THE HEART OF ITALIAN FINE DINING IN DOWNTOWN LA
From lauded Italian Chef Celestino Drago, a staple of the Los Angeles culinary landscape (in fact, the brothers Drago, four heralded chefs, have owned and operated some the of the city’s best and most popular Italian restaurants) is some of the finest Italian cuisine to be found anywhere in the Southland, including his Drago Centro in Downtown L.A.
Originally hailing from Sicily, Celestino Drago has been a fixture of local fine dining since he arrived in Los Angeles in 1979. His first restaurant was Celestino in Beverly Hills; Celestino in Pasadena is now owned by his brother Calogero Drago. Celestino Drago currently owns and operates Drago Bakery in Culver City, Drago Air, which provides catering services to some of the top airlines, Enoteca Drago and Il Pastaio Ristorante, both in Beverly Hills, and Drago Centro.
At Drago Centro, the menu features local Italian dishes, which are revisited with the aid of modern techniques and reflect the traditions that have defined Italian cuisine for centuries. Walk into the lovely and refined restaurant and you’re immediately impressed by the design and setting, which incorporates the rich experience of Celestino’s Italia into the modern urban setting of Downtown Los Angeles.
With the aid of Chef de Cucina Ian Gresik, dining at Drago Centro is not just a meal; it’s an experience that delights the senses. During our recent visit for dinner, we started with the Il Baccala, think Caprese with Italian salt cod, and we also let the sommelier pair our selections with the wine of his choice, and let me tell you, his recommendations were spot on and only elevated the magical meal.
Next we feasted on a lovely Pasta Trio, smaller yet still savory selections of Butternut Squash (Gli Agnolotti, butternut squash Agnolotti, ricotta, crispy kale, brown butter); Squid Ink (I Tagliolini, tagliolini, diver scallop, sea urchin cream, squid ink, green onion); and Pork Sausage (I Garganelli, garganelli, pork sausage, parmesan, fennel seeds).
The Butternut Squash pasta was divine; the Squid Ink so flavorful; and the hearty Pork Sausage pasta was a favorite.
Moving onto heartier fare, the Osso Buco—braised osso bucco, rapini, whole grain mustard vinaigrette with Vigne Del Malina—was a selection of Chef Ian Gresik and it was so tender and so succulent, and paired to perfection with the Cabernet Franc, Venezia-Giulia, 2009. We so many delicious dishes to choose from this is an item that always catches my eye and I was so happy to were able to indulge this night.
Dessert was not overtly decadent as the Salted Caramel Gelato, chocolate and olive oil terrine, with a very nice Moscato was the perfect way to cap a wonderful night out. In fact, the dessert somewhat seemed to encapsulate what dining at Drago Centro is all about—wonderful to the taste, not overwhelming as much as it delights and thoroughly satiates.
With so many exciting choices to choose from in town, it’s comforting to go somewhere where tradition and technique are valued over flashiness and “hot spot of the moment” attitude. You know Celestino Drago will be doing the same stellar and unparalleled cuisine for years to come, and likewise, Drago Centro is the place to go to for a relaxing, albeit indulgent, killer meal you can count on.
Drago Centro is located at 525 S Flower Street. Hours: Lunch Mon-Fri: 11:30am to 2:30pm; Dinner Mon-Sun: 5pm to 10pm; Happy Hour at the bar: 11am to close. Call (213) 228-8998.
By: Jose Martinez.