When Primitivo debuted in Central City it had a highly-regarded restaurateur at the helm, a wood-fired hearth in the kitchen and talk of a potential game changer for its neighborhood buzzing around it.

This Saturday (May 20), after two years nearly to the day, Primitivo will close for good, as nola.com first reported today.

In an interview with the Advocate, co-owner Adolfo Garcia said that after a strong initial reception the restaurant’s business gradually diminished and it could no longer carry on.

“We did great the first year, but then the penny wasn’t as shiny anymore,” he said. “I got to hold them when I can and fold them when I have to.”

Garcia owns the property and plans to seek new operators to lease the restaurant space. 

Garcia opened Primitivo with Ron Copeland and Jared Ralls (the chef and a partner with Garcia in the Argentine-style steakhouse La Boca). They transformed a corner building and one-time day care center into a contemporary, upscale-casual restaurant. The kitchen, led by chef Nick Martin, was based around a massive open-fire hearth of brick and iron that imparted flavors of char, smoke and slow-cooking to the menu.

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Advocate staff photo by SHERRI MILLER -- Slow cooking is a hallmark of the approach at Primitivo, as expressed in the smoked beef coulotte, served over pimento cheese grits with scallion jus.

Primitivo was hailed as a major addition on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard, the commercial stretch that has slowly been redeveloping in recent years and has drawn a number of other new restaurants.

Garcia came to the project after success in another revitalized area. He’s a partner in High Hat Café and Ancora, two adjacent eateries he opened on Freret Street in 2011 as that Uptown neighborhood was just emerging as a modern restaurant row.

Despite the decision to close Primitivo, Garcia said he’s confident Central City will continue to develop.

“I think the street has a great potential,” he said. “I think someone else will come in here with a different concept and can make it work.”

Primitivo

1800 O.C. Castle Haley Blvd. 504-881-1775

Dinner Mon.-Sat., happy hour 3-6 p.m., final day is May 20, 2017

Follow Ian McNulty on Twitter, @IanMcNultyNOLA.