Like working out and flossing, eating a good weekday lunch makes you feel like you’re on top of things. Instead, you end up eating the same salad three times a week, or whatever the rest of the office is having (even if you hate poké bowls), or you get so swamped with work you forget about it altogether. Most of the time, you’re just trying to get food into your body right this second.
But if there’s a lunch worth taking time out of your day for, it’s Cento Pasta Bar.
Cento takes over Mignon, a tiny wine bar at 6th and Los Angeles in DTLA, Wednesday through Saturday, from 11am until 3pm. The setup involves a single chef manning a couple of hot plates behind the bar (sometimes with a server on busy Saturdays), who’ll just tell you what they have available to eat today. He’ll also tell you (and the handful of other customers taking a longer than is probably acceptable lunch break) about his golf game on the weekend, ask about your job, and exclaim multiple times that he’s living the dream. It’s the kind of place you could hang out in for hours, whether solo or with a friend, drinking wine, shooting the sh*t, eating a lot of incredible pasta, and completely forgetting about your 2pm meetings.
There are generally three pastas, plus the burrata and baguette that any meal here should start with. Other than a beet spaghetti that’s always around, the dishes are essentially what the chef is in the mood to make. It might be gnocchi with a rich lamb ragu or an almond pesto, or egg-topped carbonara, or uni and lobster spaghetti. The Cento experience is extremely simple, but also special. You’re here solely to eat perfectly-cooked noodles in interesting sauces, made in front of you, by a guy who seems to really love what he does.
Cento makes lunch worth going out of the way for. When we have a day off, or want not-brunch foods at 12pm on a Saturday, or want to not be at the office, or just want an excellent bowl of pasta, we head to Cento. It’s infinitely better than ordering that same salad again.
A big warm chunk of baguette, an entire ball of burrata, and a lot of olive oil. There’s no reason not to order this every time you come here.
The only pasta that’s always on the menu. The pasta turns bright pink from the buttery beet sauce, the scattering of poppy seeds adds a nice crunch, and the dollop of goat cheese on top brings it all together. This is a must-order.
We’ve had the gnocchi here with lamb ragu on one visit, and an almond pesto on another. However it’s being served, you should get it.
In regular rotation at Cento, and a good choice even for people who say they don’t eat uni. Here, the sea urchin adds a general taste of seafood rather than overpowering the whole dish. Oh and there’s also burrata involved.