Diner: Elevated

Primavista is good for your civic pride -- and your taste buds

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Have you seen the "CINCINNATI" sign on downtown's expanded convention center? No? Well, that's one more reason to go back to Primavista and check out the view from Price Hill. Delicious Italian food, classic ambience, and very professional service are a few others. This wonderful restaurant has aged well without going stale.

Primavista is the Celestial Steakhouse's cross-town twin, in many respects. They have the best views in town — Celestial from Mount Adams westward, and Primavista, looking east. They're both sophisticated dinner spots located in residential buildings — which probably makes them a less obvious option than a stand-alone eatery. But they are excellent choices for an evening that's elevated above the rest.

At Primavista, the setting is warm but friendly. Genuine Italian kitchen aromas greet you at the door.

The décor is subdued, and rich drapes soften the rooms. A stone accent wall, fresh crisp linens, and — most of all — the breathtaking city view make it distinctive.

To start things off, crisp Italian bread is served with roasted garlic cloves, smooth garlic purée and small decanters of olive oil that I thought were bud vases without buds. There's an agreeable wine list with a broad range of price points. We chose an Australian Shiraz that came in at just a penny under $30.

Mozzarella con Pomodoro ($7.99) is an unusual twist on mozzarella caprese. The cheese is rolled with basil pignolli pesto, sliced into pinwheels and served beside slices of tomato that were surprisingly tasty for December. Drizzled elegantly with a sauce made from roasted red peppers, this salade composée is a lovely presentation.

Shrimp Antoinette ($8.99) is served atop warm croutons in a wonderful sherry and garlic sauce. When a bite of something captures you and whisks you away, that's amore — and I fell in love with this sauce.

Did I mention the excellent service? Tired and hungry on the night of our visit, we ordered in a rush — but our server paced the evening beautifully. We visited during the holidays, but I was still surprised that we might not be able to get in — on a Wednesday! A lot of restaurants would like to have that kind of a crowd.

Nightly specials included an appetizer of gnocchi sautéed in butter with prosciutto and basil ($7.99). Two entrée specials, Pistachio Mahi-Mahi and Broiled Atlantic Salmon, were both in the mid-$20 range, and Primavista generally offers a veal special as well.

Salads are served on chilled glass plates. No huge pile of greenery, just fresh red leaf lettuce garnished simply with radish and carrot accents. Nothing fancy, no affectations. A small nitpick: I resented paying an upcharge for fresh gorgonzola cheese, but the quality was unquestionable.

I didn't mind the short wait before the entrées were served, because it gave me a chance to observe the guests. Several groups of six to eight guests sat near us, so it wasn't all couples taking in the romantic view. Diners covered a wide age range and were fairly well dressed. I did see jeans, but with jackets.

Ah, dinner is served! The Chicken with Gorgonzola usually tops bow-tie pasta, but they graciously substituted gnocchi ($21.28). The sauce here was almost as good as the Antoinette Shrimp, but the Osso Bucco Milanese ($37.28) is pure bliss! The tender meat is served with modest scoops of orzo pasta, and (my cholesterol doctor should stop reading now) comes with a tiny fork to scoop out the rich bone marrow. Milan is in the north of Italy, near Lake Maggiore, the place my husband has promised me is wonderful to visit. Now I know what I'll eat when I get there!

I managed to squeeze in a bite of Bread Pudding ($5.99) — and it was the best I've ever had. Truly transcendent, flecked with raisins, buttery with caramel. We also tried the dessert special; three chocolates ($6.99): a gelatto, mousse and terrine. Primavista serves a special gelatto nightly, but this all-chocolate plate was a treat. I appreciated the small details, like the espresso garnished with sugar lumps, lemon peel and chocolate beans (single $2.99, double $3.50).

Don't save Primavista for a special occasion. You owe it to yourself to get a good view of that "CINCINNATI" sign without a semi creeping up your bumper! It's good for your civic pride — and your taste buds.©

Go: 810 Matson Place, Price Hill

Call: 513-251-6467

Hours: 5:30-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 5:30-10 p.m. Friday; 5:30-11 p.m. Saturday; 5-9 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Expensive

Payment: All

Red Meat Alternatives: Seafood and pasta

Accessibility: Yes, but accessible restroom is on the lower level.

Grade: A

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