It's no secret that the breakfasting habits of Italians and Americans are wildly different. A traditional breakfast in Italy is little more than a croissant and a cappuccino, while in the States, we stereotypically tuck into enormous plates of fried eggs, hashbrowns, toast, and bacon. Yes, these may be exaggerated versions of the truth (I don't know about you, but you won't often catch me eating diner-style breakfast on an average weekday morning), but they are at least partially based in fact. To put it simply, food before noon is done differently in Italy, and brunch is not high on their priority list. There are a few things, however, that we can all agree on - for one, we all love Italian food. For another, we can all appreciate the time-honored concept of a grand Sunday meal. Whether it's the Americans' leisurely mid-morning mashup of breakfast and lunch with friends or the Italians' abundant multi-course family affair that stretches into the late afternoon, everyone can agree that Sundays are best spent eating delicious food and enjoying the company of loved ones.
How best can we celebrate this overlap in the cultural Venn diagram of our two countries' eating habits? Why, by partaking in a long, leisurely Italian-inspired Sunday brunch, of course. Fortunately, the concept of Italian restaurants serving brunch is not foreign to Southern California, so finding that beautiful marriage between vibrant Italian flavors and comforting classic brunch is completely within your grasp. Especially if you live near Torrance - where you will find the delightful Primo Italia, nestled on the top of a little hill.
What is most evident about Primo Italia upon entering is its unique blend of elegance and coziness; displays of tchotchkes and knick-knacks are paired with luxurious contemporary seating and a sleek marble bar. There's a baby grand piano and an old-fashioned microphone situated by the entrance, inviting you to come back in the evening for a live performance that will undoubtedly transport you to another place and time. Framed old photos tell the stories of charismatic owner Lou Giovannetti's Italian-American family, who worked hard to provide a comfortable life for their children back in New York, and who appreciated the importance of spending time with family and sharing good food.
A sense of reverence for the past is tangible here, and it extends well beyond the decorating philosophy and into the kitchen. Chef Michelangelo Aliaga, who Giovannetti calls "a true heritage-based Italian cook," moved to the States at the age of 19, and worked his way up through some of the most loved Italian restaurants in the country. His strong culinary background and his passion for history shine through in his extensive dinner menu; each dish tells a story about a place and time in Italian history. The brunch menu is similarly substantial: its upper half is devoted to Italian takes on breakfast classics, and its lower half features some lunch-appropriate favorites from the dinner menu.
As tempting as the lower half of the menu was, as brunch enthusiasts, we were naturally inclined toward the top half of Aliaga's menu - specifically toward dishes that combined some of our favorite things: eggs and tomatoes. First was the Uova in Purgatorio, or Eggs in Purgatory: two eggs baked in a cast iron skillet with a spicy tomato sauce, served with crusty bread and soft, creamy cheese. The dish was piping hot (even after we'd spent several minutes photographing it) thanks to the skillet, yet the egg yolks remained perfectly cooked and runny. The flavorful sauce highlighted the tangy tomatoes, and supported their bright flavor with a satisfying, subtle spiciness. Bread is a must in a dish like this, and this airy Italian loaf was the perfect vehicle for the saucy, yolky, creamy meal - next time, we'll ask for an extra slice.
Next was the Omelette di Burrata Pomodoro e Basilico, a fluffy omelette stuffed with Italian staples like creamy burrata cheese, fresh heirloom tomatoes, and aromatic basil. This dish is a perfect example of the Italian tradition of combining just a few simple, high quality ingredients to create something delightfully uncomplicated. It's served alongside some well-cooked potatoes and crunchy bacon, with a few extra slices of those divine, in-season tomatoes as an extra treat.
A dessert course is an important part of a leisurely brunch, so something sweet was in order to end our meal - the Ricotta Pancake. This dish, while not what you'd normally expect from a pancake, fits its description perfectly: it is a super-dense, creamy cake, baked and served in a cast-iron pan. So yeah, a literal pan-cake. Topped with baked apples, a generous dousing of house-made honey syrup, and a dollop of ricotta, this was a sweet and satisfying end to our meal. Make sure you get a top-up on your coffee before this dish, too - the combination is delightful.
While the Italian tradition of a big, Sunday meal with family may not exist in most of modern America, it's clear that many of us still yearn for the warm, comforting, nostalgic feeling that such a meal inspires. Perhaps our new tradition of brunch is a response to this need, a way to establish human connection and bonding over an activity that everyone enjoys, on a day that is meant for rest and reflection. Primo Italia offers the perfect environment for embracing this practice - with heartwarming food, a kind and welcoming staff, and a relaxed, beautiful space, you'll feel like you've come home to your big, Italian family just in time for Sunday supper. Mangiamo!
24590 Hawthorne Boulevard
Torrance, Ca 90505