La Serenata

Remembering a family restaurant that meant much more to its regulars than a good, Italian dinner.

| Spring 2017

  • La Serenata provided my first taste of veal scallops, of eggplant, Manicotti Parmagiani, cooked shrimp, Biscuit Tortoni.
    Photo by Hungry Dudes
  • I listened to Vince’s suggestions, studied the menu, remembered seeing or smelling various dishes as they passed by me each night or overhearing diners’ reactions, and thought seriously for the first time in my life about what I actually wanted to eat, learning the way appetite and mood and daily circumstance interacted.
    Photo by Kennejima
  • In 2014, on the 53rd anniversary of my father’s death — the year in which he’d been dead as long as he’d been alive — images and memories of La Serenata flooded back. I wanted to research what had happened to the place and to the Russo family.
    Photo by Kricket

I opened the door of La Serenata around 5:30 as usual. It was a cold winter evening in early 1959, and the restaurant's thick garlicky warmth was like a second door to walk through. I waved at Paul Russo, part-owner and bartender, and smiled at his brother Vince, part-owner and maitre d'.

"Evening, Mr. Skloot. We've got your table ready."

I hung up my overcoat, checked that I had all the papers I needed, and followed Vince to my booth near the kitchen. I liked the anonymity of its location, and the hubbub when Vince rushed through the doors releasing the voices of his mother, wife, and sister-in-law as they cooked.

Vince unfolded the white cloth napkin for me and handed me a menu. "Mama's cooking tonight," he said. "So you might want to try the Home Made Ravioli."



"Thank you, Vince. I had the Shrimps fra Diavolo last night."

"Make Mr. Skloot his drink, Paul," he called as he left for the kitchen.