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Primavera Café Boasts Authentic Portuguese Cuisine

Its identity as a community enriched by Portuguese immigrant folkways, Ludlow is fortunate to be home to several fine restaurants that celebrate those traditions. Primavera Cafe Restaurant on East Street is one such establishment.

The restaurant's interior, which is fitted out with a small bar as well as an array of comfortably-spaced dining tables, has a white stucco decor that references the architecture of Obidos, a walled town that's one of Portugal's best-known tourist destinations.

A menu of Portuguese specialties constitutes the Cafe's culinary repertoire. That agenda encompasses Camarao a Mocambique (grilled shrimp -- $18.50) and Javali (tenderloin steak -- $18.50) as well as Carne de Proco Alentejana ($18.50), a classic combination of pork and clams. Additional entree options include Grilled Chicken Breast ($16.50), Bacalhau Assado (grilled cod -- $21.50), and the iconic seafood casserole, Mariscada (market price).

For starters the Cafe features Camarao a Casa (spicy shrimp -- $10.50), Pasteis de Bacalhau ($7.50), and Asas de Galinha ($8.50). We began our dinner by sharing a showy presentation. Chourica Assado ($8.50) is a simple idea - a whole chourica sausage is doused with brandy and served "flaming." Primavera observed all the conventions of that particular presentation, right down to the hand-decorated dish in which the sausage is served. Filled with a red-pepper-spiced mixture of cubed meat, the chourica delivered hearty flavors - smoky, meaty, and spicy -- as well as some visual fireworks fun. Febras (Portuguese barbecued pork -- $15.50) features thin, cutlet style strips of pork marinated in a mixture of wine, lemon juice, and paprika. Grilled and served sauced with the cooked down marinade, the half-dozen pork strips had a robustly garlicky character.Paired in traditional fashion with fried potatoes, the Febras also came with steamed rice. Starch on starch, we noted, seems to be a frequent Portuguese food motif.

Our second entree choice was Espadarte Grelhado (grilled swordfish -- $21.50). The two-steak portion was generously sized, the accompanying deep-fried potato rounds an appropriate plate partner, and the vegetable side, a medley of broccoli, green beans, cauliflower, and more, was tender-crisp and impeccably fresh. Like the rest of our Primavera experience, the swordfish was a praiseworthy effort.

The recipe for Bacalhau a Marinheiro ($18.50) employs the bright and fragrantly tart flavors of tomato to good effect. Assembled from a baked cod filet that's topped with shrimp, scallops, and a sauce of tomatoes, onions, celery, and green peppers, it's a dish that elevates mild-mannered cod to something boldly memorable.

Diners at Primavera get to enjoy a basket of country style breads with their meal, and entrees also include a cup of soup. We enjoyed the house-made chicken noodle soup; based on a good broth, it included chunks of chicken, diced carrot, and celery. Fully licensed, the Cafe maintains a small, moderately priced wine list on which the wines of Portugal are well represented.The assortment of desserts at Primavera incorporates familiar options such as Mousse de Chocolate ($5.50), Cheesecake ($6.50), and a Chocolate Chip Cookie Square ($7.50). We opted to sample three available Portuguese specialties. The restaurant's Pudim Flan ($5.50) was a fine example of the genre, with a robust caramel flavor and a substantial, cheesecake-like texture. A wedge of almond tart (Tarte de Amendoa -- $6) was a dessert masterwork, with its sponge cake base and top layer of caramelized sugar and almonds. "Biscuit cake" (Bolo de Bolacha -- $7.50) is a no-bake Portuguese confection that's made from layering coffee-moistened sweet wafers with rich buttercream. The result is a dessert experience that's a firmer, more substantial version of tiramisu; it pairs perfectly with after dinner coffee.

Offering authentic, skillfully prepared specialties, Primavera Cafe Restaurant is a great place to explore the interesting nuances of Portuguese cuisine.

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