It was a sad day when Peels shuttered in January. Who would have thought that such a bustling palace of fried chicken and biscuits would ever close its doors? It was always packed to the brim with a line out the door and once inside was comforting and reliable. Sigh. Such is the New York real estate market.
But before the space on Second Street and Bowery could become another dry cleaning den, Andrew Carmellini came along, giving that corner a delicious new prospect -- Bar Primi (325 Bowery, 212-220-9100, barprimi.com). And, just like its predecessor, the restaurant is bustling.
Together with chef-partner Sal Lamboglia, Carmellini has created a menu full of pasta, promising "non-GMO semolina and specialty '00' flours, organic eggs and family recipes." This means classic spaghetti and clams paired alongside a chewy rigatoni with Jersey corn, maitake mushrooms and scalogno. Ragu alla bologenese smothers strozzapreti, while squid ink campanelle is jet black and topped with a garlic crema.
If you hunger for something other than pasta, there is a daily special ranging from porchetta and hangar steak to the trademarked Sausage Boss (because what is a restaurant these days without something trademarked?).
Enjoy your meal at the bar downstairs or at the lively communal table. Upstairs, groups can circle around squishy maroon banquettes and couples can tuck into private two-tops overlooking the street. The same beautiful light fixtures hang from the Peels era, but now you'll also find newer accents like the rustic wine racks full of Italian varietals.
As I sat at my table, I couldn't believe I was shoveling mountains of pasta into my mouth in the same space where I used to glug Peels Punch. But it felt good and homey; a delicious change.
Ariel Kanter is an editor at Gilt City.