We’re on the case. Alexandra Cooper, New York’s star ADA was spotted dining with two city detectives, Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace, at Primola, an Italian restaurant on the Upper East Side. We wondered, what’s cooking? Alex was making do with stracciatella, the Italian version of egg drop soup, while Chapman and Wallace were feasting on a hearty pasta dish, lasagnetta with a veal ragu. Alex was sipping a Dewar’s on the rocks, while Chapman stared at her over the rim of his martini glass. Wallace (boy, cops take the designated driver rule seriously) made do with a mineral water. We leaned in, but they spoke in low tones. Were they solving a crime or commenting on the food? How could we find out?
Well, for starters, we could read Linda Fairstein’s new mystery, Hell Gate, featuring Alex, Mike, and Mercer as well as a lineup of city officials that (imagine that!) often resemble real-life New Yorkers. Primola is not only Alex’s much loved restaurant, it’s Fairstein’s choice, too. (A recent Woman Around Town, Fairstein named Primola as one of her favorite places to dine). The ultimate compliment, of course, is featuring the restaurant in her books, something she has done throughout the Alex Cooper series. And after visiting Primola, this popular eatery is now on our list, too.
We had just finished reading Hell Gate, a terrific page turner that Fairstein, in true fashion, packs with fascinating details about New York. In this volume we learn the history of the city’s mansions including Gracie Mansion. While the plot kept us engaged, the scenes at Primola made us hungry. Reading about the chef’s best dishes would no longer suffice. We needed to test them ourselves. Call it research.
Celebrity hangouts often treat non-celebrities like, well, non-celebrities. Primola, however, greeted us like long lost cousins. A charming hostess took our coats and, even though the restaurant was packed, we were shown to a table in the center of the room that offered privacy and a great vantage point to watch all the activity. Soon after our drink orders were taken, a tempting plate of raw vegetables, cured, spicy meats, and cheese arrived on our table. We nibbled while perusing the menu.
One of the specials was a mixture of grilled vegetables, a combination we find hard to pass up. The selection was inspired, the preparation perfect, and the seasoning just right. We seemed to have a vegetable theme going, so we continued. For pasta, we choose the whole wheat spaghetti with vegetables. With a sprinkling of cheese, this dish was a great way to greet spring—colorful, light, and healthy. How could things get better? Wait! Primola’s Scaloppine Al Limone e Capperi veal with lemon and capers was one of the best renditions we have ever tasted. The veal was tender, well-seasoned, with the tang of lemon and acidity of the capers. Along the way, we enjoyed wine by the glass, putting ourselves in the very capable hands of the Primola staff for suggestions.
For dessert we enjoyed a selection of cheeses, after which we were served some biscotti. Our espresso passed the test (the foam should suspend the sugar crystals a few seconds before dropping them to the bottom). We lingered a while, hoping that Alex (or Linda) would drop in. Instead, we enjoyed references to Fairstein’s books posted on the walls and in the entryway.
It will be a while before we can enjoy another Alex Cooper mystery. We won’t have to wait that long, however, to once again enjoy Primola. There’s no mystery why the two make a great team. Case closed.
1226 Second Avenue, between 64th and 65th Streets