Primo opens doors in Riverview

Five years after opening upscale Southern restaurant Public House downtown, restaurateur Nathan Lindley has opened neighborhood Italian restaurant Primo in his own community of Riverview.

“It’s always been my hope to build and open a restaurant in my direct neighborhood,” Lindley said. “It’s the best location in Chattanooga, with a beautiful building that’s accessible to the North Chattanooga and Riverview neighborhoods.”

He said in the first few days the restaurant’s been open, about one-third of guests have come to the restaurant on foot.

Lindley describes the food as New York neighborhood Italian food. River Street Deli owner Bruce Weiss served as a consultant on the menu, which contains versions of dishes he grew up eating in Brooklyn, said Lindley.

“It’s more American than Italian,” he said, describing Primo as a “red sauce restaurant” featuring dishes such as meatballs and lasagna.

The most popular dishes have been the meatballs and the simply grilled trout from Pickett’s Farm, he said.

Local produce is always used when available in season, said Lindley.

“I wanted what I did to be respectful of the neighborhood,” he said. “It would have been easy to do a tavern, but there’s already a great tavern across the street. So I decided to do a consummate neighborhood restaurant.”

He said he wants Primo to be the type of restaurant teenagers will come to with their parents, who then later bring their fiancé(e) and then later bring their own children.

“I want this to be here forever,” said Lindley.

The Daad Group, a trendy architecture firm out of Nashville, designed the space (part of the former Greenlife Grocery), which seats 94 including the patio.

Lindley said he hopes in five years the restaurant will be exactly as it is now.

“I think people will find it’s a very friendly place, the food is really high quality and really accessible,” he said. “It’s not light fare, but it’s fairly healthy.”

The restaurant also features a full bar.

“A bar is a place where neighborhoods gather,” said Lindley. “I want people to feel as attached to the bar as they are to the restaurant.”

His long-term goal is to open another restaurant with a more family-friendly concept, something along the lines of a burger and soda shop with a bar component, he said.