After years of searching for the ideal space, Gerry Stevens, a father of two with a recently empty nest, finally found his new baby in an irregularly shaped historic building in the West Village. His Venetian-inspired eatery Primo 135 (135 Seventh Avenue South, West Village; 212-620-6196) celebrates the old-world feel of the space with straightforward Italian fare.
After a nine- or 10-month gut renovation, the eatery opened its doors about two weeks ago. Stevens enlisted the help of an architect to oversee the construction; however, he opted to take charge of the decor himself. “When I saw the space, I knew exactly how I’d want to set it up,” Stevens says. “I was looking for something with unique architecture and design.”
His aim was to create an atmosphere that was both casual and elegant. He immediately envisioned silver, black, and chandeliers. To soften the brick walls, he mixed a combination of white paint and water, for a more rustic look. His sturdy wood tables were custom-designed to mimic the feel of a small restaurant in the Italian countryside. And while it’s a bit too cold to use at the moment, the patio was the real draw to the location. “It brings a certain character through the entire place,” says Stevens. “We’re working on enclosing it with glass and iron so it’s not fully exposed to the elements.”
For the food, Stevens enlisted the help of Andrea Zanin, a native of Italy who owns a restaurant in Venice and works as a consultant for Barilla in New Jersey. Together with executive chef Victor Pastuizaca and Stevens, the team compiled a menu of lighter dishes. You won’t find your ubiquitous spaghetti with red sauce here, but you will find simple homemade fare.
The menu incorporates a wide range of grilled meats and seafood dishes. Expect to see items like the grilled filet mignon with flambe green peppercorn sauce, roasted potatoes, and spinach ($29). Scallops ($26) are wrapped in bacon, grilled, and finished with a light mustard and cream sauce. Many of the pastas are made on the premises, such as the black tagliolini ($21) made with sepia (squid ink) and served with seafood ragu ($21).
The dessert list includes some of Zanin’s unique takes on classics. The millefolia ($12) is essentially his version of the Napoleon. Thin layers of pastry are layered with vanilla cream and fresh berries. The tiramisu ($8) is his mother’s recipe. Using a family technique, he creates a loftier texture in the cream. It’s layered on top of a layer of espresso. “Andrea’s mother used to pull up a stool and let him help her prepare it way back,” says Stevens.
For beverages, the eatery offers wines by the glass and bottle; it incorporates regions in Europe and many new-world selections. In the coming weeks, Stevens hopes to roll out wine-based cocktails as well as brunch.
Primo 135 is open seven nights a week, starting at 5:30 p.m.