All Chocolate Kitchen PRIMO: He had me at lamb!

©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin

It was about a year and a half ago when, after a delightful discussion of the menu for Danny's communion party we were hosting at All Chocolate Kitchen, I casually said to Esther Roby that they should just open a full restaurant. She replied that actually the space next door was available and they were considering it. I secretly crossed my fingers and wished her all the best in the decision making.

I spent the next year eagerly awaiting the opening of the Robys' new restaurant. Esther never revealed the concept, but at some point hinted at French Country. From that little hint, I imagined an extension of ACK with the same dark wood furniture and rustic French food. Then, on one gorgeous early fall day, we managed to peek inside the new space through a tiny gap between the sheets of paper that covered the window. Inside the long narrow space, the drywall was already up, there was a bar along the back wall, and I saw chairs. Stacked on top of each other, the chairs were not French Country at all! The chairs were made of high quality molded plastic, with white comfortable seats, gray frames, and Swiss cheese bright orange backs. They were striking, ultra modern, and unmistakably Italian. Staring at those chairs, I realized at that moment that whatever the Robys were planning was going to be completely different from All Chocolate Kitchen and absolutely amazing.

©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin

Primo means First Course in Italian. The concept is very simple - cheese and wine in an amazing intimate setting. Or caviar and champagne, if you'd like. Yes, it's on the menu, and yes this very picky Russian approves their choice of caviar. And it's real champagne! Which you can order by the glass as well.

©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin
Chef Alain Roby's Chocolate Rig
The intimate space of only 11 tables is romantically lit by blue and purple light (great for your complection, challenging for foodie pictures), and is dominated by a whimsical 22 foot tall chocolate rig. What is more amazing, though, is the back-lit sugar wall behind the bar. It was made out of over 200 lbs of sugar and took eight men to install. The intimate corner lounge area features a sugar coffee table (covered by tempered glass, so no licking!). As if that was not enough, Chef Roby even made two chocolate paintings (think Jackson Pollock in chocolate). And those Italian chairs I've been drooling over? Extremely comfortable.
©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin
Who needs marble when you can have sugar? The incredible sugar wall.
The incredible dining experience starts just outside the two enormous sliding doors, where you are warmly greeted by the hostess. The doors are slowly opened and you are led inside to your table. The hostess takes the time to point out and give the details on the chocolate rig, the sugar wall and table, and the paintings. The waitstaff is young, polite, and attentive. The menu is uncomplicated and easy to navigate. The wine list has been carefully designed to pair well with the menu while addressing a variety of wine tastes. Primo proudly features several wines from the local Aquaviva Winery.

We chose the Chef's Choice Charcuterie to start, although you can assemble your own by choosing all the meats and cheeses. But I had to have the pâté, of course. One just has to have it when it's on the menu and it's a French Chef! It was divine: smooth, moist, the right color, right texture. The charcuterie arrived on a long white ceramic tray with a mini Moroccan tagine containing fig toasts, fig butter, a couple of gherkins, and a divine tiny red pepper stuffed with chevre cheese. It was recommended by Steven, our server, to pair the fig butter with our cheeses. Perfect! I recommend saving the little pepper morsel to the end, it has a soft kick to it and will finish off the charcuterie quite nicely. Since I have to stay away from red wine unfortunately, our wine selection was Chateauneuf du Pape Blanc. We had a hard time deciding on our next round, and after long deliberations went with Short Ribs with Lentils and Lamb Shank with White Beans.

©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin
Oh, the Lamb!

The Lamb... it was so soft and delicate, it just fell off the bone. No knife needed. It is quite flavorful (I'm sure the marinade is an old family secret) and pairs well with the creaminess of white beans.
©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin
Short Ribs

The Short Ribs with red wine sauce were tender, succulent, and robust in flavor. I loved how the lentils finished the dish off. One of our friends seated next to us ordered the Smoked Salmon. It was accompanied by a poached egg (still hot and oozy) inside a brioche. It looked amazing, I will have to get that next time. After the champagne and caviar of course. All plates were generous enough to share between two people.

©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin

We even had room for dessert. You just can not go to a Chef Roby restaurant and not have dessert! We went with the Devil's Food Cake and Flourless Chocolate Cake. By the way, Chef Roby whips the best whipped cream. One day I will just ask for the whipped cream covered in his raspberry sauce.

©copyright 2016 Kate Brankin
The cozy corner with sugar table.
It is evident that Primo is a labor of love by two amazingly creative people. It is an absolute must for a romantic date, or an evening out with a great friend, or a proposal. We will be returning many times over. And perhaps, maybe one day the Robys will open a Secondo.

All Chocolate Kitchen Primo
29 S 3rd Street, Geneva, IL
630 232 2280
Open Wed-Thur 5-9 pm. Fri-Sat 5-10 pm.
Please note that the restaurant is 21 and older.
Reservations are highly recommended.

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