Peter Serpico and Chris Painter are cooking up something

Chefs Chris Painter (left) and Peter Serpico. COLIN KERRIGAN /

Imagine this:

You're one of the best-regarded chefs in the Western Hemisphere. In September, your new boss announces to great fanfare that you've been hired to develop your own restaurant in Philadelphia. And so February rolls around - and no one has heard boo about you.

This seems to be the way that Peter Serpico wants it.

Serpico - culinary director of David Chang's Momofuku and the opening chef de cuisine/partner at NYC's Momofuku Ko before he left a year ago - enjoys his low-key existence.

His Stephen Starr-backed restaurant, Serpico, is looking at a spring debut at 604 South St.  He works out of the kitchens at Barclay Prime and Buddakan, learning the Starr way.

Unlike a lot of chefs who futz with their debut menu until the doors open, Serpico calmly told me the other day that his was set: casual fare, based on local ingredients, it will be based on "simple food you can eat every day."

Pressed for details, he said: "It will be easier for me to put it on a plate than to explain." (He didn't offer me this option.)

Expect Euro-inflected Asian and a sleek interior. Serpico is being designed by Thomas Schlesser - the clean-line specialist behind NYC's Boulud Sud, David Burke Kitchen, and Fatty ’Cue, plus Chicago's Blackbiord and avc. He also won the James Beard for The Publican in Chicago.

Serpico will offer some insights into his cooking style Feb. 19 when he and Il Pittore chef-partner Chris Painter cook a sold-out meal at Painter's restaurant on Sansom Street. The idea for a collab came about over drinks one night. "I could make up some story, but that's pretty much it," said Painter.

The dishes for the colab dinner are not 100 percent set. For the first of their eight courses, the two chefs will offer a duo: Painter said he would prepare chu-toro with blood orange, basil and pink peppercorns, while Serpico will offer sliced scallop, hazelnut, black truffle, brown butter breadcrumbs and celery.

"It's been a while since I worked a proper service," said Serpico.

Serpico met Starr through a mutual friend. "It wasn't your usual job interview," said Serpico. "It was a simple process. He asked what I wanted to do." Serpico smiled as he added: "He's not going to let me do everything."

Starr did let him pick the location, which in serendipitously is next door to what was the Ripley Music Hall, a concert hall that Starr ran 30 years ago.