At first glance, Centro Cucina appears to be a straightforward, shopping-center spot for pizzas, pastas and panini. Look again.

Opposite the tables is a counter devoted to seafood, whole finfish to shellfish. Consider it an invitation to dinner, one you could happily enjoy every week. The brick oven is very active here, but so's the grill. And the result is consistently very good, sometimes better - for lunch, for dinner, for takeout.

Centro Cucina is a hardworking eatery, bustling in the evening and pretty busy midday, too. It's a casual, unpretentious cafe, decorated minimally and defined by attentive service, which ensures that the tight tables turn over on time. Most waits are short.


THE BEST

First, those pizzas. They're excellent pies, from crust to toppings. Favorites: the creamy four-cheese number, with Gorgonzola, fontina, mozzarella and Pecorino Romano; the "bisacquino," capped with fried eggplant, ricotta salata, tomato sauce and basil; and the "bellezza," with olive oil, mozzarella and pesto that even in autumn evokes summer. Next, panini. Centro Cucina's are husky and prepared on tasty breads. The Piacenza brings together sopressata, arugula, tomato and Asiago cheese; the Sciacca, marinated and grilled chicken, broccoli rabe, olive oil and smoked mozzarella. The kitchen sends out a lively pear-and-pecorino salad and a good Greek. And try the rigatoni with eggplant, tomatoes, basil and ricotta salata. Follow any of these with the fine, smoky grilled red snapper or the delicate orata, a gilthead sea bream. There's also first-rate lobster fra diavolo, tender and fired-up, atop spaghetti. The landlocked can pick chicken breast five ways, a rack of lamb or veal Milanese. Have biscotti with your espresso.

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THE REST

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Tiger shrimp are huge, but pricey and overcooked. Standard clams oreganata, fried calamari, stuffed eggplant. A dull version of mozzarella in carrozza. Routine cannoli and cheesecake, better tiramisu.


THE BOTTOM LINE

All the major food groups.