Stephen Starr’s The Continental Old City is taking a break and his Serpico partnership is shifting its menu to take out

When the news spread that Stephen Starr’s first post-concert-company baby – the start of his restaubar empire, The Continental Old City – was shutting down temporarily so to rethink the expanded diner space, and its overall vibe, I nearly shed a tear. Not solely because his take on designer casual cuisine, eclectic global fare, tony conceptualism and the (then) burgeoning cocktail culture of (strong) martinis and beyond was the start of Philadelphia’s all-consuming restaurant renaissance as we now know it. Living as I did, right behind The Continental before its opening, I feel as If the two of us came up together, many vodka martinis in our grip. 

Continental Midtown.

Barely one month after its 25th anniversary, The Continental Old City (and not The Continental Mid-Town at 18th and Chestnut) announced that it will close on Saturday, October 3 for the autumn and winter months. 

Officially known as The Continental Restaurant and Martini Bar since its 1995 launch (the very start of his Starr Restaurant Group which currently operates nearly 40 restaurants across the globe), the one-time diner (48 seats at first, now 150) was a weirdly warm accommodation for the ultimate nightcap – or six – when I was first starting out as a writer, and living on Letitia Street mere yards from its doors. You could cozy up to your pals within its maze of swank booths – something simply not permissible (or moveable at present, there) – or hop atop a barstool and become part of a more anonymous crowd of drinkers. And while I don’t imbibe as such in the present day, It’s a mournful notion to realize that, with The Continental Old City changing its stripes, you and I can never go home again. Plus, I’ll miss that giant olive (with matching light fixtures inside) and the whirring dice on top of the bar, all designed by Owen Kamihira. If you’re reading gentlemen – I want an overstuffed olive.

Serpico on South.

Along with all that, Starr’s partnership with Chef Peter Serpico at South Street’s avant-garde Serpico space (604 South) is shifting into deliver and pickup mode. While the physical location itself remains closed to the public, Serpico himself is back to work for the first time during this pandemic and is offering up Pete’s Place as an option. The mix of Korean heritage and American upbringing will be on display on the take-out menu of Pete’s Place with its menu of 10 dishes including Korean fried chicken, Bibimbap, soups, noodle dishes and other items. Currently, in soft opening mode, you can start ordering big time on October 6.

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