Shelley AllenFive succulent jumbo shrimp came served crostini rounds in a bath of rich, flavorful butter garlic sauce.
Shelley AllenThe cream of crab soup was everything that it should have been — generous lumps of crab meat and spicy Old Bay flavor.
Shelley AllenThe Mediterranean’s grilled Peppadew peppers and soft melted feta worked well with the crunchy fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.
Shelley AllenThe risotto came with sautéed mushrooms and large chunks of sirloin.
Shelley AllenThe fried cheesecake’s crunchy outside and creamy interior made a nice combination, but the taste was just a tad too sweet.
A Sunday Afternoon At Primo Pasta Kitchen
I had been to Primo Pasta Kitchen (8557 Fort Smallwood Road) once previously but had forgotten the cozy yet chic atmosphere that the restaurant offered. Roomy booths lined the windows facing out to Fort Smallwood Road, several tables were situated to the middle-left of the restaurant, and the opposite side of the room was filled with tall tables and high barstools. A sparkling-clean bar looked warm and inviting but was void, in the early afternoon, of any patrons.
It was a long minute before anyone showed up to seat us, and once they did, they told us that a big party was arriving shortly and we’d have to clear out before the party started. There were other diners, and we figured that we could knock out a meal within the hour, so we agreed to eat lunch.
The waiter partially atoned for the poor greeting by recommending several options for us from the appetizer and dinner menus. My companion and I both chose not to indulge in any drinks from the extensive alcohol list, but there were certainly many impressive options to choose from — the Primo crush, blueberry pomegranate martini, and espresso martini were just a few appealing choices on the menu. We stuck to raspberry sweet tea and sparkling water.
We started out with the Primo garlic shrimp and cream of crab soup upon the waiter’s recommendation (he also mentioned the fried calamari and the oysters Rockefeller as popular options, but I was happy to stick to my old Maryland favorites: crab and shrimp).
He started us out with warm bread and herb-infused olive oil while we waited; this combination on its own pretty much knocked my socks off. I’m always a sucker for warm bread, but the herbs were mixed with a roasted tomato paste that lent an underlying sweetness to the tangy herbs and smooth oil mixture. I reminded myself that I didn’t need the carbs, but in an almost out-of-body experience, I suddenly heard myself request a second basket of bread.
The appetizer arrived looking like an appealing dish from a five-star restaurant. Five succulent jumbo shrimp rested on five crostini rounds in a bath of rich, flavorful butter garlic sauce. The shrimp was cooked nicely and large enough to be a filling appetizer, and the crostini soaked up the sauce to pack a savory flavor punch into every bite. The cream of crab soup was everything that it should have been — generous lumps of crab meat and spicy Old Bay flavor and, thankfully, my spoon didn’t stand up straight when inserted in the center. This was a terrific way to start the meal.
I wanted to try one of the house specials, but I had also heard outstanding things about the grilled sandwiches from friends, so we decided to try both — a risotto mignon for me, and a Mediterranean veggie Panini for my dining companion. The food arrived just as we were licking the appetizer’s garlic lemon sauce from our fingers.
The risotto mignon was — to put it mildly — phenomenal. It’s never an easy task to cook risotto. I don’t envy the chef tasked with that job, but he nailed it. The small pasta pieces were the perfect texture and the sauce, a marsala demi-glace, was surprisingly creamy and well-seasoned. Sautéed mushrooms and large chunks of sirloin were mixed generously throughout the pasta, and although the dish was too large to finish in one sitting, I picked out and devoured all the steak and mushrooms before I gave up and finished (I made two more meals out of the leftover pasta over the next couple of days).
The Mediterranean Panini wasn’t bad at all; the mix of grilled Peppadew peppers and soft melted feta worked well with the crunchy fresh lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and onions. The sundried tomato pesto was tangy and slightly addictive. The only real complaint about this item was that the bread wasn’t really grilled enough, and it was served at a cooler temperature than it should have been. The whole sandwich should have been grilled a little longer, but the taste and texture of the fillings were good.
I was excited to try the fried cheesecake, a house favorite, mostly because it combined two of my favorite things (cheesecake and literally anything fried). The cheesecake was served as two large, deep-fried balls and drizzled with chocolate syrup. The crunchy outside and creamy interior was a nice combo, but the overall level of sweetness was just too overwhelming for me. On top of that, the inside was cold and more solid whereas the outside was warmer and softer. Like the Panini, the fried cheesecake seemed like it just needed a little more cooking to be just right. This was probably the result of our coming in just before a large party, since the kitchen was already a bit rushed, so I’m fairly confident these issues would be fixed on a calmer day.
It’s worth noting that Primo offers several gluten-free options, including certain ravioli and penne pasta, which is a big deal for my family because my son has Celiac disease and it’s hard to find many local places with appealing gluten-free options. I grabbed some pasta with marinara and meatballs for him, and he loved it.
For two drinks, an appetizer, crab soup, two entrees, a kids meal (with apple juice), and dessert, the bill came out to $69. There were some great happy hour specials with low-priced drinks and appetizers, so I recommend trying those as well.