Iron Chef America fans know Anne Burrell as Mario Batalis sous-chef on the show. (Spotted Pig customers know her as a regular.) The question now is whether she can actually cook when not doing Super Marios bidding. Her Centro Vinoteca is opening up this week with recognizably Batalian food: plenty of pork, robust flavors, and the kind of why not aesthetic that results in, say, deep-fried gnocchi in lamb rag (theyre like tater tots, the chef says) or a poussin crusted with pancetta and rosemary paste.
The chef seems to be mirroring her mentor in attitude as well as aesthetics. Im not going to have burrata here, she tells us. Why should I? There are fourteen other places you go for burrata. Theres no prosciutto in the salumi misto either. I dont want to have the same stuff as every other Italian restaurant. Whether that position will be rewarded with Lupa-like popularity or a resounding Bronx cheer remains to be seen, but Burrell will no doubt earn some attention for her small plates of piccolini, pre-antipasti ranging from marinated anchovies to mortadella pt. And like Mario, she will surely be around to leverage her bit of fame by chatting up customers. But will she still be available to drink with at the Spotted Pig? I have to say, I live one block from the Spotted Pig, so Im not making any comments on that, she says. Spoken like a true Batali protg.
Centro Vinoteca, 74 Seventh Ave. S., nr. Barrow St.; 212-367-7470.