No matter how hard transplant New Yorkers try, Philly will never be the Big Apple. Nor should it try to be.

So when word spread that the popular Upper East Side restaurant Serafina was coming to Rittenhouse, some were understandably skeptical.

Restauranteurs Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato own eight Serafinas — five are in Manhattan. But their newest venture — Serafina Philadelphia — fails to recognize Philly's unassuming take on  flavors and food.

With colorful murals and brightly painted banquettes, Serafina should feel comfortable, but instead it’s stuffy, attracting style–conscious diners in search of a meal with a brand name.

Unsurprisingly, the food is good — Assaf brought in top chef Fernando Pilego, the former producer of power lunches and pizzas at Serafina’s 61st Street location.

The Rittenhouse menu is expansive — built for speed rather than intricacy. It boasts generic pizzas, pastas, meats, fish and a hodgepodge of appetizers, all with a New York price tag.

We started with toasted crostini bread topped with mozzarella and prosciutto ($9.50), and a Carpaccio of filet mignon with black truffle sauce and boiled potatoes ($19). The mozzarella was cut so thick it overwhelmed the tasty prosciutto, but in small bites, the combination was delightful. The Carpaccio was a treat — ribbon–thin slices of filet mignon accented by oozy truffle sauce. Both dishes were massive and could have served as entrees.

With a nudge from our server, we continued on a truffle bender and ordered a pizza smothered in robiola, fontina and truffle cheeses and dotted with black truffle mushrooms ($29). But the quality of the pizza did not match its price. We would have preferred their simple margherita pizza ($12.50) to this oil–drenched pie. Philly die–hards might dare to try the one new addition to the menu, a Philly cheese steak pizza ($24), which Serafina deems “an homage to Philadelphia!” (But then again, Phanatics might not want to dine here anyway.)

When we got to entrees, we stuck with no–frills dishes — fettuccine with a light tomato cream sauce, basil and Parmesan ($16.50)  and baby lamb chops sided with Italian vegetables and mashed potatoes ($28). The pasta’s strength was its sauce: classic and a perfect thickness. The lamb was cooked exquisitely, though the sides felt half–hearted.

Encouraged by our server again, we finished with tiramisu ($8), which was pleasant and made with a moist cake that was just fluffy enough. Serafina has obviously mastered the basics of Italian classics, but with cheaper options and more authentic Philly dives just around the corner, Serafina Philadelphia is going to have to try a bit harder to catch up.

SERAFINA 130 S. 18th St. (215) 977–7755 Don't Miss: crostini di sofia Skip: tartufo nero pizza $$$$$


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