Here's an Early Taste of Bar Primi
New York's Italian-American culinary heritage runs deep, and on Monday, Andrew Carmellini and Sal Lamboglia, along with partners Luke Ostrom and Josh Pickard, threw their experienced Borsalinos into the saucy ring with Bar Primi (325 Bowery, 212-220-9100). The bi-level space, formerly home to Peels, was renovated by previous tenant Taavo Somer (of Freemans, Isa, and the aforementioned Peels -- he also owns a design collective). The downstairs dining room has been expanded to incorporate more seating, although the communal table reserved for walk-ins runs right up against the host station, which makes for a tight squeeze. Service is running smoothly save for a slip-up the night before I was able to dine, when a hostess had given me the wrong information about closing times and I showed up after the kitchen had closed. Still, it's week one -- worth noting but excusable.
Photos by Zachary Feldman
This modern take on Italian-American cuisine comes courtesy of Mr. Lamboglia, a native of Bensonhurst born into a New York restaurant family. Given the names involved, it's no surprise that the place feels polished and contemporary. It smartly fits right between Parm/Rubirosa and Carbone amidst the city's revivalist, nouveau Italian-American dining establishments. Torrisi and Carbone are, of course, both former Carmellini soldiers. The deliberate use of logo-printed paper napkins is notable as well, given the overall splashy vibe.
The communal table is strewn with terracotta plants.
The focus here is fresh pasta, but because of that, it's another small plates, "sharing encouraged" restaurant. What would be considered main courses are relegated to a rotating menu of daily specials, including veal tails with polenta, and a mid-week special that's a nod to Carmellini's Sausage Boss stall at Madison Square Garden, which Lamboglia helped open.
The menu is split into four main categories, two devoted to small plates that are basically the same size, but are meant to be conceptually different. From the piccolini section, this barge of spot-on grilled asparagus ($10) comes coated in a zippy vinaigrette. Crunchy gremolata breadcrumbs balance out a hardboiled egg for a nice springtime composition that's more greenmarket than Italian.