Co-owner and James Beard Award–winning chef Melissa Kelly drew on two influences when she opened her Italian restaurant in this renovated 1880s Victorian in 2000. First, as a onetime apprentice of Alice Waters at Chez Panisse, Kelly maintained a focus on the freshest possible meat and produce, using seasonal ingredients from her four-acre garden: roasted cardoons, sweet, grilled peaches, caramelized purple cauliflower, jade-hued linguine made with sorrel. (Even her simple salad of summer lettuces and fresh-picked herbs is in a league of its own.) Kelly also takes cues, however, from her Italian ancestry, adapting classic Italian recipes like saltimbocca—a lusty mélange of spinach, mashed potatoes, house-made prosciutto, pork cutlets in mushroom Madeira sauce—from her grandfather, a butcher from Bologna. Since opening the restaurant, Kelly and co-owner/pastry chef Price Kushner have also opened Primo Tucson and Primo Orlando, but nothing compares to the garden-to-table ethic and homey patina of the original location.
Insider Tip: Ever the purists, Kelly and Kushner even keep Italian bees, whose honey is used in desserts, cheese plates, and tisanes.
Open Wednesday - Sunday
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From Food & Wine , APR 2006
When chef Melissa Kelly was growing up on New York's Long Island, she was embarrassed that her mom packed minestrone in her lunch box. Today she's a minestrone master, creating fantastic Southern Italian–inspired recipes for her flagship restaurant, Primo, in Rockland, Maine...MORE