Food Fight restaurant group’s newest venture, Cento, is expected to open in June across from the Overture Center.
Cento, pronounced “Chento,” means 100 in Italian and is a reference to the restaurant’s prominent location on the historic 100 block of State Street. The restaurant, however, will sit on the corner of North Fairchild and West Mifflin streets, kitty corner from the Central Library.
“The opening date is driven by the construction, but they are saying sometime in June,” said Caitlin Suemnicht, project manager and managing partner of the restaurant.
Suemnicht, a certified sommelier, who will have a hand in Cento’s wine list, most recently helped open DLUX and Bassett Street Brunch Club.
Food Fight’s former upscale Italian restaurant, Pasta Per Tutti, was before her time, Suemnicht said. It lasted from 1993 until 2003, when it became Luna Caffe. That survived two years before morphing into Tex Tubb’s Taco Palace.
Still, both she and Food Fight co-founder Monty Schiro consider the former restaurant a small gem, she said.
“Not everything is the right timing or the right neighborhood. Had it been Pasta Per Tutti right now in the Atwood neighborhood, I actually think it would flourish. That neighborhood wasn’t as built-up as it is nowadays,” Suemnicht said.
“Monty always loved that. His roots are Italian. He’s always wanted to do another Italian restaurant.”
The timing, location and the larger setting were factors that make Cento attractive now, Suemnicht said.
Pasta Per Tutti was tiny and more rustic, she said. “Not to say that matters in terms of success, but this is just a whole different feel than Pasta was.”
Although Cento, at almost 5,000 square feet, will have a historic shell of a building, the decor will be more modern, Suemnicht said. “It’s amazing. We’ve got the original wood floors, the original plaster beam ceilings, some exposed brick. It’s really gorgeous in there.”
Cento’s capacity is just more than 200. It will seat 85 in the main dining room and about 35 in a second dining room, with about 35 seats in the bar.
Chef and general manager Michael Pruett, who has an ownership stake in the restaurant, calls Cento’s cuisine “modern Italian.’’
“We’re taking a classic preparation, whether adding a modern cooking style or some new ingredient to it, to give it more of a modern feel,” he said.
Cento will feature house-made pastas and pizzas cooked in a wood-burning oven, said Pruett, who was previously executive chef at Steenbock’s on Orchard in the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery building.
The menu will feature steak, chicken, antipasti, and Pruett’s own charcuterie, Suemnicht said, adding that he will eventually be curing his own meats.
Cento will offer lunch and brunch in addition to dinner. Brunch items will include frittatas with marinara, Parmesan and country toast; and hazelnut-encrusted French toast.
Lunch prices will be in the area of $9 to $14, dinner pizzas in the low teens, with entrees between $20 and $30. A steak may run more than $30, Suemnicht said.
Cento will have an open kitchen “where you see all the action,” Suemnicht said. “It’s really different for us. It’s not just a glimpse into the kitchen.”
Suemnicht said that people can come in whether they’re interested in drinks and appetizers, a light meal, or a full dinner.
“What’s important to me by the Overture Center — and I learned it from Fresco — is having a really flexible menu for customers.”