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Chef Alain Roby's Primo Review - Exceptional Fare

By Suzanne Magnuson

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If you believe that food is not just fuel for your body, but art, and that the dining experience is as important as what you eat, then you need to drive immediately to Geneva, IL and go to Primo, the new restaurant from Chef Alain Roby, famed proprietor of All Chocolate Kitchen.  And you should do this as soon as possible, before it becomes so popular that you can’t get in.

Chef Roby and his wife, Esther, have expanded their famous shop into the space next door to create a curated dining experience inspired by their heritage and life experiences and designed to share what they love most with the guests that come to visit. While the food is the exceptional fare you would expect from a man with more than 20 culinary awards to his name including  The Grand Prize Gold Medal of Paris offered by the French First Minister (Medaille Des Nautes), Best of Show by the National Restaurant Association Culinary Salon 1988,  medaling At the National Pastry Team Championships in 2001 and in 2005 and holding three  Guiness World Records for sugar sculpting, the space itself is designed to created a one-of-a-kind experience for the diner.

You enter through All Chocolate Kitchen, where you are immediately impressed by the sight of Chef’s award-winning sugar sculptures.  They are the delight of young and old, drawing crowds of children in the family-friendly space.

Eddie Olczyk statue

Blues player statue

American classics poster

The Space Man (Neil Armstrong) and Eros, God of Love, (dubbed an angel) were the favorites among the children we saw.

Eros statue

Neil Armstrong statue

Then you walk past an array of amazing treats until you reach the far end of the pleasant dining space.


Pastry Case

Chef Roby's creations

Chef Roby's creations


All Chocolate Kitchen

Chef Roby's wedding cakes

You will note in passing many of Chef Roby's accolades and some of his sugar art.


Chef Roby's awards


Best of the Fox plaque


Artwork of Geneva

There you are greeted by the doors that let you know you’re in for something even more sophisticated. With a nod at local architectural genius Frank Lloyd Wright built in to the design.  The menu is mounted to the wall beside the doors.


Primo doors


Primo menu

When you enter the space, you discover a charming seating area immediately to your left and the first of Chef Roby’s incredible sugar artwork.  The coffee table and the picture above the chocolate brown couch are both crafted by him especially for the space and then covered in Plexiglas. Above the artwork is an inspirational quotation, the first of many scattered around the room.


Sugar art and quote


Sugar art table


Inspiring quote

From the color palette of warm chocolate brown, sugar white and pops of invigorating orange, to the repeated circular motifs, the sparkling reflective surfaces, and the careful colored lighting, the intimate space is designed to inspire and charm. But no sense has been left wanting, as soft music is piped in through the sound system and delicious scents are already wafting through the air from Chef Roby’s spectacular vision – the chocolate rig.


Restaurant tables


Dining area


Mirror motif


Entry to Primo kitchen

When they wanted to create an adult space, next to the family-friendly one they already had, the concept was “Willy Wonka for Adults” and that is anchored by Chef’s two-story chocolate fountain complete with blown-sugar lights. From his original drawing of the concept, to the painstaking construction with local artisan and friend Victor H. Giampaolo, Chef Roby’s vision came to life and is the anchor of this incredible space.  It truly has to be seen to be believed.  Click the links below for film.

The Chocolate Rig in action.

The molten chocolate.


The chocolate rig


Molten chocolate

Behind the bar, a second spectacular lighted sugar artwork by Chef Roby features the restaurant’s name Primo – meaning “first dish” in Italian. It is surrounded by bottles of wine, part of the carefully-selected menu that complements the food offerings.


Sugar artwork sign

And this feast is what occurs before you have a single mouthful of food.

The menu, itself, is curated by Chef Roby and his wife Esther, reflecting their heritage and life history through food.  He is French, she is Italian, and they have variously lived in other cities around the world including New York and London, before coming to Chicagoland to settle down and raise their family.  Their rich food heritage and the insights they have learned along the way are all beautifully represented in Primo’s menu of food and wine.

Though you don’t enter through the front door, facing on Third Street, it does offer a preview of the wine menu through the cleverly-designed display window.  Here you see that you are about to be treated to a sophisticated, grown-up space. The

Wine selection showcase

%20%20http:/allchocolatekitchenprimo.com/images/primo_winemenu.pdf" target="_blank">wine menu.


Primo front door


Wine selection showcase

The majority of the menu’s choices are cheese and charcuterie, carefully selected to reflect the very best of their type and perfect to share.


Cheese and charcuterie plate


Bleu cheese and mustard


Berkshire salami

And like the room surrounding you, it is all presented with the utmost artistry, from the selection of dishware to the artful arrangement, it all works together to create a unique and beautiful experience to truly savor.  The variety of breads, garnishes and sauces are as carefully chosen as the cheeses and meats to not only perfectly complement them, but to be exceptional of themselves. The food menu.


Garnishes and bread


Bread selection

The menu offers seven entrees, two meatless, designed to please any palate, and reflecting the Roby’s French and Italian heritage, including an exceptional brioche and salmon dish often made by Chef Roby’s mother, Suzanne.  They all taste even better than they look.


Mushroom risotto


Lamb shank


Short ribs and spiced green lentils


Maman Suzanne's smoked salmon


Maman Suzanne's smoked salmon


Maman Suzanne's smoked salmon

And you couldn’t go to Chef Roby’s restaurant and not expect exceptional desserts and this menu doesn’t fail in that respect, either, including his signature Devil’s Food Cake and an astonishing trio of Pot de Crème including Apricot, Grand Cru Chocolate and an unbelievable Pistachio.


Devil's food cake


Devil's food cake


Pot de creme trio


Pot de creme trio

Soon to come will be a signature gelato dish served in hand-blown glasses crafted especially for Primo according to Esther's design specifications.


Esther's gelato creation

If you love food, wine, and art it is more than worth the drive to Geneva, IL to visit Primo.  Bring friends.  Linger and enjoy. Allow the Robys to make suggestions. You can’t go wrong. 


All photography and film by Suzanne Magnuson



Published on Mar 21, 2016

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