Owner Mark Baruffi said the restaurant would not be possible if it weren’t for the grant program offered through the Cedar City Redevelopment Agency. The RDA collects rent money from the Lin’s Marketplace building, which the city owns, and is designed to reinvest that money back into the downtown area.
Baruffi started renovating the restaurant’s space, on University Boulevard (Center Street) near the Pastry Pub, with the intention of possibly opening a retail business. However, when he discovered some drains in the floor and an available grease trap behind the building, he had the idea for Centro.
The costs of making the space restaurant-ready, however, were prohibitive. Wheelchair access would be required, and the renovations necessary were not in the budget. However, the city stepped up and Baruffi received a tenant improvement grant through the Redevelopment Agency, making the pizzeria possible.
The RDA funding for the business incentives has all been used, and the city council will soon make a decision whether to leave the programs in place as they are and grant more funding. There have been sentiments expressed by members of the council indicating they are not in favor of the programs as they stand.
Baruffi said he hopes they will continue the incentives, to give more entrepreneurs an opportunity to bring something nice to Cedar City and help current business owners enhance their buildings’ appearance and functionality.
The decision to make the space into a woodfired pizzeria was made about a year ago, and Baruffi went to work researching similar restaurants around the country, applying for a beer and wine license, and fine-tuning everything about his business.
He said he visited a restaurant in Boston, some in Northern California, and the famous Pizzeria Bianco in Phoenix.
The pizza oven he purchased from a company in Northern California was manufactured in Naples, Italy, and assembly was finished in the United States. It arrived in Cedar City fully assembled and weighing 4,000 pounds. It had to be forklifted through the front window and framed around.
The ambience of the restaurant was important to Baruffi. He wanted it to look a little vintage and a little industrial, with a classic Mediterranean/Italian white marble countertop. Rustic aspects came along as they went, like the exposed brick wall on the east side and the partial wall made of wood pallets that sports old black and white photos of Cedar City.
Quality ingredients were a major focus for him, and while some items were out of reach, like cheeses that cost $40 per pound, he feels confident in the menu he has put together. Their offerings are simple, with six customizable pizzas, three salads, two desserts, bruschetta and rustic bread.
Many of their ingredients are not available at many other restaurants in Cedar City, like prosciutto, Kalamata olives, arugula, and spicy Sopressata Salami. They offer four different kinds of mozzarella, in addition to fontina, fresh goat cheese, ricotta and creme fraiche.
Baruffi said many locals have never tried some of the items on their menu, so it is a fun, educational experience. They have seen a wide variety of customers from all sectors of the community, he added, which has been enjoyable.
Baruffi has had a great partner in getting the restaurant up and going and continually making improvements in his manager Jim Twitchell.
“He’s been invaluable,” Baruffi said.
Twitchell has put a lot of sweat equity into the restaurant alongside Baruffi and brings experience from working at some successful local restaurants.
Baruffi said he hopes to see other businesses and entrepreneurs able to improve their existing spaces and offerings or bring in new, fun options for the community.
“I hope more good things come of this,” he said.