classy italian

by erin thursby
Italian is my first love, but I’ve neglected her in favor of trendy fusion food. Today, I remembered why I love Italian food. Primi Piatti awoke my slumbering love with their homemade marinara and tender veal. But I’m jumping ahead to the main course.
The atmosphere of Primi Piatti feels very Tuscan. A warm suffused golden color dominates the dining room, with tasteful accent colors to keep things interesting. Several chandeliers dangle from the ceiling. Though the chandeliers all have the same sort of tone to them, they actually don’t match and so are much more interesting than if they did. This choice is echoed in the collection of mirrors on all the walls, which reflect upon each other for an infinity effect, all frames in the same sort of antique gold color. But they also vary in type. Each is different but blends stylistically. Instead of flowers, each table is graced with what looks like an ornate banister knob. The atmosphere welcomes with elegance.
First came the soup, the special of the day, she-crab soup. My waiter proclaimed it “heaven in a bowl” and told me stories about customers who found it better than the yacht club’s version. Eating it, I believed every word he said. Since he was the bearer of the soup, I would have believed a story about his recent climb of Mt. Everest, while blindfolded, with nothing but the soup to sustain him. Except for a few tiny pieces of crab cartilage, it was honestly that good.
There seem to be a lot of culinary secrets swirled into this soup, but one of them is most certainly the miniscule pieces of carrots, cut so small that it’s difficult to identify them. They add to the texture of the crab-heavy soup and impart certain mysterious sweetness that winds in and out of the creamy base. While they don’t serve the soup every day, it is often the soup of the day. The soup of the day is a mere $6.50 and is served in generous portions.
Next, I dove into the Prince Edward Island Mussels appetizer. They come in your choice of marinara or a garlic butter white wine broth. The mussels were exquisite and had soaked up the surrounding flavors like tasty little sponges. I had the white wine sauce, mainly because I was going to have a red sauce in the main course.
Other appetizers include their fried mozzarella sticks for $7 and the calamari served with a white truffle marinara at $10.
I didn’t have room to sample any of their salads, which include a mozzarella caprese, classic Caesar and spinach salad, with red onions, almonds and a creamy gorgonzola dressing. They grace their house salad with sun dried tomatoes, pinenuts, Parmesan cheese and a lemon basil dressing. Large size house salads go for $8, small goes for $4.
Pasta entrées range from about $13-22, with one entrée at $25. The majority hit the $16 mark. The veal parmesan was exceptional. Thin and tender, savory and satisfying, the portion was large enough that it served for two more light meals afterwards. If I close my eyes I can still smell the fragrant fresh basil, interlaced with the smell of the marinara.
Desserts rotate at Primi Piatti. When you ask, your waiter will bring out a sample platter of what they’re offering that day. Pumpkin crème brulee, profiteroles, cannoli, mascarpone tarts and a chocolate pumpkin cheese cake were among the selections when I went. Not on the dessert platter are their sherbets and gelatos. Each dessert is lovingly crafted right there in the kitchen. They don’t farm out their desserts here (not that there’s anything wrong with that—I always perk up each time I hear the name “Let Them Eat Cake” connected with a restaurant’s desserts).
Opting for the most exotic thing I could order for dessert, I went for the olive oil gelato. It wasn’t half as strange as I expected to be. For the first few bites it was deceptively simple. Just a very sweet but light and sorbet-like gelato. However, as I ate it the flavor grew ever more complex, with elusive elements that made me want to keep eating it. It’s a gustatory riddle that will keep me coming back to solve it.
The next time you’re looking for an Italian place that’s not all about pizza (they don’t serve any), which serves up elegance, fresh ingredients and a romantic neighborhood experience, head to Primi Piatti. You can find them on Park Street, near the intersection of King.