Bar Primi can feel a bit like good old-fashioned Italian home cooking, what with the casually set tables, the deeply gamey lamb amatriciana in tangles of chewy bucatini ($18) and the piles of spaghetti in tomato sauce with snowy peaks of Parmigiano ($14).
But the magic of the newest restaurant from team Andrew Carmellini, where chef-partner Sal Lamboglia is in the kitchen, is of course, that it's not home cooking.
This means there are plenty of things for you to enjoy here you might not bother to make at home, like the extremely delicate fiore di carciofi ($19), a tube of fresh pasta filled with artichoke purée and coiled up like a garden hose. It's softly flavored, sweet with bits of smoked bacon and translucent white onion in a bit of brothy sauce.
It's mostly about the pasta here, but it's not all about the pasta. So start with a couple of antipasti, like the tiny plate of perfect grilled asparagus with mashed-up soft-boiled egg and gremolata ($10). And clams stuffed and baked with tomato sauce and lemony breadcrumbs ($12).
The trio of bouncy meatballs with a molten cheese center ($12) are swimming in a sweet tomato sauce. Eat them and note how Bar Primi isn't the kind of place that uses one tomato sauce for everything.
Then there's the tiramisu ($7), looking and tasting just like a tiramisu ought to--a hulking bittersweet slab, nearly falling apart. It's soaked in strong, slightly bitter coffee and sandwiched with mascarpone that isn't overly sweetened. And it's dusted so generously with cocoa powder you're likely to get some on your face and clothes.
Just pick an amaro from the dozen-strong list ($9 to 12). You'll worry less about these things.