About a month ago I reviewed the sublime new south Minneapolis eatery known as Café Maude. In the review I talked about it was just what the neighborhood needed. Since then a few readers and friends asked me if I fell and hit my head because there are a number of great bistros on the south side of Lake Harriet and I couldn’t possibly ignore them. While my point was there was nothing quite like Maude before it debuted, you folks do have a point that there is certainly no lack of good eats in the hood, whether it be Maude, Broder’s Pasta Bar, Salut Bar and Café, or the place I’ve recently rediscovered, Prima.
Prima opened their doors in 1999 when I was still living with my folks about a mile away and they still turn out a quality dining experience. The small long room has no wasted space with a number of tables and bar seating that overlooks the kitchen. It’s a neighborhood joint that would aesthetically fit right in downtown.
A menu that I’d describe as Italian comfort food has gone through subtle changes over the years but at its core has remained the same. On one visit my companion and I started off with the crab cake appetizer. The cakes themselves were average but were improved upon by an excellent sauce of lemon and tarragon along with some fresh tomatoes. On another visit we started with their Caesar salad which has always been one of the tops in the Twin Cities. While the dressing is a little too creamy then what I prefer, the flavor of the dressing and the garlic croutons more then make up for it. Another starter which was a special on my last visit was a roasted red pepper soup with Spanish meatballs. I couldn’t quite place why they were Spanish meatballs (saffron maybe) but I didn’t care as they were simply amazing. The soup had a little kick to it and the meatballs did as well. I’m not a huge soup guy (ie. I never order it) but I loved this and they should strongly consider adding it to the permanent menu.
On my last two visits both my companions and I had pastas but I will mention from past experience that Prima does do a great job with meat. I’d recommend you look at their daily specials as they’ve often served me well. In any case the pasta dishes are what keep Prima’s doors open. One pasta dish that I believe has been there since the beginning is their goat cheese and red pepper agnolotti. The pockets of pasta are firm to bite but then simply melt away inside your mouth. They’re served with a simple drizzle of butter sauce some fresh tomatoes and some pancetta that brings a nice saltiness to the dish. On that same visit we tried the rotini con pollo which was a simple dish of roasted chicken, sun dried tomatoes and mushrooms. The cream sauce with the dish was a bit on the heavy end but not overpoweringly so just unexpected. More sloppy then distressing was the stray strands of angel hair that were mixed in with the rotini leaving one to wonder how the kitchen gets when it’s as busy as it was that night. On my latest visit we were early birds and had no such problems with stray pastas. I had their bucatini carbonara which while not a traditional interptation certainly is an enjoyable one. It’s a surprisingly light cream sauce and the amount of pancetta is perfect to compliment the onions and mushrooms in the dish. My companion sampled the butternut squash tortellaci and found it to be a complex mix of flavors with sage and pears complimenting the sweet squash.
On most nights the place can get busy in a hurry so I’d recommend calling ahead if you’re planning on going anytime after 6. They also do carry-out and lunch featuring wonderful Paninis (they were way ahead of the Panini craze curve). Service is always courteous and fairly knowledgeable although I have seen some confusion with their relatively small wine list. Prices are more then affordable so it’s a great place to stop by for a quick dinner or a first date.
Prima, 5325 lyndale ave. s. minneapolis 612.827.7376, primamn.com