Centro set out to bring a uniquely urban dining experience to downtown Des Moines well before the city center enjoyed the vibrant nightlife we know today. Since its opening, the restaurant has grown to become one of the Iowa’s top restaurants.
In late 2001, developers Harry Bookey and Pamela Bass Bookey took on the challenge of restoring the historic Masonic Temple at 10th & Locust Street to its original splendor. Their goal was to create an entertainment venue that would go on to jumpstart the proposed Western Gateway area just outside of the city’s core with entertainment, fine dining and culture.
Simultaneously, a young chef named George Formaro was rising to prominence with his artisan South Union bread and its namesake deli, South Union Bread Café. Even as the lines continued to grow outside of George’s deli, he longed for a larger venue where he could broaden his culinary creativity.
Harry believed the appeal of South Union would be a great addition to a remodeled Temple project and contacted Formaro to set up a tour. As he walked through the dilapidated building, George fell in love with its high-profile location in the burgeoning Western Gateway district. The two worked together to move South Union Bread Café to The Temple. In addition, they reached out to restaurant experts Paul Rottenberg and Michael La Valle and began working on a concept to create a new, urban Italian-inspired eatery that would serve as an anchor tenant for the building. Their vision was realized in November of 2002 when Centro opened its doors to huge crowds.