For nearly seven years, chef Peter Serpico’s atelier Serpico was the star of South Street, with cool looks and edgy culinary and cocktail aspirations.
Then came the pandemic, which shuttered the restaurant and sent him home.
Serpico’s menu (with such dishes as sliced raw diver scallops with poppy seeds in buttermilk, and dry-aged sirloin tataki) hardly translates to takeout and delivery, and its sidewalk is not wide enough to support tables.
As the months dragged on, his business partner Stephen Starr sat down with him to review other options for 604 South St.
Well before the pandemic, the two men had long considered opening a Korean restaurant on the site of Starr’s long-shuttered Il Pittore in Rittenhouse with food honoring Serpico’s Korean heritage. But this would be no time for one of those all-in Stephen Starr extravaganzas. Their thoughts turned to something simpler — a menu that Serpico called “kinda Korean,” melding Korean cuisine with the foods he grew up eating in suburban Maryland. And the South Street location, with its roomy turn-out kitchen, would be just the place.
While Serpico is closed, Serpico and Starr are operating Pete’s Place for takeout and delivery only via mobile apps including Doordash and Caviar.
Serpico keeps it simple with a menu of 10 dishes, including hot and chilled noodle dishes and snacks. There are a few straight-away Korean staples such as bibimbap and Korean fried chicken, alongside marinated steak ssam with crudités, ssam sauce, baby red oak lettuce, and steamed rice that calls to mind Serpico’s past as the second-in-command at David Chang’s Momofuku empire. Then there’s Pete’s potato salad, a riff on the backyard favorite, amped with kimchi relish, mayonnaise, crispy potatoes, scallions, and chili flakes, and the spicy chicken stew he conjured up with his daughter, Charlie, during a raid of their pantry and fridge: It’s pulled chicken, chili paste, braised carrots, potato, scallion, ginger, served with steamed rice.
All this satisfies Serpico’s creative itch. “What can we do? We can’t sell $40 pork chops now,” he said.