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Jul 23, 2011 02:19 PM

Worst in Philly - Serafina

Maybe it was the record hot weather, but something compelled me to ignore the abysmal things that I read about Serafina on Yelp! and block out of my mind that this was the place that actually turned Cliff Lee away. Well, the Yelpers are right once again, and Cliff, if you're reading this, it's a good thing you didn't eat at Serafina because of all of the meals I have eaten in Philly from holes in the wall to finer establishments like Amada and Zahav, Serafina is far and away the worst meal I have had in this town. Our meal started out with decent bread but got worse when another member of our party was served carpaccio that had an odd brown tinge to it and not much flavor. My bruschetta consisted of four nicely toasted rounds of bread soaked with about as much olive oil as was humanly possible and topped with as many tomatoes as one could possibly balance on the toasts. Fortunately the tomatoes were very tasty and I ignored the oily bread. Disaster struck when we were served our entrees. Two members of our party were served two entirely different pastas, each equally deviod of any flavor. One pasta was supposed to have basil in it, which it did, in the form of small uniformly cut dried flakes that added no flavor. The addition of our server spooning on pre-shredded (as opposed to fresh mozzarella like in the finer establishments) didn't help either. I ordered a margherita pie and when it was brought out, it was essentially a traditional pizza with the usual mozzarella that everyone serves everywhere with one (I kid you not) leaf of basil in the center of the pie and (oddly enough) four brown olives on top. No big pieces of mozzarella and one basil leaf. I called over our friendly server, who understood my confusion and told me that she did indeed order a margherita pizza for me and this is what it looks like (granted this was her third shift at the establishment but she had seen this train-wreck-of-a-pie before). I politely had her bring over the manager on duty (Letitia) to try to explain how the addition of four olives and one basil leaf makes this a margerita pie, and she explained that to get a pie with fresh mozzarella I should have ordered the "V.I.P. margherita pie." I tried in vain to ask her how this pie was called a margherita because in my mind it's false advertising. Seeing I was getting nowhere with her, I thanked her and proceeded to take a bite of the pizza. It was nowhere near Zavino, nowhere near Pietro's, nowhere near any pizza joint in town, and not even as good as what I was served when I was dragged to the Olive Garden years ago. It was not as good as Lean Cuisine margherita pies I eat now and then during the week (hey at least Stouffer's can spring for more than one basil leaf!). After a few bites I realized that there was no way I could stomach any more of this and asked our server to have the manager come back once again. Upon hearing that we wanted to talk to her for a second time, Letitia decided it would be a good idea to go outside and talk on the telephone in front of the restaurant in the hundred degree heat for five minutes. By then I had thrown in the towel literally and figuratively with the food and the manager's antics, as this seemed particularly galling to me. I asked our server bring us the bill which we paid in full (a mere $79.27 before tip with the three sparkling waters!) despite her telling us how bad she felt so bad we did not enjoy our meals. After we paid, Letitia was kind enough to make it back to our table and we told her that her services were no longer needed.

So if you were thinking of heading to Serafina, just about any place in town would offer a better dining experience.

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  1. Have to say, I wasn't aware of Serafina before your review. After reading it, I went to the website. That would have been enough to keep me from going. It' a corporate website, very unappealing. Doesn't even look like a restaurant website. I know you shouldn't judge a restaurant by their website but this one was particularly offensive. So what happened with Cliff Lee exactly? Thanks for the review. You've probably prevented a lot of people from wasting their money.

    1. bluehensfan, does the picture attached accurately show what you were served? I found it on the Serafina website. In the picture, it looks like fresh mozz was melted.

      Are you saying that at the table, the server added uncooked, preshredded mozzerella? That just sounds bizarre.

      3 Replies
      1. re: barryg

        The pie I was served looked like the one you posted except that the cheese was not in circles but uniformly distributed over the whole pizza, like any "traditional" pie you could get anywhere. What I think you have is a picture of the "VIP" with fresh mozzarella (which mine did not have). The olives are in the identical places, however, (mine were a dusky brown though), and instead of a whole sprig of basil, I was given one (yes one) basil leaf.

        As far as the shredded mozzarella, that is what they offer for the pasta dishes after they were served, fresh from a bowl (which, if memory serves me correct, was half covered with saran wrap). At least they went out of their way to have the server spoon it on. Oddly enough after our server did do this for our pasta dishes, a bus boy who was not aware we already had the cheese, offered more for us. There were other things about the lunch that I did not even post (such as a dirty fork) because I figure I had said enough. Regardless, I have never encountered anything as amateur as this operation...

        Here is the Cliff Lee story from Foobooz:

        1. re: bluehensfan

          Missed the part about the mozz being spooned on the pastas not the pizzas. If they wanted to mask bland pasta by covering it in cheese after being served (it's the American way) it seems like they would be better off using a more flavorful/saltier cheese like Parmesan.

          I am very interested in the service issues, please share, good service can make mediocre food and high prices bearable if the atmosphere and location are good. I've had food issues at Starr joints, but I can't imagine a manager at one of those places blowing you off like that.

          1. re: barryg

            I am just assuming that it was mozzarella because it was shredded. Unless Serafina has engineered some type of shredded parmesan...

      2. If one looked at the website; you probably would not go to any of their 10 locations, nor buy their"products" as in jars of sauce. This seems to be another case of buy highly visable locations, hype the owners, toss in a little celeb status by dropping names,("best friend Eric Ripert"). and calling your menu "Fab Food", etc. Yet they push the kids' menu and the Take out and Delivery menu,
        In any case, thanks for the heads up!!!

        1. I just can't get over their unattractive bright yellow and blue signs. What an eyesore. No plans to eat there, it looked expensive, crowded, noisy and nothing special. Thanks for your review now I can cross it off my list forever.

          Across the street,'s menu looks appealing but I haven't tried it yet. Its a little more expensive than I would typically spend on a lunch so I'll wait until a day when I feel like I deserve a little treat!

          1 Reply
          1. re: rocknroll52

            This fiasco all went down on Saturday and had either Argan been open like they were supposed to be or started their brunch service, Serafina would not have entered our minds. And we almost went to Tria but figured we'd try something new. What a mistake. Even worse, I just realized that Serafina sits on the land that used to house Lombardi's.

          2. I walked by on Saturday and thought "Olive Garden's Eurotrashy older cousin".

            2 Replies
            1. re: Cheesesteak

              LMAO. That is the perfect description. Didn't this start out as a pre-event at Lincoln Center place when you're more concerned about location than food quality? Since there are no events near RS, why would I even consider going there?

              1. re: middleagedfoodie

                I walked by 18th street today. Serafina's sidewalk tables were empty, but across the street was completely full. I guess word spreads fast.