Primo does a steady business, and diners who long have enjoyed the restaurant's intimacy, attentive service and excellent cuisine will probably hate having their secret exposed.
But for owner Grahovic's sake, as well as the interests of hungry people, the word should be spread.
You don't see the owners of most restaurants waiting tables, but it suits Grahovic. He is the definition of a classic European host: gracious, attentive, confident and accommodating. While some eating establishments discourage substitutions or variations on their menus, or charge more, Grahovic's menu proclaims "we will gladly make changes or additions to make the dish to your satisfaction."
The menu itself offers options: Each pasta, from tortellini to penne, comes with a choice of sauces ($11.50 to $15.50); veal is offered in four preparations ($19.50), as is chicken ($17 to $20); and, if steak is your weakness, you can choose a New York cut grilled, or sauteed au poivre with peppercorn sauce ($22 and $23, respectively).
Filet mignon is on the menu, too, either with a Bordelaise sauce and mushrooms, or grilled au natural ($23 and $24).
On a recent visit, filet mignon with bearnaise sauce was one of several specials; we went with Grahovic's recommendation and tried it, along with the reasonably priced and drinkable Chianti he suggested.
The steaks -- two of them -- were frosted with tangy, tarragon-laced bearnaise, topped with a chunk of lobster and garnished with two thin sprigs of asparagus. The filets were thick, cooked to a perfect medium-rare and incredibly tender. Clams, shrimp and generous bites of lobster were abundant in a bed of linguine for the special seafood pasta ($22). It was enjoyed down to the last spoonful of delectable seafood broth.
But I am getting ahead of myself and the dinner's starters. Steamed clams ($11) are Primo's most popular appetizer, Grahovic said. The cold antipasto plate ($12) with melon and prosciutto, tomatoes and fresh mozzarella, roasted red peppers, salami and olives is an enticing mix of flavors to whet the appetite.
Dessert, too, is worth mentioning. Our table tried almost everything: German chocolate cake, sabayon with strawberries, tiramisu, creme brulee. All are made in-house and were excellent. We didn't try the dessert souffles, only because we didn't have the foresight to order them as we ordered dinner. The kitchen will make just about any kind of souffle you want, Grahovic said, from raspberry to Irish cream. Regulars sometimes call to order a souffle for after the movie or theater, and stop in just for that.
Attention to detail and extra touches set Primo apart: the bite-size bruschetta served as you look at the menu; quality silver and dinnerware atop linen-covered cloths; coffee served from glistening silver-plated pots; and the sense that Grahovic and his fellow waiters, consummate professionals, take pride in making your experience memorable.
Grahovic acquired Primo last year, after buying out the two original owners who gave him a job as dishwasher seven years ago, when he moved to Salt Lake from Bosnia. He has worked in every facet of the business since then and still loves the many roles he plays, from kitchen prep and pastry chef to waiter.
"Finally everything I wanted came true. I'm very happy now," he said.
© 2003 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc