Bar Primi

  • Restaurants
  • Dinner
1 Love It
Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Buccatini at Bar Primi

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Spinach cavatelli at Bar Primi

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Lamb chops at Bar Primi

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Stuffed meatballs at Bar Primi

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Linguini at Bar Primi

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Orecchiette at Bar Primi


Roast beef sandwich at Bar Primi

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Broccolini at Bar Primi

Photograph: Cayla Zahoran

Bar Primi


Bar Primi

East Village
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There are many sides to Andrew Carmellini—there’s the Cleveland-bred, all-American boy who chicken-fried quail at comfort-food clubhouse the Dutch, and the globe-trotting gastronome who pulled from French foothills past traveled for his bistro blockbuster Lafayette. But Italian cuisine has always been the restaurateur-chef’s sweet spot, cultivated as a 14-year-old boiling pasta at the local Italian joint back in Ohio, an itch he scratched with the rustic plates at A Voce and Locanda Verde.

Carmellini’s latest venture, a two-story pasta emporium in the former Peels space, was trademarked seven years ago, but the project was put on pause when the hype-storm that was Locanda debuted—and the wait may just be a saving grace. In the years between, Gotham’s Italian eating has become a parade of oversize gimmickry, all wingspan menus, pizza-size parmigiana and booming Sinatra. Instead of jumping on the bigger-is-better bandwagon, Carmellini, along with fellow chef Sal Lamboglia, doesn’t just go small—he goes primi.

Piccolini, antipasti and house-made pastas (ruffled-bell campanelle, half-moon mezzaluna) all share menu real estate, with one notable exclusion: entrées. Meaty mains are regulated to nightly specials only, like the succulent Thursday night lamb chops ($29), instead spotlighting that feast-starting first act, primi piatti.

And rightly so. Fork prongs battle over shared bowls of tender orecchiette ($16), turned creamy from the welcome addition of chickpeas to broccoli rabe and fennely sausage, and country-green spinach cavatelli ($17), a wine-rich veal bianco sauce clinging lustily to the pasta’s seal. A tangle of linguine ($14), sucker-punched with heady four-clove garlic and finished with crispy bread crumbs, is so heart-stoppingly good that if someone doesn’t want to snog you after, reconsider the relationship.

Smaller plates are more hit-or-miss—though cloaked in a tangy, toothsome sugo, the fontina-stuffed meatballs ($12) suffer from a devastatingly watery center—but are vital to fill out the entrée-less spread; plus ordering a cavalcade of dishes puts a smile on your flanneled server’s face to rival your are-you-sure-you’re-not-hungry nonna.

Those plaid shirts are no accident: Waitstaff, dressed like L-train lieutenants, bustle around a space that owes as much to south Brooklyn as it does southern Italy, with communal tables screaming both farmhouse-chic and family-style. With its off-duty PR-girl clientele, the pasta shop dips a toe in splashy Italian, but Carmellini’s smart enough not to wade into the deep end.—Christina Izzo

Venue name: Bar Primi
Address: 325 Bowery
New York
Cross street: at 2nd St
Opening hours: Mon-Wed 11:30am–3pm, 5:30-11pm; Thu, Fri 11:30am–3pm, 5:30pm–midnight; Sat 10am–3pm, 5:30pm–midnight; Sun 10am–3pm, 5:30pm–11pm
Transport: Subway: 6 to Bleecker St
Price: Average entrée: $16. AmEx, DC, MC, V

Average User Rating

4.5 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:1
  • 4 star:1
  • 3 star:0
  • 2 star:0
  • 1 star:0
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Amy Cavanaugh

The pastas at sleek newcomer Bar Primi are exceptional, particularly the linguine, packed with garlic and breadcrumbs, and the kind of pasta dish you dream about all the time, and the spaghetti and clams, deepened and spiced with a hit of ‘nduja. The two-level space definitely gets crowded, so a reservation is a good idea—though you can always while away time with the suits at the bar downstairs. Pasta is the thing here, though you can round out your meal with salads and small plates, though they don’t reach quite the same level as the masterful noodles in each dish.

Madeline N

There are so many great Italian restaurants in New York, but Bar Primi is definitely my favorite. They have a wide range of choices both in food and cocktails are extensive and surprisingly cheap for how good everything is. They don't take reservations for parties under five but the last time I ate there the manager came to our table and after telling him the restaurant was one of my favorite restaurants he gave us his direct number to call if we ever had to wait too long to get a table. My personal favorites are the Sicilian Tomato Rice Balls, Spaghetti Pomadoro, and for a refreshing summer drink I love the Italian Iced Tea.