, the skylight opened, the bathroom situation improved. Panels on barn door tracks adorn the white walls, opening to windows of colorful murals during the day, and shuttered in the evening for a more elegant feel.
The owners saw an general absence of Italian cuisine in JP as a reason to focus on creating fresh rolled pasta, housemade sausages, fresh baked breads, in-house cannoli shells, while dipping their communal ladles into other Mediterranean flavors for lunch and dinner. The kitchen is helmed by Brian Rae, an alum of Rialto, and sous chef Stephen Marcaurelle, who cut his teeth at Clio, and as no Italian-leaning menu should be without vino the new spot boasts an extensive and predominantly European wine list to wash it all down.
In the end, Centre Street Cafe, as with it’s first incarnation, is looking to be a community emboldening spot and one that will anchor itself in the scene for a long while.
“We’re here for a long time — knock on wood,” says Harmon. “So we are going slowly and doing it right.”
CENTRE STREET CAFE. 669A CENTRE ST., JAMAICA PLAIN. 617-524-9217.