Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Primizie, Laura's Review

Please note: Primizie is no longer open.

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

Mariah and I hadn’t seen our beautiful Italian friend Elena for about a month. Elena had been M.I.A. for a few weeks playing catch up from spending two weeks in the Caribbean with her boyfriend. Yeah, we were jealous too. We picked her up from her glamorous job as a PhD student and headed towards East 11th Street for some dinner at Primizie. Taking an Italian to have Italian food in Austin is kinda like the time my friends in Baltimore took me for Tex-Mex, but being as good-natured as she is, she pretended not to mind.

We parked somewhere along the block and mused over the East Austin gentrification project. During the course of our musing, we wandered straight into the nicely done restaurant on the corner and were shown our seat at a candlelit table. We opened our menus and looked over the crawfish etouffe and sausage gumbo- and finally realized we were in the wrong restaurant.

Exit restaurant mildly embarrassed and proceed down the street.

This time we checked the sign before we entered.

Primizie is casually decorated with a trendy modern Italian feel. There are pastries and such at a counter, but this is definitely a sit down establishment with waitstaff. The menu looked amazing – except for the $4 split plate charge. I consulted my dining crew to get a consensus on this and Elena pointed out that this restaurant was not owned by Italians and doubted that the owners even knew any Italians as the menu contained many grammatical and spelling errors… Oops.

The server graciously came by and offered us drinks. I ordered Pellegrino and the others started to look at the wine list. I convinced them in my usual way to go for a bottle. They were out of the first two bottles we chose, but third time was the charm and I remember liking it. My apologies for not remembering what it was.

Mariah and I split an Insalata Caprese – house-dried tomato, local mozzarella, basil, pepper, balsamic and olive oil. It was amazing. The mozzarella was incredible and the tomatoes were that in-between of dryness. It was just enough to give it a mild sweet flavor. The basil was incredible and the presentation was well executed. Elena asked for Bruschetta topped with roasted red and golden beets marinated with arugula, mint and chevre. It was enjoyable, but the caprese was definitely the right choice. We were also served flatbread that I promptly began gluttoning myself with.

For our main courses, Elena ordered the special, Wild Boar gnocchi in espresso sauce. The sauce sounded awesome, but for me, not so much on the Wild Boar. Later Elena explained to me that she always goes for the gnocchi at American Italian restaurants because it’s harder to f up than pasta, even though she actually prefers pasta to gnocchi.

I wanted to order the potato gnocchi with chanterelle mushrooms, roasted sweet corn and sage brown butter, but Mariah arm wrestled me for it and I was left with ravioli- local goat cheese scallion filled pasta pockets with black olive butter and pecorino romano. I suppose we both could have ordered the same thing, but that would be boring. I turned out to be pretty lucky because my ravioli was awesome! It was a bit salty, as black olive butter would tend to insinuate, but at times I can be a salt feen, so this totally worked for me. Plus, it was a complex saltiness from various ingredients, not just a Morton’s Iodized Salt dump on my plate. Mariah let me have a few bites of her gnocchi and it was good as well. We received more flatbread, but at this point I had reached the point of flatbread saturation.

For dessert we had tiramisu and a chocolate almond torte. I thought the tiramisu was awful. Mariah liked it, but Elena and I sensibly rejected its custardy cake non-tiramisu nature and offensive lack of Italian-ness. The chocolate almond torte, on the other hand was awesome! It was warm on the inside and deliciously fudge-like. The almonds were just slightly salty, providing a contrast to the sweetness of the torte. It went very well with a cup of coffee.

Overall: Tasty and well executed non authentic Italian food in a trendy/casual environment.

Laura - 8.5