Food & Drink

Review: Prima Dopo Adds to the Party Feel of Fells Point

Prima Dopo is not a classic Italian restaurant, but it has a vibe that can’t be ignored.
The Tuscan chicken lollipops. —Photography by Scott Suchman

The buzz starts outside, where from the sidewalk passersby can tell that something is happening inside 1724 Thames Street. Part of it is the loud music emanating from Prima Dopo, the new Italian restaurant and bar with a club-like feel in Fells Point. One can sense that the spot is going for a place-to-be vibe, and judging by the crowds we encountered during our visits in the fall, it’s working.

The concept, from Dragonfly Hospitality, which also operates Canton’s El Bufalo and Raw & Refined, is more lounge than luxury, although it aims to serve upscale food. The focal point of the interior, designed by Anne Stahl of LUUA Design Studio, is a long, slender bar. There’s a large mural of a hummingbird, hand-painted by contemporary Portuguese street artist Luis Martins, aka L7Matrix, plenty of vibrant lighting, and space for a DJ (who was spinning tunes on one of the nights that we were there) near the booths and tables. It all makes for a bit of a Miami Beach feel.

Starting with a cocktail feels natural here, and several that we tried were quite good. The Smokey Italian, made with mezcal, amaro, cucumber puree, lime juice, and agave, is an in depth combination of flavors, and the In the ’Loupe, a tequila-based drink, scores points for using cantaloupe, which isn’t commonly in cocktails. The Buckcherry Showalter is on the sweeter side—and how can you not love that name?

The menu is broken into nine parts, each with just a few offerings. The largest is the Bites section, which includes Tuscan chicken lollipops, two expertly fried drumsticks served on garlic mashed potatoes with a glaze of hot honey and chile oil. The skin is impossibly crunchy with nice spice, and the meat is juicy.

A large pizza oven looms over the back of the restaurant, and five varieties are on the menu. We opted for the spicy salami. While the crust was a bit soggy, the thinly shaved salami lived up to its spicy billing, and balls of garlic and a hot honey glaze added complexity to the pie.

Five pastas are offered, and the two we tried were the best dishes we had over multiple meals. Mafalde with a veal ragu sauce arrived with a generous dollop of cheese. The sauce was appropriately rich, the ribbon-shaped noodles were tender. Likewise, the ink chitarra was teeming with crabmeat and clams, and the white wine sauce complemented the pasta rather than overpowering it.

Four “Classic(ish)” entrees are available, but on the night we ordered the scallop and crab risotto we were told that it was being prepared with mushrooms instead of crab. Quite a change, although the finished product was still tasty. Less so was the crab toast, which arrived on stale pieces of sourdough bread. It never should have left the kitchen.

Among the flashy design touches in Prima Dopo—which means “before and after” in Italian—is the word “vibes” spelled out on the spherical lights hanging from the ceiling in the back. Prima Dopo is not a classic Italian restaurant, but it has a vibe that can’t be ignored.


PRIMA DOPO: 1724 Thames St., Fells Point, 443-449-5605. HOURS: Mon.-Tue. 4 p.m.-midnight, Wed. 11:30 a.m.-midnight, Thur.-Fri. 11:30 a.m.- 2 a.m., Sat. 11 a.m.-2 a.m., Sun. 11 a.m.-10 p.m. PRICES: Toasts and bites: $12-36; pizza: $20-25; sandwiches: $16-22; pasta: $24-36; entrees: $24-45. AMBIANCE: Nouveau Italian.