Welcome To


After 43 years we are sad to announce PRIMA Ristorante has closed. We thank you for your decades of love and support and hope you will continue to support us at PRIMA Vini which continues to live on.

PRIMA Vini Wine Merchants Website

Click here for a personal note from Peter Chastain & John Rittmaster

Share your memories with us!

About Us

The Prima Story

 Prima Restaurant is a celebration of food and family; both our own family, as well as the friends we choose for ourselves. Prima has been bringing together family and regional Italian cuisine around the same table for 40 years. Join us at our table, and become part of the Prima family.
About Us



The Prima Story

The Prima Story


Our Story

When Michael and Janet Verlander rented the shoebox-sized storefront at 1522 North Main Street in Walnut Creek in May of 1977, they had no idea that 38 years later, it would have become the East Bay’s premier wine and food destination. It started as a deli with a cheese counter, a hot plate and a few racks of wine. But these were dynamic times, and Michael, driven by a passion for wine, quickly forged close relationships with some of California’s newest and best names in the wine business. Duckhorn, Silver Oak, Kistler and Au Bon Climat, for example, all sold their first vintages at Walnut Creek Wine & Cheese. Michael still tells of talking Dan Duckhorn out of 14 cases of his first vintage of Three Palms Merlot and selling it for the princely sum of $14 per bottle!

Everything changed when the Verlanders, while taking a rare vacation in Italy in the late eighties, had an epiphany while dining at Ristorante Belvedere atop La Morra hill in Barolo. They were so taken by it all that they decided to import their Piemontese experience to Walnut Creek. Walnut Creek Wine & Cheese became successively Prima Café, Prima Trattoria e Negozio di Vini, and finally PRIMA. With the change came expansion. The shoebox doubled in size with the addition of what is now the Caminetto fireplace dining room.

When I started at PRIMA as Wine Director in the spring of 1994, what is now our wood-burning oven and Enoteca dining room was a sushi bar, and the space now occupied by PRIMA Vini, our wine shop, was another restaurant. Things grew quickly as both the restaurant and wine store’s reputation spread. Then in 1999, the Verlanders recruited Chef Peter Chastain to run the kitchen, further cementing the restaurant’s place as one of the East Bay’stop wining and dining destinations.

Chef Peter and I purchased PRIMA from the Verlanders in 2005, and have since made it our mission to not only preserve the original Italian sensibility that drove the business’ metamorphosis, but to enhance it, making subtle refinements to the menu, the appearance of the dining space, and to a wine list that now numbers over 1300 selections, with a particular focus on the Italian wine that best suit our cuisine.

These days PRIMA is hitting on all cylinders. Under the guidance of Chef Peter’s unwavering focus on only the best organic seasonal ingredients, PRIMA has elevated the dining experience to one of the best in the Bay Area; while PRIMA Vini, with its friendly, professional and experienced staff, is known not only as Walnut Creek’s most respected source for the world’s rarest and most exciting wines, but also as an internet retailer of national repute

We hope you’ll experience PRIMA’s Italian sensibility with us soon.

John Rittmaster Owner/Wine Director

Menu Launch







Classic regional Italian flavors, and seasonal ingredients made daily with great care and passion under the supervision of Executive Chef, and owner Peter Chastain.

Wine Launch

World Class

Wine List

The Wines

of Northern Italy

Wine Director John Rittmaster, and Sommelier Frank Rothstein have worked tirelessly during their two decades at Prima to build a comprehensive, world class wine list specializing in the wines of Northern Italy.
Search Our Wine List

Private, Sommelier-Led Tastings

Private, Sommelier-Led Tastings:
We offer private, Sommelier-led wine tastings for parties of any size. These can be held in any of our private dining rooms or even in our wine shop next door, Prima Vini. We can curate the tasting theme to fit any palate or concept utilizing our 50-page wine list. Give us a chance to do what we do best and introduce you to the best wines that the world has to offer in a private and fun setting. This is the perfect ‘cocktail hour’ before any private function!

Awards and Press


and Press




The Contra Costa Times

“Contemporary and innovative Italian foods stand out at this cozy restaurant which sports a huge wine list and daily wine tastings. PRIMA is a fine place for an evening when you want to linger over dinner and a good wine. It’s also the place sit on the sidewalk patio and watch the hustle and bustle on Main Street.”

Contra Costa Times/Bay Area News Group Food and Wine Blog, “Prima Pinot Dinner a Hit,” by Jessica Yadegaran
May 21, 2009
Read Full Article

Prima Sommelier Frank Rothstein named Somm of the week in the San Jose Mercury News and Contra Costa Times.
May 28th 2014
Read Full Article

Diablo Magazine

“Crisp and Cool!” Prima Ristorante…offers some of the most innovative, exciting cocktails we’ve ever tried.
Read Full Article


Over the years, PRIMA has been recognized as a top restaurant and wine destination. Here are some of our more recent awards.

The San Francisco Chronicle: Critic’s Choice

“The best Pasta in the Bay Area” and “The best Place for Saturday Lunch”. “PRIMA demonstrates that wine tasting in a restaurant can be as appealing a prospect as ordering food… Prices are reasonable and the portions are nothing to complain about. PRIMA is a place that knows how to please its patrons.”

The San Francisco Chronicle: Michael Bauer

Bay Area Restaurants choose the best for their lists…
Michael Bauer, Chronicle Restaurant Critic June 17, 2002

Few restaurants have as extensive a wine program as Prima in Walnut Creek. With the advantage of also being a wine merchant, diners are treated to great pricing (most wines are a little more than doubled in mark up), and an inventory of more than 1,600 wines.

The list has great depth-there are more than 160 red wines from Piedmont alone-and what seems like just about every Gaja wine ever made. In addition, you’ll discover wines from up-and-coming regions, including five wines from Maremma in Tuscany.

The wines are stored at perfect cellar temperature, and the list is updated weekly. Prima also conducts educational seminars, tastings and produces a monthly newsletter.

Diablo Magazine: Best of the East Bay Awards


Best Italian Restaurant: 2003, 2004
Best Sommelier: J.D. Massler, 2002
Best Wine Tasting: 2001
Best Wine List: 1992-1998, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004
Best Wine Store: 1998, 2000
Best Fine Dining: 2005
Best Italian: 2005, 2007

Wine Spectator Magazine “Best Award of Excellence”
Winner 1998-2014

Only 380 restaurants throughout the world have received this award. “PRIMA of Walnut Creek offers an incredible 1,500 wines at great prices.”

Wine Enthusiast Magazine “Wine Friendliest Restaurants in America”

Only 60 restaurants nationwide were accorded this award, which singles out excellence in wine service, storage, wine list creativity, and cuisine.

Zagat Restaurant Guide

Prima Ristorante
Ranked among the top restaurants of the San Francisco Bay Area.
A ‘phenomenal’ 1,600-label cellar, 40-50 Wine By The Glass flights, ‘inventive’ vino dinners and a staff that knows the selection means ‘wine is the thing’ are the draws at this ‘lively’ Walnut Creek Italian; while the cooking might be an ‘afterthought’ for oenophiles, the high food rating means no one ‘needs an excuse to eat here’.”
Food: 24
Decor 21
Service 23




Contact Us

Contact Us


Peter Chastain

Executive Chef / Owner

John Rittmaster

Wine Director / Owner

Frank Rothstein

Sommelier / Wine Shop Manager