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.
|Venue name:||Bar Primi|
|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|
|Do you own this business?|
Average User Rating
3.9 / 5
- 5 star:2
- 4 star:8
- 3 star:0
- 2 star:0
- 1 star:1
The romantic ambiance, delicious pasta selection and enjoyable craft cocktails make Bar Primi a solid option for good Italian food in a sea of options in New York. The entire menu is reasonably priced, with most pasta dishes and main courses coming in between $18-22 and cocktails falling at a standard $15ish range. The Tomato Rice Balls and Spaghetti Pomadoro are my personal favorite dishes - fresh, delicious and authentic. Cocktail-wise, go for the seasonal strawberry frozen rosé - not listed on the menu but still available - which is the definitely the standout of the summer.
Perfect for a date night, cocktails, or an evening out with a group of friends, the two-story restaurant has slightly slow service, but is a worthwhile haunt to find an enjoyable and authentic meal.
I wish I could leave no stars for this restaurant. The food is mediocre and overpriced, absolutely nothing inventive or exciting. As well they have a huge customer service issue. My card was charged the wrong amount when I ate here a week and a half ago (by about $300). I realized the mistake and immediately contacted the restaurant and was told, after a ton of back and forth with an employee, that my card would be refunded. Over a week later the money has still not been refunded to my card. I have still yet to actually speak to a manager, as every time I call the manager is "not in" or "in a meeting". The manager also has all of my contact information, so could've reached out to me directly even if he really wasn't in, or in a meeting. I asked to receive proof that my card was refunded, and was never sent this. To sum it up - there a lot of other better Italian places in New York, but if you do decide to eat here I would definitely check your statement, as this restaurant is apparently very careless with credit cards.
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.