Many years (and a few locations) in the making, Il Pittore is set to debut Wednesday, Oct. 26 at 2025 Sansom St. in Rittenhouse Square (215-391-4900; www.ilpittore.com).
This upscale Italian pairs Stephen Starr with one of his longtime righthand men, chef Chris Painter. The two worked together on Angelina, which ran from 2003 to 2005 at 706 Chestnut St.
"Italian" is the only commonality here. While Angelina, in The Inquirer's Craig LaBan's words, felt like "a private salon, its banquettes and walls covered in so much red toile that it could be mistaken for a Venetian bordello," Il Pittore is airy, arty, rough-hewn, more Euro.
Designer Richard Stokes worked on the bilevel 80-seater. The main dining room, on the second floor, takes advantage of the skylight exposed by the space's previous occupant, Noble American Cookery. On the cozier ground floor, where a large bubinga community table accommodates drop-ins, a 10-seat counter faces shelves of oils, dishes and smallwares -- vaguely reminiscent of the homespun aesthetic at work across town at the Starr-owned Talula's Garden. A bar across the aisle is for service only. (Got a minute? See the video below.)
The modern menu, honed during Painter's long trip to Italy last year, is still being finalized and will change frequently, says Painter, who in his 12 or so years working for Starr helped set up such restaurants as Pizzeria Stella, Tangerine, Parc, and Starr's new Makoto in Miami.
Prices are not cheap. Pastas and other first-courses are in the teens. Mains start at $25 for a brick-roasted half chicken (brushed with mustard and rosemary bread crumbs) and head into the $30s. I've heard initial squeals of delight over the suckling pig (with pear mostarda, roasted baby carrots and cavalo nero). The herb-grilled porterhouse, sliced for two and served with salsa verde and Tuscan bean salad, is $85. Desserts are by the well-traveled Vita Shanley, late of Las Vegas' Scarpetta and D.O.C.G.
It'll be open nightly for dinner.
Il Pittore's block, home of Helium nightclub and the Adrienne Theatre, is hopping. The Italian BYOBs Melograno and Porcini are across the street. Jose Garces' Village Whiskey and the dessertery Capogiro are at one corner (and Tinto is next door to Village Whiskey). A Danny Meyer-owned Shake Shack is teed up to open on another corner in mid- to late-2012. And there's a smoothie-froyo shop seeking zoning approval at 2046 Sansom St., in the former beauty shop next to Porcini.