Last night I decided to drop into Princi Italia, Patrick Colombo’s new spot in the old Poplolos space in Preston Royal. The executive chef, Kevin Ascolese, was Columbo’s chef at Ferre in West Village. Before that he cooked at Salve and Mi Piaci. I also spotted veteran chef/baker David Brawley in the kitchen. If my brain synapses are functioning correctly today, I believe Brawley and Ascolese were together at Salve. (I can still taste the bread he made there.)
The space, designed by JonesBaker, has been completely redone into a sort of contemporary Texas-Tuscan farmhouse. The ceilings have been raised and I loved the rustic basket “chandeliers.” The room is light and open. I feel like the bar area may prove to be too small once word hits the surrounding neighborhood. Two flat screen TVs can be seen from any spot in the house. (Not so Tuscan.)
However, the food was classic Ascolese which translates into finer versions of “safe” Dallas Italian food. I could eat the tagliatelle Bolognese every night. The sauce was barely a sauce. The light, house made noodles were tossed with fresh tomatoes, basil, small bits of meat, and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Not a drop of liquid pooled on the bottom of the plate. Which I guess is a good thing because there would have been nothing for me to sop it up with. No bread. Patrick, you hired David Brawley and don’t serve bread on the table? Yes, he can make pizza dough; he proved that at Fireside Pies. And Princi does have a wood burning pizza oven. I guess I’ll eat pizza next time.
I almost choked on a salad of rapini and arugula. The greens were blanched and formed a tangled salad of soggy leaves and stems which were topped with a salty, in a good way, blob of burrata cheese. Once again I yearned for bread. The broth beneath the weed was a drinkable liquid of olive oil, specks of red pepper, and lemon. The plates of Italian “specialties” such as grilled Colorado trout, veal Slatimbocca, and grilled wild Alaska salmon going to other tables looked interesting. The portions are just right and priced from $13 to $20. The list is full of nice Italian reds, whites, and sparkling wine most of which are in the mid-$30 to $50 range. You can order a carafe of several interesting wines for $15 to $31 (12 ounces).
Princi reminds me of Popolos when they first opened—it’s a perfect fit for the demographics of the nearby neighborhood. However, times have changed and Princi is much more casual. Shower shoes and shorts and school uniforms were the norm last night.