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Josef Centeno dishes on his classic American makeover of Pete's Cafe downtown

Baco Mercat's Josef Centeno dishes on his latest downtown venture at Pete's Cafe next door

Josef Centeno plans on doing his take on American classic cuisine as a new partner and the executive chef at Pete's Cafe in downtown. The restaurant will be his fourth venture in the Old Bank District with the existing Baco Mercat next door, and Bar Ama and Orsa & Winston around the corner on 4th Street. 

Since the restaurant has been a fixture in the neighborhood since it opened in 2002, Centeno says the name will remain Pete's.

"When Peter McLaughlin (owner of Pete's Cafe) approached me about taking over the reins of what is a downtown institution as a partner, I paused for a second, took a deep breath and said, 'Yes,'" Centeno told The Times.  

Centeno will give the interior and exterior a complete overhaul along with a brand-new menu, drawing inspiration from his first cookbook, James Beard's "American Cookery." 

"I wanted to do my version of classic American dishes, much of which is rooted in early 20th century cuisine, which also fits in with the history on this block," said Centeno. "But Beard also lived in and was influenced by France, so there is a touch of that too."

Some of the dishes on the menu include a club sandwich, ambrosia salad, clam chowder, chilled prime rib with potato salad and sand dabs with caper brown butter. 

"I think that they’re dishes that most everyone loves but maybe take for granted because they have become so common," said Centeno. 

Other menu items in the works include crab cakes, crab legs with remoulade, lobster Newburg, cucumber salad, Waldorf salad, coquille St-Jacques, double pork chop smothered with mushroom and caramelized onion cream sauce and more. For dessert, apple-gooseberry pie, orange baked Alaska, chocolate cake and lemon meringue pie. 

Pete's announced on its Facebook page that it will close Monday for renovations and will reopen sometime in October. The new Pete's will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily and feature a full bar. 

"I am excited," said Centeno. "This is really going to round out the block and be a lot of fun." 

400 S. Main St., Los Angeles, (213) 687-7015, www.petesla.com.

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