Cento

Overall Rating: 7.500


Address: 360 Ritch St.
Cross Street(s): S of Brannan & W of 3rd Sts.
City, State ZIP: San Francisco, CA 94107
Neighborhood: China Basin
Phone: None
Hours: M-F 8am-3pm
Type of Establishment: Espresso Bar (Chain)
Cafe Rating: 7.00
Barista: 9
Savvy: 9
Ambiance: 2
Presentation: 8
Consistency: Consistent
Espresso Machine: La Marzocco
Coffee Rating: 8.00
Aroma: 8
Body: 8
Brightness: 8
Crema: 8
Flavor: 8
Taster's Correction: 0.0
Size: M
Primary Taste: Pungent
Coffee Beans: Blue Bottle Coffee Co.
Cup Manufacturer: Nuova Point
Price: $2.00
Last Update: 11/21/2008
First Reviewed: 06/06/2008
Notes: Kiosk; Outdoor Seating

Review
This dive café/kiosk sits at the end of an old brick building - still labelled as Uncle Vito's Pizzeria in signage and its black awning. Opening in May '08, "Cento" stands for "100" in Italian - which looks like about the monthly rent that owner John Quintos must be paying for this location. It's in an alleyway, with music playing out into the street and no seating save for a single outdoor bench that straddles a towaway parking zone (it thus qualifies among those dank and tedious conceptual-art-wannabe cafés that keep cropping up). However, there is "seating" on a loading dock platform across the street. They serve panini and other lunch items out the side window, but it's primarily about coffee here. The folks here club you over the head with the Blue Bottle Coffee branding - so much so, Cento's branding takes a back seat to it. But the staff exhibit good barista skills. While they have paper cups for the odd drink like the New Orleans iced tea, the staff claim they serve "for here"-only espresso (they get it). Using a three-group La Marzocco Linea, they pull shots with a darker brown crema that is rather thick and rich in consistency (one of the finer examples in the city in this regard when it's at its peak - which can vary). The cup is smooth and has a complex flavor of herbal notes and pungent spices. It has a bit of an odd flavor edge/aftertaste in the middle of the cup, but it runs sweet at the bottom. Served in classic brown Nuova Point cups. Unlike other recent examples of James Freeman's expansionist plans, they do the Blue Bottle beans justice here: the coffee tastes fresh and the baristas approach their drinks skillfully. Repeat visits showed a slightly weaker crema and thinner body at times, but the quality is still very good.