Prima Brings Swanky Vibes and House-Made Pasta to Charlestown

This summer is for Italian steakhouses with velvety backroom lounges.

Overhead view of a white marble table covered with pasta, steak, and other Italian dishes.

A spread of dishes at Prima. / Photo by Mike Diskin

Luxury cuts of steak, hearty portions of house-made pasta, and a swanky rose-themed lounge have come to Charlestown: Prima is here, courtesy of culinary director and managing partner Nick Dixon. (He also plays those roles at Hunter’s Kitchen & Bar in South Boston—and is culinary director for Southie’s Lincoln Tavern & Restaurant and Capo, too.)

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Steps away from the Freedom Trail, Prima occupies the historic space formerly home to Legal Oysteria, which closed in 2020, and before that, Todd English’s Olives, a landmark Mediterranean restaurant in its heyday. Now, Mediterranean is back at the address—Italian, specifically—with sweeping, arched openings and bright windows providing an ideal backdrop for Prima’s open-kitchen layout.

Visit our Ultimate Guide to Boston Restaurant Openings, Summer 2023, to learn more about other exciting new openings this season.

Diners can get a great view of the culinary team hand-rolling pici, a spaghetti-like pasta; stretching mozzarella; slow-roasting tomatoes for marinara sauce; and slicing massive Florentine and tomahawk cuts of steak meant to be shared. (The in-house butchering is a throwback to the Olives days and also allows the team to sell meat cheaper than at a steakhouse that’s not doing its own butchering.)

A restaurant with a prominent open kitchen and a central bar features lots of elegant dark wood and globe-shaped light fixtures.

Photo by Mike Diskin

“We make fresh mozzarella, stracciatella, ricotta, all these different cheeses,” says Dixon, “and we want people to be able to watch that experience when they’re checking out the kitchen. We’re trying to do basically everything in-house and from scratch.” Executive chef Jacob Mendros (of Loco Taqueria & Oyster Bar, which shares a couple owners with Prima) is particularly passionate about the cheeses. As Dixon tells it, Mendros said he’d do the project—as long as there was a mozzarella bar.

A thick-cut veal chop is breaded and fried, sitting in a pool of tomato sauce and covered with melted cheese and a basil leaf.

Prima’s veal chop parmesan with slow-roasted ragu, house-made mozzarella, and basil. / Photo by Mike Diskin

At Prima, which opened in June, a diner might start the night with fresh potato focaccia and a sesame semolina baguette, a meat and cheese board, or crudo before opting for a rich veal prime rib topped with goat cheese crema, or a summery artichoke risotto, or the bold pici with ‘nduja, a spicy, spreadable Italian sausage. There’s pizza, too—the Turin-inspired pizza al padellino, a small pan pizza with a buttery, crispy crust.

A rare steak is sliced and served with potatoes, creamed greens, a carafe of red wine, a lemon, and a bouquet of fresh herbs.

Prima’s 32-ounce, 45-day dry-aged porterhouse is served with crispy potatoes, creamed braising greens, and black garlic parmesan butter. / Photo by Mike Diskin

Finally, desserts end things on a sweet note, with some help from Capo pastry chef Marissa Hart: That house-made creamy ricotta can be found stuffed inside jumbo cannoli—the size of three normal cannoli!—and sprinkled with chocolate chips. There’s also a seasonal strawberry tiramisu, a caramelized-fig-and-olive-oil chocolate mousse, and more.

A large cannoli topped with powdered sugar sits on a golden tray.

Prima’s jumbo cannoli. / Photo by Mike Diskin

There’s plenty to drink on the mostly Italian wine list (with some detours into France and California), and the cocktail list pumps up classics with Italian flavors. There’s a blood orange and amaretto margarita, for example, and a lemony, amaro-spiked iced tea.

A room inside a restaurant is decorated in dark wood, red velvet, and pink marble.

The Rose Room at Prima. / Photo by Mike Diskin

Appearance-wise, this City Square spot is full of surprises. Walk past Prima’s bustling kitchen through a mosaic-covered hallway into the Rose Room, which is covered in red velvet and fitted with its very own cocktail bar and fireplace, both made of pink marble, and decorated with a sprawling, rose-themed flower installation. Patrons can enjoy anything from Prima’s menu in this lounge or reserve the dreamy space for special events.

“At Prima, you can have two entirely different dining experiences in one night,” says designer Erica Diskin of Assembly Design Studio, who worked on the space. “You can have dinner up front, and then you can go in the back and have after-dinner drinks at the bar.”

A room inside a restaurant is decorated in dark wood and red velvet.

The Rose Room at Prima. / Photo by Mike Diskin

The Prima team has lots of upcoming plans, from special events (such as gluten-free nights) to a summer brunch menu launching imminently—expect Dutch babies, blueberry rolls (a spin on a cinnamon roll), and meaty hashes. And starting next Wednesday and lasting throughout the summer, there’ll be house-made gelato for sale from the front door. Keep an eye on social media for pertinent updates, snag a reservation, and start thinking about with whom you’ll share that 40-ounce Brandt tomahawk.

10 City Sq., Charlestown, Boston, 617-804-7400,

Exterior of a restaurant painted black, with golden lettering spelling Prima, a red awning, and lots of neatly pruned bushes.

Photo by Mike Diskin