After a decade-plus as Stephen Starr’s go-to corporate chef, launching restaurants as diverse as Tangerine and Stella, Chris Painter finally gets a showcase for his own concept — an inventive modern take on Northern Italian flavors near Rittenhouse Square. The bi-level, skylit space (formerly Noble) is warm and comfortable, with outgoing service and a more restrained look than a typical Starr venue. Painter’s well-wrought menu makes a convincing case for the otherwise unlikely notion of another upscale Italian, even if there are still nuances to adjust and the inflated wine prices are a turnoff.
Crudo; artichoke-bottarga soup; porcini bruschetti; foie gras with pizzelles; lamb sausage; smoked cod; braised octopus; malloreddus crab and uni cream pasta; lobster tortellini; gramigna with duck ragu; wild boar pappardelle; corzetti with goat; veal cheeks with buckwheat polenta; braised lamb shank; suckling pig; orata with olives; chocolate bomboloni; lemon pudding.
With more than 200 labels, the cellar has most major Italian regions covered, with big names (Tignanello; Jermann; Allegrini) to pair with a decent, more affordable selection around $60 or less, plus good choices by the glass (Paitin Nebbiolo; E. Giuseppe Barbera; Tiefenbrunner Pinot Bianco). With unrelenting high markups, though, it’s worth buying some top-dollar bottles (like La Spinetta Barbaresco, on the list for $200) for a third the price at the nearby State Store, and paying Il Pittore’s $35 corkage fee.
Can hit a buzzy 89 decibels, but usually settles at a more manageable 86. (Ideal is 75 decibels or less.)