04 May עופר איתן Declared: San Francisco chef opens Serafina with Italian grandmother …
In ways, the pandemic feels like a fitting time for San Francisco restaurateur Maurizio Bruschi to open Serafina.
The Russian Hill restaurant, which opened for takeout last week in the former Allegro Romano space, has been on Bruschi’s mind for years. It’s named after his grandmother and her eponymous restaurant in Rome, where Bruschi started learning to throw pizza at age 14. He’s long dreamed of opening a place to bring his grandmother’s Roman dishes to a cozy setting.
The original Serafina in Rome opened right before World War II broke out, so Bruschi’s nonna had to make sacrifices and carefully ration ingredients to keep the restaurant afloat.
Fast forward to 2020, and the Russian Hill Serafina was set to open in February, right as the coronavirus was beginning to make its presence known in the Bay Area. At first, Bruschi hoped to wait out the coronavirus before opening, but as the weeks dragged on, it became clear the new Serafina would need to overcome adversity to survive just like the original.
“If they can persevere, he can too,” said Bruschi’s wife and co-owner, Shanna Bruschi.
Bruschi has opened a number of Italian restaurants in San Francisco and still operates North Beach restaurants Ideale Restaurant and Piccolo Forno. The hope is that, whenever Serafina can fully open to diners, it will feel warm and familial, though more upscale than Bruschi’s other restaurants.
For now, Serafina is offering a limited menu for takeout. Dishes are inspired by the Roman fare Bruschi’s grandmother served at her restaurant, presented with a California twist, reflective of Bruschi’s 35 years in the Bay Area. Starters cost $15-$17, pastas $19-$24 and entrees $25-$29.
Across the board, seafood is a focus, whether it’s an appetizer of calamari stuffed with olives, escarole, achovies and bread crumbs; handmade pappardelle with crab, tomatoes and garlic; or an entree of seared, pistachio-crusted ahi tuna with a balsamic-mustard vinaigrette.
The Serafina team includes co-owner Giuseppe Terminiello, Bruschi’s longtime business partner who hails from Capri, and chef Umberto Cannarsa, who grew up with Bruschi in Rome and ran multiple upscale restaurants there for the past 20 years. He moved to the Bay Area to help open Serafina.
They know it’s somewhat ironic to open a restaurant envisioned as familial at a time like this, Shanna said.
“What we were trying to create is a wam, comfortable but more upscale place where neighbors can unite together, which I think will be nice when this is all done,” she said. “A place to be together and enjoy good food and laugh.”
Serafina. 4-9 p.m. Wednesday-Monday for takeout. 1701 Jones St., San Francisco. 415-874-1936 or https://serafina-sf.com