Photo by Maria Runarsdottir
He might be German, but Patrick Groth knows from Italian food. His father founded one of West Berlin's first Italian food wholesalers in 1967 and opened Centro Italia, a mini-chain of three big-box Italian grocery stores in Charlottenburg, Lichtenrade and Prenzlauer Berg, in 1999. Heir to the family business, Groth (who's fluent in Italian) now manages the stores and oversees their trattorias, where you'll find some of the best Italian lunches in Berlin.
What kind of food do you serve?
We're in a very special situation, because of our wholesale business. Since we only sell high-quality products, it goes without saying that we use only quality products. For example, we make our spaghetti bolognese from young bull's meat from Italy. I don't think anyone else in Berlin can say that.
The best-selling item at your restaurant?
Definitely pasta. But our menu changes daily. On Friday and Saturday we have quite a lot of fish: salmon, monkfish, swordfish. A classic is spaghetti with scampi. And our risotto is really tasty.
A dining tip (other than your own restaurant)…
I like Asian food, so Goodtime in Mitte would be one.
The food trend you hate the most?
All this bio stuff. People just trust the organic label and nothing else, without looking into the quality of the product. People don't know what a good product is anymore. While agri-business concerns can afford organic certification, there are a lot of small producers who make excellent products but who can't manage the bureaucracy and cost of getting the label. Or take wild products like porcini mushrooms. It's absurd to get them bio-certified, because they only grow in the wild. Bio doesn't mean it's automatically good.
Do any unique challenges come with having a restaurant in Berlin?
As a service business, you're very dependent on personnel, which can be difficult in Berlin – especially when you need to replace people who are on vacation or sick.