Primo Trattoria offers classic, soul-satisfying Italian food at surprisingly reasonable prices. But this is no budget restaurant. The bistro and deli, which opened in November of last year, fits right in with the style and swank of its neighborhood near the Sogo Department Store’s Zhongxiao branch.
Upon entering, diners are greeted by a handful of cooks behind an open kitchen bar who pause from their work, smile and say “buona sera” (good evening). But underneath the novel formalities and the well-dressed and polite wait staff, you’ll find elements of a traditional trattoria: a simple menu — pizza, pasta, antipasti and wine — and a casual ambience.
Jazz is piped in softly in the background while the clean white interior and subdued lighting set an intimate mood. Unfortunately, the seating appears to favor parties of four or more. My dining companion and I felt a little squeezed in at a small table for two (just enough room for elbows) against a wall.
At its best, the quality of Primo Trattoria’s offerings are on par with that of a high-end hotel or restaurant in Taipei; at its not-so-best, the food falls short on presentation but still manages to please. The Caprese (NT$120) is one example. It comes as a serving of three tomato slices topped by slabs of mozzarella and a dollop of fresh pesto. The tomato was a bit too chilled and the chopped rocket lettuce strewn on top looked messy and uninspiring, but the dish was saved by the subtle richness of the mild mozzarella combined with the pesto.
Primo Trattoria’s stone-oven baked pizzas, made Napoli-style, are a must-try for aficionados. The thin pastry is soft, springy and chewy, but tears apart easily. The 10-inch pizzas are tossed so that the crust turns out puffy, with a good balance of dough and air.
Address: 1F, 14, Ln 107, Fuxing S Rd Sec 1, Taipei City
Telephone: (02) 2711-1726
Average Meal: NT$400 to NT$600 per person
Open: 11:30am to 10pm Mondays to Thursdays;
11:30am to 11pm Fridays to Sundays
Details: Chinese and English menu; credit cards accepted
We ordered a “half and half pizza” (NT$420) pairing the Genovese (NT$320), with its fail-safe combination of mushrooms, mozzarella and pesto, and the formaggi (NT$400), which we chose for its unusual addition of honey to a combination of blue cheese, mozzarella, grana Padano and cottage cheese. Other pizzas on the menu that caught the eye include the Fiorentina (NT$360), topped with spinach, bacon, egg and cottage cheese, and the classic margherita (NT$340), which has tomato sauce, Italian basil and slabs, rather than shreds, of mozzarella.
The pasta selection consists mostly of linguine and spaghetti, with prices ranging from NT$240 to NT$400. Those looking to indulge should try the rigatoni al prosciutto (NT$360). The cream sauce was pure pacifying comfort, while garnishes of small, thick strips of prosciutto had a rich salty flavor that was almost too intense for my companion.
Desserts include the delightfully rich and smooth panna cotta (NT$120) made from milk, cream and vanilla and topped with fresh berries, mascarpone cheese and raisin (NT$100), and tiramisu (NT$120).
Primo Trattoria offers an extensive list of Italian wines (NT$650 to NT$1,000 per bottle). If forgoing alcohol, a couple can get away with a full, satisfying meal for around NT$1,200. On weekends, the wait for a table runs as long as an hour and a half, so it’s best to make reservations.