New York is a rich melting-pot of cultures and ergo a decadent melting-pot of cuisines. I, however, seem to meander in and out of a case of tunnel vision, as I am magnetically drawn to any Italian restaurant that in some way, shape, or form, categorizes itself with ‘authentic’ Italian trattoria-style cucina, more specifically, cucina Romana. I attribute this umbilical cord of sorts to my time spent in the aforementioned motherland, and I have leaned over many a bowl of pasta judging it by its al dente-ness, it’s simplicity or lack there of, and the quality (high or low) of its few but integral ingredients.
Cue warm weekday evening, negroni at the bar, waiting for my friend. I kept an eye on the pass as I waited at the bar, all the while unabashedly watching Andrew Carmellini, (AC) discussing plating with his team. I seized a quiet moment to introduce myself. I told him I had seen the photo of the giant king crab on the instagram account that day, that I was excited for him about the new space, and I asked him how it was going so far. Perhaps the executive team was expecting a special group of guests or perhaps they were simply all in attendance because it was still the first month open, but the restaurant was abuzz with Bar Primi’s partners, and I could feel the novelty of the excitement in the air.
My friend arrived and we sat down in the front part of the main room, as opposed to the large dining room upstairs which had not yet gathered a buzz. We started with a piccolo plate of mixed seafood, which was quite piccolo indeed and had more potatoes than seafood. The simple flavors were there, but at 12 dollars, I only wish there was more seafood. My friend chose the broccoli rabe which he rather enjoyed, although I cannot recall what the orange sauce was that it sat in. It had a spicy kick, and AC himself said that he was fond of it that evening.
I had been looking forward to the king crab spaghetti but had to change gears when I found out there was squid ink involved (a questionable allergy, and I’d prefer not to play with fire), so I opted for the tagliolini al pesto with pignoli. My friend ordered the ricotta ravioli with asparagus, spinach, and lemon. Both of our pastas arrived ready for their photographs, each classic renditions of seasonal favorites. The ravioli leaned hard on the lemon flavor, and my friend found it perfectly balanced between the rich ricotta and the light spring greens and bursts of lemon. If you follow my blog, you will see that I am a bit of a pesto fanatic come summertime, and I usually do not order pesto at restaurants because it is one of the only dishes that I confidently prefer prepared in my own kitchen. Restaurants tend to spice it up and thus muss it up, adding extraneous ingredients or flavors and yet still calling it ‘pesto Genovese.’ Bar Primi’s pesto was superb, and I am not just saying so because Andrew was in the building. When I complimented him on its simplicity, he agreed with my point about sticking to the basics- really good basil, really good parmigiano, really good olive oil, toasted pine nuts, etc…. no fuss no muss.
If the bruschetta of the day is burrata with anchovy- that is an absolute must. We devoured ours and could have eaten 6 more.
Per dolci, I had heard that the tiramisu was worth the cliche, however, it arrived a bit slumped and watery and the plate haphazardly overdusted with cocoa. My friend and I were quite impressed with the torta di cioccolata with buried cherries that Andrew asked us to recipe test. The torta was molto buona, and I much preferred it over the tiramisu.
The bar was two rows deep by the time we left, and it was early yet. I can tell that Bar Primi is already a ‘go-to’ for drinks, group meals, date night, friend dinners, or just the right spot to bring mom/dad/family, etc. The friendly staff, comfortable decor, and large space hits all demographics and purposes, and it is certainly a dependable place where one can go by themselves, sit at the bar, and have one or two or three ‘primi piatti.’
Categories: Restaurant Review