This lively enterprise is kissin' cousin to Ristorante Primavera in Philadelphia (146 South Street) and its sibling in Wayne (384 Lancaster Avenue); a third is scheduled to open in Dowingtown within the next few months. But lest you think this is just another of those eminently forgettable mini-chains, these particular eateries arrive with some pretty hefty credentials. They are owned and operated by the same folks who bring you the highly successful Monte Carlo Living Room (150 South Street, Philadelphia); a ritzy, romantic establishment that serves up first-class northern Italian cuisine -- and also happens to be a personal fave, by the way.
There is absolutely no question that Primavera Pizza Kitchen has a good deal to recommend it. For starters, it is ensconced in a former bank building; and while the exterior has changed not a wit, the inside has been completely renovated and now boasts three spiffy dining levels, a bustling, well-appointed bar, and a large open kitchen and grill. The atmosphere is casually sophisticated but not at all stuffy. Factor in quite reasonable tariffs, an interesting variety of menu items, and you quickly understand why Bobos in Paradise are apt to mingle quite easily with members of the hoi poloi.
Naturally, given this restaurant's illustrious lineage, you expect good things foodwise& And, for the most part, should you choose your comestibles with a wee bit of circumspection, you will not be disappointed. And a good way to start things off is with the Ortaglia, an assortment of grilled fresh veggies embellished with herbs and extra virgin olive oil. The grilled portobello mushrooms are also up to the mark. Ditto the mussels in marinara and the clams sautéed with white wine.
Salads are also a good opening move here. There is, of course, the ubiquitous Caesar or the Insalata Mista, organically grown mixed greenery garnished with tomato. A special salad of baby greens is a smidgen more expensive, but most suitable for sharing. Shaved Parmesan, proscuitto, roasted red peppers, red onions, and a top-notch balsamic dressing added to the festivities. The only down note was the Parmesan, which exhibited an odd taste and texture -- faintly reminiscent of soggy cardboard.
Entrées are bit more of a "hit or miss" proposition than their predecessors. Grilled items appear to be especially problematic. The Spiedino -- a combination of shrimp, salmon and tuna -- can be perfectly prepared on one occasion& and woefully overcooked the next time round. In point of fact, with the notable exception of bivalves, thalassic offerings do not fare terribly well here. The special flounder francese, for instance, was dredged in entirely too much flour, overcooked, and drowned beneath a vociferously viscous white wine/lemon sauce.
Your most propitious course of action is to keep things as simple as possible. Avoid more complex fare, including the daily entrée specials, and stick with what the kitchen does best: wood fired pizza and pasta.
Among the former, I would recommend the Toscana (goat cheese, pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes), the Margherita (fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella and basil), and Piccante (fresh tomato sauce, sausage, pepperoni, black olives, hot pepper, oregano and extra virgin olive oil). When it comes to the pastas, sample the Capelli D'Angelo (angel hair with fresh tomatoes and basil) or the Puttanesca (penne pasta tossed with black olives, capers, anchovies and garlic in a spicy tomato sauce). Above all, try not to get things too gussied up; once again, simplicity is the watchword.
With regard to dessert& the homemade gelati are quite good. Other denouements, such as the cheesecake, for instance, are strictly generic in quality. And that goes for the rather weak espresso as well.
But, hey, this is a fun place. Go with that in mind, and all will be well. Enjoy a few libations, stick with the items noted above, and a good time will be had by all.
The Artful Diner
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Diner is an independent, freelance food writer. His latest review and an archive of past reviews for restaurants around the country and the world can be found on this site on the REVIEWS page.
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