It’s kind of funny how life works. As you grow up, you have a small inkling of what you’re destined to do, and usually that feeling doesn’t go away until you fulfill it. For some, it might take a few years to comprehend their inevitable future as they explore other career paths, but for today’s Wednesdays With, this culinary genius always knew he was meant to get his hands dirty in the kitchen by surrounding himself with delicious Italian cuisine — not a bad goal, if you ask us.
Sal Lamboglia is the chef/partner at Bar Primi and he’s been dreaming about this position for as long as he could remember. He not only opened one or two, but six restaurants during his career. While growing up with an Italian family that surrounded themselves in the restaurant scene, it just seemed fitting that Sal would follow his lineage and continue down the same path of creating magic in the kitchen. And after years of dedication, we met with him at one of the tastiest restaurants in East Village to get a peek at his latest venture.
Bar Primi is a local Italian spot that is nestled on Bowery and has everything you could ever want when it comes to Italian food. Need a bottle of wine that is under $100 and tastes like it just came from the rivers of Italy? Want freshly made pasta that is created with the finest ingredients that your great Italian uncle would be proud of? Yup, they have it all. Chefs Andrew Carmellini and Sal Lamboglia run the menu which is derived from their Italian culinary backgrounds and every single item on their menu is made with love and will surely give you the best food coma you’ve ever had.
Thankfully, we got to hang with one of the partners, Sal Lamboglia, at Bar Primi where we talked about his go-to neighborhood bar, what tricks his family has taught him about cooking, and what his plans are for Bar Primi. Meet the crazy talented chef.
Favorite pasta dish to make:
Last tattoo you got?
Octopus on my leg
Beer or wine:
Dream travel destination:
Go-to wine and pasta pairing:
Marissa Cuomo FIORDUVA, from Campania with Spaghetti Pomodoro
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with Bar Primi?
I started out when I was 12 years old at a sandwich/catering shop in Brooklyn where I worked for 15 years. My dad, who worked in restaurants for 40 years, owned a place in Little Italy for 10. I’ve always known I wanted to work in an Italian restaurant and my chef at school recommended I work with Carmellini. I took her advice and since then I have opened all of the NoHo Hospitality Group restaurants (except for Little Park). Chef AC had this idea for an Italian restaurant, devoted to pasta and antipasti, and he knew that I’d wanted to do this for a long time. Timing was perfect and we opened Bar Primi on May 19th, 2014.
Bar Primi is devoted to the concept of “primi piatti.” Could you tell us what that means and what to expect?
Primi piatti means first course or first dish in Italy. Typically pasta is served as the first course or sometimes as the main course. With 14 pastas on our menu, we have many options for anyone who’s craving pasta…whether it be first or last.
Because you were born and raised in Brooklyn, what are your thoughts on the culinary scene in NYC? Do you like the direction it’s going in and where do you hope to see the future of cuisine in NYC?
The food scene in NYC is moving at such a fast pace, it’s sometimes hard to keep up with. It’s nice to see talented people who are opening restaurants and sharing their passion for what they love to do. On the other hand, there’s getting to be so many restaurants, but a small amount of people who are actually excited to work in them. Years ago you worked in restaurants because it’s what you enjoyed and wanted to do. I hope to see more people take pride in this business and influence others to be great in both the front and back of the house.
It seems like a lot of your family members were encompassed by the culinary world. Were there any tricks you continue to use that your father or uncles might’ve taught you when you were little?
My uncle taught me how to make mozzarella and my dad showed me how to cook pasta properly. Above all, they showed me what it was like to work hard and love your craft. They immigrated here from Italy and worked in restaurants because it’s what they loved. They still share stories and memories of what the old days were like.
Neighborhood bar go-to?
Abilene on Court Street
Not only did you open The Dutch as a sous chef, but you also were the Executive Sous Chef in Lafayette. How do you feel those past experiences help shape your work ethic and culinary skills, today?
The Dutch and Lafayette were two openings out of the six I was part of consecutively. Openings are difficult, but prepare you for every scenario possible. Having been through the process so many times, it really makes you aware of the entire operation on a day-to-day basis. Wouldn’t trade it for anything.
Favorite meal from your childhood?
My mom’s Gatto. It’s a potato pie made with mozzarella, prosciutto and parmigiano.
Where do you hope to see Bar Primi in five years?
Bar Primi is a neighborhood Italian pasta restaurant on the corner of Bowery and second street, and in five years I hope for it to be exactly the same. Five years is a long time for a restaurant, and a lot can happen, so it’s important that everything that customers like about Bar Primi simply stays consistent and progresses through the years.
If you want to meet Sal and have a couple of bowls of pasta, make sure you check out Bar Primi at 325 Bowery. And don’t forget to have a few glasses of wine while you’re there, too. You know, for the experience.
Feature image via Vanessa Granda