If you want family-style Italian comfort food of good value in a charming, rustic atmosphere, I have an Oakland restaurant for you. If you want a hipster vibe with lines, loud acoustics and regional Roman specialties, well, you might have to wait a few more weeks.

Centouno opened in December in the historic 1909 building at the corner of Broadway and the Embarcadero in Jack London Square. On two weekday visits, we found the pastas, salads and sides to be the stars, not to mention the prompt service and homey-yet-stylish interior, with its handmade barn wood tables and wheel-wagon light fixtures. But the restaurant was very quiet, and a few entrees lacked luster. I'm hopeful those two things change by month's end, as owner Fabio Dalle Vacche installs an imported Neapolitan pizza oven and brings on a new executive chef, Paolo Merli.

The spaghetti carbonara dish is seen at Centouno restaurant in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Owner Fabio Dalle Vacche, of Parma, Italy,
The spaghetti carbonara dish is seen at Centouno restaurant in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Owner Fabio Dalle Vacche, of Parma, Italy, opened the Jack London Square Italian restaurant in December after he and his partners closed the doors of their Old Oakland restaurant, Borgo Italia. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) ( JANE TYSKA )

You might remember Vacche as one of three masterminds behind Borgo Italia, a refined Italian trattoria in Old Oakland that shuttered last summer. When the trio disbanded, Vacche and his mom, Luigina, hit the pavement to find another space in which to showcase her recipes -- mother and son hail from Parma in Emilia-Romagna, where Luigina is a successful chef and restaurateur -- and within a few months, their new taverna was open.

Let's start with the pastas -- we loved them. The carbonara ($16) was just delicious, a heap of spaghetti coated with egg, pecorino, black pepper and bits of salty guanciale. Gnocchi al pesto ($17) was also delightful -- a generous bowl of hot, handmade, pillowy, potato gnocchi with sprightly pesto Genovese and loads of freshly ground Parmigiano. There are five more, including a tagliatelle alla Bolognese ($16) that we'll be back to try.

I'm not sure about the entrees. Breaded chicken breast with lemon (cotoletta impanata, $15) and grilled New York steak with balsamic (bistecca al balsamico, $23) didn't inspire drools, so we went with the Milanese specialty, osso buco ($24). When done right, the drippy, crosscut veal shanks braised with white wine and vegetables have brought me to tears, but this one was too fatty and lacked presentation (no traditional gremolata garnish or accompanying risotto alla Milanese).

Fortunately, we really enjoyed the big salads. Insalata rucola ($12), for instance, was beautifully simple, with the freshest heap of nutty arugula topped with a few grape tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon, drizzle of grassy olive oil and a few shards of Parmigiano. They split it into three plates without us having to ask.

The sides were tasty, too, and in hindsight, I realize something like the cipollata al vino ($7, onion stew with red wine sauce) or funghi trifolati (white mushrooms with garlic, $8) could have added flavor and moisture to my saltimbocca ($14). Saltimbocca are medallions of chicken or veal topped with prosciutto and sage and typically marinated in white wine. These were actually breast tenders served on a bed of sauteed onions and red bell peppers. A piece of prosciutto and sage leaf dressed each piece, but I found the chicken dry and lacking flavor.

Owner Fabio Dalle Vacche is photographed at Centouno in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Dalle Vacche, of Parma, Italy, opened the Jack London
Owner Fabio Dalle Vacche is photographed at Centouno in Oakland, Calif., on Wednesday, June 4, 2014. Dalle Vacche, of Parma, Italy, opened the Jack London Square Italian restaurant in December after he and his partners closed the doors of their Old Oakland restaurant, Borgo Italia. (Jane Tyska/Bay Area News Group) ( JANE TYSKA )

Desserts (all $9) were the delightful opposite. From the refreshing sorbetto al limone to the cream-filled profiteroles slathered in chocolate mousse, they were simple and satisfying finales. In the end, I think what's important to remember is that Vacche isn't billing Centouno as high-end or regional. In fact, the menu purposefully weaves all over the country. But, when Merli, the new chef, settles in and starts adding specialties from his native Rome (not to mention those blistery, wood-fired pizzas, a must-have for any menu these days, Italian or not), the dining room may soon be a lot busier.

Follow Jessica Yadegaran at Twitter/swirlgirl_jy.

centouno

" * * ½

WHERE: 101 Broadway, Oakland
CONTACT:
510-433-5030;
www.centouno101.com
HOURS: Noon-3 p.m. and 5:30-11 p.m. Tuesdays-Fridays; 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Saturdays; until 9:30 p.m. Sundays
CUISINE: Italian
PRICES: $$$
VEGETARIAN: Several options, including pesto gnocchi, risotto, deep-fried breaded eggplant and onion stew
BEVERAGES: Affordable, focused Italian wine list
RESERVATIONS: Recommended on weekends
NOISE LEVEL: Quiet on our visits
PARKING: Street
parking
KIDS: Kids will enjoy the breaded chicken breast or tagliatelle alla Bolognese.
PLUSES: Great pastas and salads, affordable prices
MINUSES: A few entrees fell below expectations.
DATE OPENED:
December 2013

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Price code

$ Most entrees under $10
$$ Under $20
$$$ Under $30
$$$$ Under $40