For several years now, Primos has been serving tasty Italian fare from pasta to pizza at its location in Elizabethton West Towne Square shopping center.
Earlier this summer, the restaurant expanded, opening a new location in the town of Unicoi in a strip mall near the Wal-Mart. Now, I have two options when I want to dine at Primos, and both are located at an almost equal distance from my home.
The new Primos in Unicoi is somewhat smaller than the Elizabethton restaurant, but still features comfortable, pleasant surroundings and an extensive menu offering pasta, pizza, salads, sandwiches, stromboli and calzones.
Seating is available at black tables and booths with chairs and benches upholstered in maroon vinyl. Some walls are painted sienna while others are painted to resemble light Italian marble. Other design features include trompe l’oeil murals designed to fool the eye with illusions of arches and nooks, and a painting resembling a brick pizza oven. A half-dozen vibrant decorative plates bearing fruit and other motifs are displayed on the wall behind the cashier’s station. The dining area also offers two wall-mounted television sets.
I’ve eaten at the new location on several occasions since it first opened. Primos as well as the other two restaurants — Los Jalapenos Mexican Restaurant and Bubba’s Good Eats — located in the same strip mall appear to be doing consistent business. My most recent meal at Primos took place on a Monday evening when I met a friend for dinner.
A server brought us menus and took our drink orders as we looked over the selection of appetizers. The selection of meal-starters ranges from Cheesy Breadsticks and Italian Garlic Knots as well as Mozzarella Sticks, Fried Mushrooms, Buffalo Wings, and Primos Italian Nachos, which consists of fried pasta chips layered with a choice of sausage or chicken, pepperoncini peppers, black olives, diced Roma tomatoes and jalapenos, all smothered beneath alfredo sauce and mozzarella and parmesan cheese. Indeed, these nachos can provide an entire meal!
We chose to go with a smaller appetizer, the easily shared Italian Garlic Knots. These knots are made from fresh dough baked to perfection and brushed with garlic butter and served with a fresh-tasting marinara sauce. We ordered ours stuffed with mozzarella cheese for an extra delectable treat.
We also looked over the menu options for dinner. From previous visits, I can recommend the pizzas, especially the Greek Pizza and the Primos Special, which is topped with an abundance of hamburger, pepperoni, sausage, ham, salami and bologna.
On this visit, I found myself more in the mood for a pasta dish, although I considered some sandwiches, including the Beef Gyro, the Philly Pizza Steak and the Italian Sub.
The pasta entrees that competed for my attention included the Meat Lasagna, Baked Penne, Manicotti, Chicken Fettuccini and Spicy Shrimp and Chicken over Penne.
When I did decide, I went with a traditional Italian dish — Pasta with Meatballs. Diners can choose from spaghetti, fettuccini, angel hair, bowtie or penne pasta to accompany the homemade meatballs and marinara sauce of this dish. I chose the angel hair pasta.
My friend selected the Chicken Penne Gorgonzola, although he also considered such dishes as Chicken Milano, Veal Parmesan and Cheese Ravioli.
All the pasta dishes are served with garlic bread, and for an additional dollar, diners can add a house salad to their meal. We both choose to include a house salad. These salads consisted of mixed greens and tossed with cucumber slices, tomato slice, red onion and croutons.
A slight mix-up meant that our salads arrived at the same time as our entrees. However, since I enjoy having some salad with my main meal, this was not really any inconvenience. The service was fast throughout the whole meal, and our server checked with us on several occasions to refresh drinks and to determine if we required anything else.
Our main meals tasted great. The thin angel hair pasta for my meal was prepared perfectly. The three meatballs that topped the mound of pasta tasted somewhat mild. I might have preferred a meatball with a little more zestiness, but they actually went nicely with the light marinara sauce. This sauce at Primos has attained a good balance and is neither too acidic or too sweet.
I also sampled a couple of bites of my dining companion’s Chicken Penne Gorgonzola. This was an extremely flavorful dish that starred tender chicken, sauteed mushrooms and garlic, all smothered in a fantastic creamy gorgonzola cheese sauce and garnished with fresh Roma tomatoes.
I finished all my meal at the restaurant, but my dining partner did need a carryout box to take home some pasta and garlic bread.
Even after these filling meals, we found just enough space to make it possible to share a dessert. The options for sweets during our visit included Chocolate Cannoli, Baklava, Tiramisu, New York-style Cheesecake, Raspberry Cheesecake and Mocha Cheesecake.
We chose the Tiramisu. This light dessert was easily shared between the two of us. The origins of this traditional Italian dessert are not clear. The Italian cities of Siena and Treviso both lay claim to being the place of origin for this layered dessert, which also features such key ingredients as ladyfingers (cookies) soaked in coffee, layered with a whipped mixture of egg yolks and mascarpone cheese, and flavored with liqueur and cocoa.
The version at Primos is both light and refreshing, and we found this sweet treat a great way to end our meal.
Primos also offers a kids menu, which makes the restaurant a worthwhile destination for families looking for a place that everyone can enjoy. If you visit, let them know they came recommended.
AT A GLANCE: Primos, 100 Rocky Bottom Drive, Unicoi. 735-1100. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-9:30 p.m.; and Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Dinner entrees range from $7.99-$16.99. Credit cards accepted. Carryout available. Catering services available.