Ralph Primo, co-founder of West LA’s popular Primo’s Donuts, died peacefully in his sleep on November 9, 2023, at age 93, according to the shop’s Instagram. Ralph Primo and his wife Celia first opened the Sawtelle Boulevard doughnut shop in 1956, offering an array of colorful yeast and cake doughnuts at reasonable prices.
Ralph Primo became as indelible a Los Angeles fixture as his sugary fried fritters. For 67 years, the Primos imparted warmth and hospitality to a less commercial and more residential stretch of the Westside, with generations of families and students making the shop a daily or weekly ritual. Due to its enduring quality and creativity, Primo’s was featured in numerous national publications and lists for the best doughnuts in the country. The shop’s statement on Instagram included detail about Ralph’s personality:
To this day customers come in and share stories with us of how he and Mrs. Primo welcomed them into their shop, offering kindness and wonderful treats to them and their families. Whether it was baking a beautifully made donut, performing a neat little magic trick, or telling a corny grandpa joke, Mr. Primo always had a smile on his face with customers.
Ralph’s legacy lives on through his three children and numerous grandchildren, with his son Ralph Jr. primarily operating the business in recent years. Ralph’s grandson Nick continues to paint holiday scenes on the windows every year. In September 2021, Primo’s Donuts expanded to the former Stan’s Donuts in Westwood, giving UCLA college students and more Angelenos locals a taste of Ralph’s original recipes.
Without a doubt, the most famous offering at Primo’s was the buttermilk doughnut, a glorious mound of glazed cake fritter touched with a hint of tang. Dedicated fans knew the shop would fry doughnuts throughout the day, and even later in the afternoons, something of a rarity among the city’s doughnut shops. Biting into one was often so satisfying that it could induce a mild euphoria.
Primo’s Donuts didn’t mention any memorial schedule but offered a thank you to loyal customers over the years. Primo’s Donuts in West LA and Westwood continue to operate daily; anyone outside of LA can order them via Goldbelly.