Restaurant Review: Bar Prima – A Toast to Italian Innovation and Intimacy

RestaurantBar Prima
Address1136 Queen Street West
Dinner for two with drinks$250

Bar Prima is all about the familiar comfort of Italian cuisine with a splash of modern creativity. From the moment you step inside, you’re wrapped in a cozy embrace of intimacy and elegance. The rich mahogany, plush blue leather, and sparkling gold touches (you won’t be able to take your eyes off the curved ceiling covered in gold leaf) set the perfect backdrop for a memorable meal, creating an atmosphere that’s both inviting and sophisticated—setting the stage for a memorable dining experience.

At the helm of Bar Prima is a trio of culinary talents—Culinary Director Craig Harding (La Palma), Executive Chef Julian D’Ippolito, and Chef de Cuisine Nicholas Iaboni. Together, they’ve crafted a menu that pays homage to Italian classics while infusing them with a modern twist. Each dish is crafted with a keen eye for detail and a deep respect for the ingredients, resulting in a dining experience that’s both familiar and exciting.

The journey begins with the Tomato Tramezzini, a charming little toasted triangle sandwich filled with confit tomato and a melt-in-your-mouth cheesy blend. A dollop of bright green basil and parsley aioli adds a fresh touch, making it the perfect appetizer to whet your palate for the culinary adventure ahead.

The Scallops Rockefeller is a bold reimagining of the traditional Oysters Rockefeller. Plump scallops are cooked to tender perfection and presented in their shell, then topped with a creamy béchamel sauce, crispy guanciale, and anchovy-parsley breadcrumbs. It’s a combination of flavours that celebrates the sea in every bite, with the richness of the sauce complementing the natural sweetness of the scallops meticulously.

For pasta lovers, the Spaghetti all’Amatriciana is a must-try. The chefs breathe new life into this classic, delivering comfort food with a depth of flavour that lingers long after the dish is gone. The pasta is cooked to al dente perfection, tossed in a savory tomato sauce with a hint of spice, and finished with a generous sprinkling of pecorino cheese. It’s simplicity at its best and the portion is spot-on.

Many patrons come for this one dish alone—the Swordfish Piccata—and for good reason. It’s a standout, pairing medium-rare grilled swordfish with a saffron-infused piccata sauce, capers, and caviar. It’s a graceful dance of flavors and textures that showcases the culinary team’s skills and creativity. The swordfish is expertly cooked, with a crisp exterior giving way to a tender, juicy interior, while the piccata sauce adds a luxurious richness that’s elevated by the briny pop of caviar.

My guest and I also enjoyed the Octopus alla Griglia is a smoky delight, with tender tentacles telling tales of the ocean’s bounty. The octopus is grilled (albeit a tad too much), with a charred exterior that adds a delightful smokiness to the dish. It’s served with spicy chorizo sausage a vibrant salsa verde that cuts through the richness, providing a bright, herbaceous contrast.

And for a sweet finale, the Prima Cheesecake with poached pears is a poetic end to the meal. The cheesecake is creamy and light, with a subtle tang that’s complemented by the sweetness of the poached pears. It’s a harmonious blend of flavours that resonates with the soul, leaving you with a lingering sense of satisfaction.

And let’s not forget the drinks. The wine list at Bar Prima is a carefully curated selection of Italian gems and international favourites, each chosen to complement the menu. Whether you’re in the mood for a bold red or a crisp white, you’ll find a wine that enhances your meal and elevates the experience. And for those seeking a non-alcoholic option, the zero-proof cocktails are a delight, offering all the complexity and taste of their spirited counterparts without the buzz. These meticulously crafted drinks are a testament to the bar’s commitment to inclusivity and innovation, ensuring that every guest can enjoy a thoughtfully paired beverage with their meal.

While the menu’s ambition occasionally overshadows the simplicity at the heart of Italian cuisine, it’s a small trade-off for an otherwise extraordinary dining experience. Each dish is a thoughtful exploration of flavours and textures, inviting diners to savour the nuances and appreciate the artistry behind the cuisine.

What truly sets Bar Prima apart is the exquisite service. Far from the dry and impersonal experience one might expect from high-end establishments, the staff here, particularly our server Jared, added a personal touch that enhanced our overall experience. Jared’s willingness to let his personality shine through brought a warmth and charm to the evening, making us feel not just welcomed, but truly special.

Bar Prima is more than just a restaurant—it’s a journey through the past, present, and future of Italian cuisine. It’s a place where food is not just consumed but experienced, where every dish tells a story, and every bite is a memory in the making. And indeed, Bar Prima is a place to which one cannot help but yearn to return, time and time again. Bravo!


La rubrique de Madame Marie

1 étoile – Run. Before you get the runs.
 étoiles – Mediocre, but nothing you couldn’t make at home.
 étoiles – C’est bon, with some standout qualities.
 étoiles – Many memorable qualities and excellent execution. Compliments to the chef.
 étoiles – Formidable! Michelin Star quality. Book a reservation immediately.