Il Primo truly is a delightful Italian restaurant (Montague St, Dublin 2). We went there on a weeknight during the ‘early bird’ time and had the owner/chef (Anita) and head waiter (Tommy) all to ourselves. We sat downstairs (street entrance level with only 4 tables) – lovely and intimate, but also a perfect perch to view the pedestrian traffic in the narrow cobbled street outside. We enjoyed a Cantina San Martino prosecco as we deliberated over the menu and settled on a lovely combination of starter size portions as we had had a large lunch. We shared three fantastic dishes: a goat’s cheese pizzette with red onion jam and toasted walnuts; char-grilled asparagus with pecorino and mixed leaves; and a crab, lemon and leek lasagne (bit of a house specialty – we’ve not had anything quite like it before – sooooo delicious!). Tommy suggested a very light, citrusy Garganega and Trebbiano blend from Ponte Pietra, Veneto – the perfect accompaniment to the lasagne.
As we were early eaters on a Tuesday night, we were alone in the little downstairs area, and our hosts were delightful company – offering advice about their city and beyond, and excellent chat and banter about numerous topics. It was obvious as we were leaving that ‘Il Primo’ is a popular spot, with couples starting to arrive shaking off the rain and the cold from outside, chatting happily with Tommy as they were show to their seat (and hopefully a glass of the light prosecco).
One month later, we returned to this restaurant and I felt I had to add to this review a comment on our second visit. We decided to finish our Ireland trip as it had begun – going to Il Primo! But it wasn’t just nostalgia that took us there – ultimately, it was the outstanding food and service.
We had to repeat the original choice of char-grilled asparagus (with pecorino), but then mixed things up a bit with a dish of cannellini beans with garlic and green beans, followed by the daily special of pan-fried sole and scallops. The scallops actually came out separately to the sole, as the chef wasn’t happy with his first attempt, and wanted us to have the best! So glad his standards were so high – they were truly melt-in-your-mouth pieces of delight – they even gave the fleshy mouthfuls of perfection at Patrick Guilbaud’s a run for their money! What was particularly sweet was Tommy, who remembered us from our first visit (and our review!) presented us with a complimentary serve of the magnificent crab and leek lasagne (because he recalled how much we loved it on our first visit!) – now, is that service, or what? He also threw a few wine tastings our way to help us in our selections for the evening – but the favourite was Salice Salentino ‘Negro Mauro.’ We could think of no better way of spending our last evening in the country than at this restaurant. I can’t wait to return to Ireland and Il Primo for another excellent meal!