Often when restaurants expand they lose the ambiance and character that contributed to their success.

At centro, every addition, since the original humble little dining room, has its own unique charm.

Pat Moore dreamed of opening an Italian restaurant in Milwaukee when he met Peg Karpfinger in 2000.

The couple purchased the boarded up building that now houses centro. Pat spent years lovingly rehabbing the space; installing the front windows, building the chefs’ counter with salvaged materials, plastering and tiling the dining room, and on and on to create the humble little dining room of the original cafe. Peg drew up blueprints, crafted a business plan, and assembled a staff to help make the dream a reality.

centro opened on June 18, 2009.

An early evening in summer finds the sun shining on the southern façade of centro.

The full length windows are open, the flower boxes are in full bloom, and the sidewalk bistro tables are filled with happy diners. Neighbors walk and bike past, the screen door opens to a humble little dining room straight out of Brooklyn; dark wood, plastered walls, marble tables and countertops, and terrazzo floors. The cooks are busy behind the chefs’ counter, it smells amazing and the flames flare up and back down again. A central stairway takes you to the bar, framed by an arched window looking back to the dining room, dine here and watch the bartenders work their magic. The lounge provides a cozy, intimate dining experience. The 3-season room, surrounded by cream city brick, stucco walls, and large French windows is great for large parties. Continue on and descend a wide stone stairway to the sunken enclosed patio garden.

Depending on the season, choose from six distinct settings in which to dine. What experience would you like today?

The night centro opened, lightning hit the steeple of the nearby St. Chestajowa Church and the bells rang for hours.

Since that dramatic opening night, centro has become a beloved neighborhood gem.

The Riverwest neighborhood has been important to Pat and Peg for over 20 years as proven by their continuous investment in its healthy development and well being.

A large majority of the centro staff over the years has lived in Riverwest, often walking to work. Peg has been very involved in the local farmers’ market and the neighborhood and business associations. The restaurant has been a partner of Meta House for over a decade, providing meals for informational luncheons. Teens Gro Greens is another local non-profit that centro supports. The Riverwest Co-Op has been a food vendor throughout the 12 years of operation. Recently centro has fostered The Daily Bird as a pop up coffee shop until they were ready to open their own space down the block.