Original Story from March 3, 2016. “Mama Mia – another busy day,” says Maurizio Colucci, owner of Primos! Restaurant, after shutting off his cell phone to give me his typical undivided attention for an interview.
We sat in a cozy corner of his restaurant as his staff prepared the evening’s sauces that permeated the air. Many cozy corners make up the restaurant’s interior layout, smaller spaces replicating Italian villages framed with wine racks filled with hundreds of bottles of wine.
Maurizio was born into his profession, as the boy barely tall enough to reach the counter helped his father in his pastry shop in Italy. His passion for bread stuck like flour on the hands.
“Good homemade bread should be the start of every good meal….I’m very picky about that,” he says. Primos!’ staff makes 50 pounds a day of fresh bread if that’s any indication.
This Italian born and raised executive chef studied in Europe including Germany, Switzerland and France, and came to the states as a chef consultant in Miami. He started Primos! with his wife Paula (who passed away 10 years ago) and he and his right hand manager of 25 years – Afaf – and his chef of 14 years – Roberto. They continue to raise the bar in offering superb authentic Italian dishes and brick fire oven pizza.
“My staff are my soldiers and we have no turn over…people see that,” Maurizio says.
When Maurizio isn’t at his restaurant tasting sauces, making espresso, shaking hands and kissing babies, he’s off collecting vintage Italian cars and motorcycles. Traveling to Italy and France. Spending time with his ‘three beautiful boys.’ Oil painting. Or remodeling an investment property.
“I’m a Renaissance man,” he says. “It makes life exciting…life is a blessing.”
Maurizio brought the first wood fire brick oven to Sarasota close to two decades ago where today it still crackles to fire up everything from authentic Neapolitan pizza to sizzling prime rib specials.
The restaurant sits across from the airport on N. Tamiami Trail where both Bradenton and Sarasota residents and travelers can “come to Italy…” the restaurant’s motto. Going on 30 years in business and growing, Primos! is a testament to one important ingredients to success: attentive service. Not easy to find in today’s fast-paced, big-box, chain restaurant world.
“It’s sacred when people walk through that door,” Maurizio says. “It’s very important to please the customer and make sure they walk out happy.”
Wood fire brick oven pizza. Luscious homemade pasta. Fresh baked bread. A bottle of Italian wine. A little tiramisu. Attentive Italian hospitality…what’s not to be happy about?
Visit Primos! Ristorante at 8076 N. Tamiami Trail in Sarasota; call (941) 359-3690; or visit the website at www.primo-ristorante.com. Celebrations and business meetings can also be accommodated in the banquet room. Children and families are welcomed with paper table cloths and crayons…it’s a family affair at Primos!
All photos by Patti Pearson for The Sarasota Post