Serafina brings casual Italian food to the Financial District – The Boston Globe

Where to Serafina, the first New England branch of a New York-based chain. Operated by Sterling Group Management, led by restaurateur Seth Greenberg (Bastille Kitchen), it is located in the space that was formerly Radius.

What for Casual Italian food in the Financial District, plus the best restaurant back story ever. Serafina founders Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato came up with the idea while lost at sea. “Wearing only bathing suits, suffering from bitter cold, violent weather, and severe hunger pains, the two stranded friends fantasized about creating the perfect pizza,” says the corporate website. They swore to follow through if they survived.

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The scene The restaurant, decorated in neutrals with yellow accents, is the flipside to Bastille Kitchen: clearly the work of the same designer, but more clean than sexy. There are beige paneled walls and wood floors, with dozens of pendant lights hanging from the ceiling and mirrors everywhere. The place is buzzing on a weeknight. At the marble bar, 30- and 40-somethings eat antipasti, pizza, and pasta as music thumps in the background. A man in a baseball cap yuks it up with two lovelies; a tan woman in a white T and blue jeans flips her spaghetti-straight hair. At a table, a group of men in suits have removed their ties. The scent of raw garlic suddenly wafts over the crowd. Just outside, post-dinner, a woman with calves of pure sinew enfolds her companion and kisses him like the corner is their bedroom.

What you’re eating Corporate chef Brendan Burke takes a lighter approach to Italian fare. In addition to fried calamari, rigatoni alla Bolognese, and pies draped in multiple kinds of cheese and dusted with truffles, diners will find tuna carpaccio, an array of salads, linguine with seafood, and grilled chicken and salmon dishes.

Care for a drink? Cocktails include Italian classics — a Bellini, a Negroni, an Aperol spritz — along with such potions as the Green Monster, the Pom-Margarita, and the Late Night in Rome.

Overheard Talk about Sox games, skiing, and work. “To me, it’s like a casual Sorellina,” one man observes, looking around the room. “Hold on to your spreadsheet,” a woman instructs a co-worker. She turns to a new arrival at the bar: “You know what we had that was amazing? The octopus. We really needed a good new healthy restaurant.” “I was in a Ferrari,” someone says. “Oh, it was insanely powerful. My friend’s dealer got it for him. The guy wanted to know if I was a pro driver.” “This is a judgment-free zone,” a woman tells her friend. “I smell Drakkar Noir,” the other stage-whispers. Three men discuss an acquaintance: “He’s got a lot of opportunities. The new Boston is not turning out. He’s been living in Fitchburg.” Someone looks around at the jam-packed restaurant: “This used to be . . . something else.” And the spirit of downtown fine dining whimpers and dies. 10 High St., Financial District, Boston, 617-426-1234,

Devra First can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.