Just a hop, skip and a jump down Tower Avenue in Centralia is Boccata Restaurant – a restaurant designed to serve customers quickly for lunch but also allow dinner guests dine at their leisure. The man behind bringing many Mediterranean flavors to Centralia is Chef Darin Harris.
Darin’s inspiration was sparked after having creative license with menus at other restaurants. “I had worked in restaurants for 16-plus years. I was ready to work for myself and control my own menu,” Darin shares.
Boccata opened in July 2004. In the beginning Darin thought of opening a small Italian restaurant with few tables. But when he found the building that currently houses Boccata, he altered the concept to offer a sit-down, fast lunch service. Darin shares, “It’s good food served fast.” Over time Boccata has changed slightly, but one thing remains the same—good food with great atmosphere.
“There wasn’t much variety for restaurants in the area before I opened. I’ve been able to help educate this community on a different type of cuisine,” Darin explains. “Boccata is a place where people can get good quality food made from slightly unusual ingredients.”
Boccata serves what Darin classifies as Mediterranean inspired cuisine. Boccata’s menu uses inspiration from many of the Mediterranean countries including Italy, Greece, Spain, and others as well. “More often than not I lean toward saying the food at Boccata is Mediterranean inspired because we incorporate flavors from all across the Mediterranean.”
Darin explains, “The Mediterranean is a region of many countries. We’ve been able to use different spices and cooking techniques to create dishes representing different cuisines.” Knowing that you’re going to get something tasty, and perhaps a touch mysterious, is a large part of the charm and the draw to Boccata. “I want to serve food that is relatively authentic,” he adds.
Another part of what makes Boccata unique is its twin dynamic—that is a fast, order at the counter sandwich restaurant at lunch time and a sit-down dinner restaurant in the evening. “You can come in at lunch and we can have your food out to you in 7 – 12 minutes. Our dinner is a fine dining experience in a more casual setting,” explains Darin.
Family is another core value for Darin. Part of the dream of owning his own restaurant was to be able to include his family in the venture. “I wanted to create a space where my kids could learn alongside me and work in a public environment.”
The atmosphere at Boccata is most definitely welcoming, friendly, warm and exudes family. Darin shares, “From the beginning I’ve wanted people to feel comfortable. I’ve always pushed to be a part of the restaurant, to be a familiar face for customers, to help them feel as if they’ve come into my home.”
Customers sometimes enter as strangers but often leave as friends. Darin shares, “I have a lot of customers who have become friends. Some I’ve known and others I have come to know.”
Additionally, Darin values giving back to the community through several local charities, including Chef’s Night Out—a fundraiser for United Way of Lewis County. Chef’s Night Out is a live auction and a tasting competition featuring food from local chefs, as Darin says, “It’s one of my favorite events of the year.”
Other charities that Darin support include The Historic Fox Theatre and The Evergreen Playhouse. “I wanted to create a business that also allowed me to give back to the community with my time and resources,” he shares.
“I feel vested in the community and that we have helped to build a lot of goodwill in the Centralia area,” Darin says. “The community here has snuck a lot of goodwill into me as well. As I’ve learned how to develop goodwill in the community it has become a two-way street.”
Boccata is where you can taste the foods of the Mediterranean and feel like you’ve stepped in to have a meal with family. And after twelve successful years and counting, Darin shares, “I like what I do and I like doing it in Centralia and Lewis County.”
405 N Tower Ave in Centralia