Diners are in for a treat once they step into the bold dining room of Trattoria il Centro on the bottom floor of downtown Oklahoma City’s historic Montgomery Building. The vivid tiles and eye-popping art set the scene for a dining experience that’s quite unlike other restaurants downtown.

“It’s engaging, fun and doesn’t take itself so seriously,” chef and owner Christine Dowd says of Trattoria il Centro.

With more than 15 years of culinary experience, Dowd has held prestigious positions such as Chef d’ Cuisine at Bistro 110 and executive chef of Mossant Bistro in Chicago.

Pairing with Maggie Howell, general manager for 56West and Scoozi Trattoria in Chicago, the two purchased Howell’s family business, Aunt Pittypats Catering in Oklahoma City, in 2003.

After a few catering jobs, Trattoria il Centro was born, and they’ve been in the Montgomery building six years. In addition, Howell and Dowd still find much success in Aunt Pittypats Catering.

“We’ve been cooking our hearts out,” Dowd says. “Maggie takes care of parties, planning, people, and I take care of the food. It’s a perfect business for us both.”

With a menu described by Dowd as “classic Italian,” there’s a bountiful selection of house-made pastas, oven roasted fish and meats, antipasti, risotto and desserts. As Dowd explains, “We use classical techniques, but we bring it up to date.”

To start, try the beef carpaccio, thinly sliced seared beef, capers, tomatoes, mushrooms, grilled radicchio, arugula and shaved parmesan; or the pancetta-wrapped asparagus with parmesan foam and mixed greens.

Trattoria il Centro’s best-selling entrée is the rigatoni buterra, with spicy ground Italian sausage, green peas, tomato cream, red pepper flakes and parmesan, but Dowd says her favorite dish is the ravioli di vitello, hand-made pasta, braised veal cheek, red wine sauce and seasonal mushrooms.

“It takes time to prepare,” she explains, “but it’s worth every bite.”

Another entrée favorite is the prosciutto-wrapped filet mignon, with braised oxtail, Napa cabbage and asparagus.

To finish, sample the rotating three-to-four-piece dessert platter, made in house. Don’t forget to sip a little wine as well; with Dowd’s carefully picked seasonal selection, there’s sure to be a body and style to pair with every meal at your table.

Trattoria il Centro hosts several events throughout the year, including a $25 wine dinner, which includes a three-course meal, the third Monday of each month. 500 W. Main St., Oklahoma City. www.trattoriailcentro.com

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