Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Primizie, Mariah's Review

Please note: Primizie is no longer open.

1000 East 11th Street, Ste. 150
Austin, TX 78702

So I have a new favorite restaurant in town, Primizie. It’s only been a week since I found out about it, but I’ve already been twice and I’ve loved it both times. I have to admit, I don’t go to east Austin much. I’ve lived in Austin too long and have way too much prejudice about that side of town. When I first moved to Austin as a young single woman, you just didn’t venture too far east of I-35 for fear of being eaten by dragons or attacked by marauding pirates. So now that I’ve moved back, its been a little hard for me to fully embrace the east Austin revitalization. But Laura and I were looking at the map of where we’ve eaten (see the interactive yahoo map below and be amazed), and we realized that our map was decidedly skewed to the west part of town. So, we’ve recently been taking steps to give the east side of town a little more attention. Out first stop was Primizie. Laura e-mailed me the menu at work last week and asked if I wanted to try it. I said ‘sure, looks decent enough’ so we picked up Elena and headed to 11th street. And how cute is 11th street now?? It’s like a little city street for a block and a half. Good parking, well lit, lots of life on the street. The neighborhood has a nice feel to it. We weren’t paying much attention when we parked and walked into the first restaurant on the street, what we thought was Primizie. When we were finally seated, we realized our error, we had actually walked into Mrs B’s, an upscale Cajun restaurant. We quickly perused the menu and determined there wasn’t one single thing that Laura, our resident veggie, could eat. So while the waiter wasn’t looking, we snuck out the door and continued onto Primizie.

And boy am I glad we did. Primizie is wonderful. Not only is the food good, but its really cute. Its kind of Ikea-esque – it’s got white walls and tables, cute murals on the walls, a nice tall bar, and an open kitchen. There are a couple of tables outside, but not really any outdoor seating (which would be nice). When I went with Laura and Elena, we sat at one of the white plastic tables. Our server was very nice, as is all the wait-staff at Primizie. Elena tried ordering a bottle of wine, but apparently the one she wanted was out of stock, so we went with the server recommendation of one of the Montepulcianos. It was a nice fruity red, not a bad bottle of wine to drink with dinner. I was frickin starving so Laura and I split a salad caprese and Elena ordered their bruschette. They arrived quickly and we dug in. The salad caprese was incredible. Rehydrated (house dried!) sun dried tomatoes, creamy buffalo mozzarella, fresh green basil all drizzled in a delectable balsamic vinegar. Holy crap, it was excellent. If you only go there for the salad caprese you will be a very very happy person. Elena’s bruschette looked equally fresh, but instead of being covered in tomatoes, it was covered in chopped beets. Now if you like beets, then it looked amazing. The beets looked really fresh. But I don’t care for beets so I don’t feel qualified to properly judge her bruschette. The salad caprese went nicely with the montepulciano btw.

But if I was impressed by the appetizer I was blow away by the entrees. Laura’s Ravioli di Caprino con Curro di Oliva weren’t very ravioli-ish in the traditional Chef Boy’ardi sense. They were instead large dough pockets filled with goat cheese and scallions (I think the menu even describes them that way). There were served in a wonderful browned butter sauce. The menu said the sauce had black olive butter, but I couldn’t taste the olives. Elena’s boar gnocchi was incredible. The boar was tender and not at all gamey and came in the most delicious dark espresso sauce (that might have even had chocolate in it). The sauce and boar alone would have been enough to make an excellent stew, but the addition of the tender doughty gnocchi hit the home run out of the park. It was really pricey compared to the other entrees on the menu, but it was well worth whatever they charge for it. But, I have to say my Gnocchi di Patata don Finferlo e Mais was excellent. What was delivered was not at all what I was expecting, but it turned out being wonderful. I had thought the gnocchi would have been served like in most Italian restaurants, with a thick sauce, but was serve was essentially sauceless. The gnocchi was served with hearty chanterelle mushrooms and sweet golden corn which all together had an interesting texture: chewy gnocchi, firm, meaty mushrooms, and little zaps of crunch from the corn. The sage/thyme butter sauce was amazing and heightened the homey feel of the dish. I had flashbacks to cooking dinner at my Italian grandma’s house on a cool crisp fall day – and I don’t have an Italian grandma. That’s how good this dish was.

The dessert was equally as good as the food. There is a glass case by the register filled with sweets, cookies, tarts, etc, but we decided to order off the main dessert menu. We ordered tiramisu and a Torta di Cioccolato d Mandorle, essentially a chocolate almond torte. Now don’t let Laura’s bad review of the tiramisu stop you. I really liked it. Now, true, its not authentic tiramisu. Its about as Americanized as you can get, but its really tasty. The bottom is essentially a coffee soaked cake, but it is a nice plaint cake with a good coffee flavor. With some tiramisu the espresso is so strong it overpowers the rest of the ingredients. But not here, it was flavored perfectly to match the mild creamyness of the mascarpone/cream topping. I didn’t care as much for the chocolate torte, but Laura and Elena couldn’t get enough of it. It was really savory for a dessert. Maybe it was because I was glutting myself on the tiramisu, but when I tasted the torta, it was more salty than savory. The chocolate and almonds were excellent quality and paired nicely together to make a wonderfully moist torta. But it wasn’t very sweet, and when I eat dessert I want some sugar. I also went back a few days later on a date for dessert after a failed dinner at Blue Dahlia Bistro (review of the crappy food will follow). We ordered the Crostata de Mela and (I think) the tiramisu again (sorry, my memory is failing me). But the Crostata de Mela is awesome and is worth noting. It’s a crisp buttery dough (that tastes an awful lot like a sugar cookie) formed into a wreath with a warm apple filling. Top it with ice cream and it’s a winner. Its probably my favorite dessert there.
P.S. Don't order the Sangria. Yuck!

Bottom Line – Good fresh Americanized Italian food with a gourmet twist

Mariah – 9 (it was 9.5 until I saw a cook remove a too big stuffed artichoke from a too small oven then pick the bits of nasty oven residue off the artichoke)