This restaurant in downtown Los Angeles is a good place to have dinner. Come early in case you get caught up in traffic or your GPS experiences lapse of dementia. If you get there earlier than you reservation, take a walk around and enjoy the vibe. The impressive see-through wine vault takes center stage and you can't help but admire this work of art.
Since our party got there before it officially opened, they were gracious enough to seat us at our table as we studied the menu. They started us with some bread and we could not help but comment on how the olive oil was super good. We all decided to have our very own salads. Mertz and Sandi had the Insalata di Mela; pink lady apple salad w/arugula, candied walnuts, bacon in a champagne vinaigrette. I had the Insalata di Cesare; romaine lettuce with Caesar dressing and shaved parmesan and garlic crostini. We all liked our salad, though I would have been happier if mine included some anchovies.
We did not the have the traditional Italian meal where we would have ordered a primi and secondi piatti (first and second course); something I always do when in Italy. My friends are not as big eaters as I am. Mertz ordered the Gli Agnolotti for her main entree; roasted butternut squash, ricotta agnolotti, parmesan sage with brown butter foam. Mertz announced that she is not a fan of foam. I too am not, in fact it does not look appetizing. It looks like soap suds but it seems chefs think it is the "in" thing to do. Nevertheless, it was outstanding even with the suds. Sandi and I ordered 2 pasta dishes to share. Le Fettuccine; cacio e pepe, black pepper, pecorino and the Il Fazzoletto; handkerchief pasta with jumbo lump crab, arugula pesto, chile flakes and lemon. The Cacio e Pepe was not the traditional cacio e pepe as it had a white sauce. It was very good and we did like it but not what we expected. We very much preferred the ones they serve at Il Pastaio who's owner is Giacomino Drago;brother of Celestino who owns Drago Centro. We did not enjoy the Fazzoletto as it smelled and tasted too fishy. In fact, we had a large portion as left over and they asked if we wanted to take it home and we declined and explained why not. Our server was kind enough to not charge us and informed us that he would let the chef know.
All 3 of us splurged on desserts. Instead of having 1 or 2 to share, we had 3 to share. We tried the Bomboloni; mini doughnuts with lemon cream, black currant jam with white gelato. These doughnuts were light and delicious. The second dessert was La Terrina; chocolate and olive oil terrine with salted caramel gelato, also delicious and not too sweet. The third one was the best. La Torta Al Formaggio; cheesecake tart with balsamic caramel and basil gelato. Two of us are not cheesecake fans but this was an exception, creamy and just yummy. We all raved about the basil gelato. It sounded weird but we all loved it.
The manager, Malick Gueye came by our table and we had a nice visit with him. We learned that he lived in Italy and he spoke several languages. He gave us his card and told us when we decide to go back there, he would put us in contact with people which is always a great idea as you see the country with their eyes so to speak.
Note that by the time we left, the restaurant was packed. Drago Centro is located at 525 S. Flower St. in Los Angeles.