Luca Sena, 62, of Society Hill, owns Penn's View Hotel and two restaurants, Ristorante Panorama and Revolution House, all in Old City. Born in Naples, Sena was 17 when he moved to Philly with his father in 1967. The rest of the family soon followed. The Sena family's first restaurant, La Famiglia, on Front Street, opened in 1976 and now is run by Luca's brother, Giuseppe.
Q: Panorama opened in 1990 and you're still doing well. What's the secret to your longevity?
A: I always kept an open mind, surrounded myself with younger people, having two sons [Carlo and Luca Jr.] who wanted to be in the business. You have to reinvent yourself. [Panorama] has been redone three times, the bar has been done twice. Building the biggest wine bar in the world and recognition in the Guinness Book of World Records helps.
Q: You once said your wine bar was the "holiest" bar in the city.
A: The bar was built from pews from a church that was being torn down in West Philly. The wainscoting for the inside of the bar, it's all from a church.
Q: Tell me the backstory of the 120-bottle Cruvinet [wine-preserving and dispensing system] in Il Bar.
A: There used to be a place in New York, the Soho Wine Bar, that I liked to visit. They had this Cruvinet under the bar, but it was like 10-bottle capacity, individual compressors strung together. I went to California and met a guy who had a contact in Philly, and I asked him if he would build me a large winekeeper. I wanted a large unit, I didn't want 20 compressors making a lot of noise. We were able to do that. The original is gone and the one now is a modified, refrigerated, steel version built about 10 years ago.
Q: How does it make you feel that your sons are following in your footsteps?
A: That's a good question, but easy to answer. It's like I'm reinventing myself through them. I spent a lot of time teaching my kids about the business-they've been at my side since they were very young.
Q: Tell me about your latest venture, Revolution House [at 2nd and Market streets].
A: I brought a guy in from Naples [Luigi D'Angelo] to build the pizza oven. He's one of the few guys there "certified" to make pizza ovens, so our pizza can be considered true Napoletana. My kids see the importance of building something good. I did [Revolution House] a year and a half ago. Last year, my son, Luca, spent a couple weeks in Naples with the old guy.
Q: Over the years, you've stayed in Old City.
A: It's still one of the best places you can start a business. It's the demographic. You want young, funky. That's the future, that's where we're heading, a little tattoo here and there, whatever.
On Twitter: @MHinkelman