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End of Trattoria il Centro sure to be a new beginning for owners

by Dave Cathey Modified: March 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm •  Published: March 28, 2012

The curtain comes down an outstanding run by Maggie Howell and chef Christine Dowd as proprietors of Trattoria il Centro 500 W Main St., this weekend.

The chaos created by two years of ongoing downtown construction must've felt like two decades in restaurant time.

While Trattoria will be missed, Howell and Dowd will continue with Aunt Pittypat's Catering, which is one of the market's most respected providers. Chef Dowd also told me she and Howell have some ideas for new concepts in the future.

Unfortunately, the long-term promise of developments like Devon tower and Project 180 often claim victims along the way. Let's be clear: downtown will thrive in the aftermath of this work. Trattoria il Centro was the classic victim of circumstance.

I also believe wholeheartedly closing the doors to Trattoria il Centro will lead them to a path of greater success. Chef Dowd is one of the market's most talented chefs. Don't believe me? Ask any chef who's ever worked with her and they'll back up the opinion.

The flash-fried breadcrumb battered poached egg she prepared for a couple hundred folks in Tulsa last summer at Odyssey de Culinaire was the talk of the event. I heard at least three different chefs announce it would be a special on their menus afterward.

Howell and Dowd bring energy and leadership to everything they do, and those are qualities you don't learn in books or in cotillion. You haven't heard the last of this dynamic duo. Here's hoping their next adventure begins sooner rather than later and the story it tells is as dynamic as the one they leave behind on the ground floor of the Montgomery Building.

Trattoria il Centro closes on Saturday for good, so be sure to get in and get your last fix of Dowd's eclectic turns on classic Italian fare.

New Chuy's to open

Word out of Norman is the new Chuy's Mexican Food Restaurant will open before summer. Don't be surprised if you can get yourself into a Texas Martini and a Chuy's Special before Memorial Day.

How will this Juanny come lately Tex-Mex operation from Austin stack up against Okie-Mex? The answer will be swift. The Norman Chuy's is opening next door to one of this market's most successful Okie-Mex chains, Ted's Cafe Escondido, on the west side of the Interstate 35 access road, just north of the Main Street exit.

While I was born and reared on Chuy's Tex-Mex, this isn't a mismatch. The Hal Smith Restaurant Group has more restaurants in more states than Chuy's. That didn't happen accidentally.

And then there's the free queso to consider. North of the Red River, patrons expect queso to be a freebie with their chips and salsa. That's not the case in Texas.

On the other hand, one Texas Martini and you'll happily buy that queso. Two Texas Martinis, and you might buy a round of queso for every table within view.

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by Dave Cathey
Food Editor
The Oklahoman's food editor, Dave Cathey, keeps his eye on culinary arts and serves up news and reviews from Oklahoma’s booming food scene.
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