Dinner and a Show at Cafe Centro

   The elbow-to-elbow dining room at Cafe Centro is the first sign that something unexpected is about to happen.

   The evening starts out like any other: Meals and wine are ordered, and guests eat and talk above the noise of surrounding conversation and clinking silverware.

   Suddenly, angel hair mid-twirl on the fork, the room darkens. Colored lights swirl on the walls, and in walks a man in a sequined jacket holding a microphone and belting out an Italian song that everyone in the restaurant seems to know the words to.

   Ray Chang’s (right) performance takes off from there. He plays a keyboard, walks around the intimate space, playfully flirts with guests and creates an energetic, familial atmosphere as the room loudly sings New York, New York in unison (in between delicious bites of gourmet Italian food).

   Chang has been entertaining at the Northwood Village restaurant for the past three years. He starts each performance with the same five tunes, then reads the audience to select from his repertoire of 300-500 songs, from rock ballads to Frank Sinatra and Louis Prima—all of which he learned “with no formal training whatsoever,” he says.

   The staff members at Cafe Centro “give me carte blanche freedom to express myself,” he says, and Chang takes full advantage of it: He stands atop the bar, swings the lights and tosses napkins in the air. Using a cordless mic allows him to continue singing as he dances with a patron just outside the restaurant—or even drive off (and return) in a stranger’s car, all for entertainment. Each night, he says, “is an experience of its own.”

   Chang, who has performed at the Kravis Center, draws crowds to Cafe Centro for his Thursday, Friday and Saturday shows. If today’s Monday, reserve your table now. (561-514-4070)

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