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Dining review: Centro Pizzeria fires up Cedar City dining

Published August 28, 2013 1:01 am

Dining out • Hand-made crust, gourmet toppings and edgy décor.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Cedar City • One of Utah's best thin-crust, woodfired pizzerias can be found in Cedar City.

It's a bold claim with Settebello in Salt Lake City and Pizzeria 712 in Provo offering knockout versions of this Italian favorite. But Centro Woodfired Pizzeria delivers on all fronts with hand-stretched crust, gourmet toppings, spot-on service and edgy décor

Centro recently celebrated its first anniversary by expanding into some adjoining space, allowing for more high-top tables and booth seating. Visitors to this restaurant on Center Street enjoy an interior with rough-hewn wood, exposed bulbs and a hip vibe.

Originally from Las Vegas, owner Mark Baruffi had some specific goals when developing Centro.

"I felt Cedar needed something upscale yet casual," he said. However, "being my first restaurant, I wanted a simple menu."

After doing the numbers for the small space, which started with only 14 tables, Baruffi also knew his restaurant had to be fast. Simple, artisan pizza can definitely feel upscale and it can cook in under two minutes in a woodfired oven, he said. So a "woodfired pizzeria it is."

The dough for Centro's crust is made using fermented flour, water, yeast and salt. It is hand-stretched into 12-inch round pies by pizzaiolo (pizza makers) and then topped and cooked in an oven imported from Naples, Italy, at a temperature near 800 degrees. Pizzas are delivered with the perfect char — often called leopard spots — for a flavor you can't get from anything but a woodfired oven.

Visitors are greeted by proficient servers, who will ask if you have dined there before. A "no" will elicit a good explanation of how to order: Build your own custom pizza or choose from one of six precrafted options plus daily specials. Diners can mix and match any combination of pizzas into a half-and-half order, providing three slices of each choice.

We started with a half-and-half order of the margherita ($10) and the fennel sausage ($13) to which we added roasted mushrooms. The margherita — the classic Italian specialty by which I judge all woodfired pizza — was a good representation with the proper amount of fresh basil and fior di latte mozzarella. However, it was overshadowed by the spicy housemade fennel sausage, smoky mozzarella, earthy mushrooms and hand-crushed sauce that tasted as if the tomatoes came off the vine that day.

The Sopressata ($13), Centro's version of a pepperoni pizza, is topped with Creminelli's spicy Sopressata salami, aged mozzarella, Parmigiano-Reggiano and Centro's signature sauce. The latter is made with a strain of Italian San Marzano plum tomatoes grown in California and seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper. A snappier pepperoni pizza couldn't be imagined.

One common weekend special is the fig and prosciutto ($15) featuring locally grown figs from Toquerville, Utah, along with prosciutto, fontina and goat cheese. The combination of sweet figs, creamy cheese and salty meat made this a surprisingly light delight that, if figs grew well in Utah year-round, would do exceedingly well on the regular menu.

To supplement the pizzas, Centro offers salads, bruschetta and desserts. We longingly eyed the bruschetta ($5) overflowing with plum tomatoes and drizzled with aged balsamic. But given the phenomenal quality of the pizza tomato sauce, we were disappointed that the tomatoes on this appetizer were not flavorful or ripe.

Our appetites might have been better satiated with one of the attractively presented salads served family-style. Arugula salad ($9) with thin-sliced prosciutto and shaved Parmesan and the summer salad ($8) with dried apricots and goat cheese crumbles persuaded me to order greens the next time I visit.

Just two desserts grace Centro's succinct menu: gelato ($5) and Nutella piegato, ($8) a type of calzone filled with the hazelnut spread, whipped cream and chocolate. Gelato flavors ranged from vanilla with olive oil, sea salt and balsamic reduction to creamy salted caramel topped with more sweet caramel.

For libations, Centro offers a respectable variety of Utah beers from Uinta, Squatters and Wasatch as well as some other domestic selections and a few from Italy. The wine selections hail from Italy and California. But there are two offerings from Cedar City's Iron Gate Winery: a Riesling, which paired nicely with the fig and prosciutto; and The Tempest, a blend of four reds. All wines are $6 by the glass, with bottles ranging from $19 to $28. Recommended beer and wine selections are listed with each pizza on the menu, and the knowledgeable servers also can assist.

Although Centro seeks to source ingredients locally and regionally, it also tries to offer high-quality Italian items when warranted. That can be an effort when there's no gourmet shop such as Caputo Deli or Harmons Grocery Store to run to when, for example, prosciutto runs low.

Centro has managed to find the right balance between quality and affordability that, given the packed tables, appears to be keeping locals happy and visitors pleasantly surprised.

For three decades I've been a regular visitor to Cedar City, and not once have I happened upon a restaurant that warranted a second visit. Which is why Centro Woodfired Pizzeria was a delight. It's a gem I'll seek out again when vacationing in southern Utah.

features@sltrib.com

HHH

Centro Woodfired Pizzeria

Food • HHHH

Mood • HHH

Service • HHH

Noise • bb

Thin-crust, woodfired pizzas rivaling any in Utah are delivered in a sophisticated environment just blocks from the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City.

Location • 50 W. Center St., Cedar City; 435-867-8123

Online • http://www.facebook.com/CentroPizzeria

Hours • Open Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Closed Sunday

Children's menu • No

Prices • $-$$

Liquor • Yes

Corkage • $10

Reservations • No. Guests can call ahead and be added to a waiting list. You'll be alerted to your place in line via smartphone.

Takeout • Yes

Wheelchair access • Yes

Outdoor dining • Yes

On-site parking • Yes

Credit cards • All major