Bar Sera – Opening October 28th
by Brian Coll
I’ll get right to it, my wife and I walked into the former Cerdo restaurant located at 382 East Elm Street. One of the first things I noticed was a large picture of a farm. I wasn’t sure if I was looking at an Italian Villa or was this the Pieri Farm?…. it was in fact the Pieri Farm. Before I discuss Bar Sera, I have to talk about the fact that the Pieri Hospitality Group went and bought a farm, cultivated it and has been able to provide their restaurants and more with fresh produce. The term farm to table became popular a few years ago and the folks at Pieri Restaurants took it one step further, bought their own farm to grow exactly what their chefs could use. I imagine in a few years we’ll be raising a glass of Pieri Farm wine at Bar Sera or their other two Conshohocken based restaurants Bar Lucca and the restaurant that started it all for Brian Pieri – StoneRose.
That brings us back to Bar Sera.
Why the name change and did anything else change…. so, in my conversation with Brian Pieri, he mentioned that Cerdo, while it was a special place to him, the name wasn’t a strong connection to him and his family, where StoneRose and Bar Lucca both have special ties to his family as well as their journey. So, in coming up with Bar Sera, he is honoring his great Nonna. I personally find it fascinating that Brian and the Pieri Hospitality Group have been able to incorporate aspects of his family throughout the spectrum of his establishments. Not only in the naming of the restaurants, but in the dishes that are served as well as his fellow employees, some of which are immigrants themselves or come from a first or second generation immigrant family. In discussing that, he pointed out that Bar Sera was dedicated to the employees, some of which have been with him for years.
As far as what else has changed, lets start with the menu. I was more than impressed with the “Detroit” style pizzas however I opted for the Bar Sera burger, which, in my opinion is one of the three best burgers I have ever had in Conshohocken, scratch that, my entire life. It absolutely melted in my mouth. I’ll start there, with the description – whiskey bacon… not even sure what that is, how it’s made or why I didn’t have it before but it was awesome!!!! The locally sourced burger came topped with cheddar, the previously mentioned whiskey bacon, tomato dijon and homemade pickle. My wife and I were fighting for the zucchini chips, fresh from their farm and delicious. Anna went with Chef Jenna’s Fried Chicken Sandwich which was dipped in a honey hot sauce (I’m not a spicy guy, but I loved the part of it I stole from my wife, I didn’t consider it spicy) with crispy onion straws, ranch sauce, arugula, pickled red cabbage. I will say this about both sandwiches, they were inspired. You know how sometimes you just pick things you like and thrown them on a burger, it sounds good, all the parts are good on their own and they work together? Well these were designed to go perfect together. Each ingredient served a purpose and hit your taste buds for all the right reasons. Both of these items and it looked like many more items on the menu have direct ties to the farm. In talking to Alexandra who is one of the managers throughout the hospitality group, she was loving the ability to grow things specifically for the menu. When one thing goes out of season, they can bring something in that is currently being harvested.
Something very unique about Bar Sera and the other restaurants, the employees, and I use that term loosely because, it seems like they are all very invested in each of the restaurants and overall operations, more like family. It seems like people love working for the Pieri Group and it shows. In some high end restaurants, it comes down to the owners vision, and the owners vision only. I watched staff move through the restaurant and bouncing ideas off of each other and sometimes that is where the best ideas can come from. Take for instance, John “The Beard” Mathas, (general manager) (sommelier) was chatting with other members of the staff and they were discussing some of the “weird” drink menu, I’ll get to that in a minute… and as they were making one of the drinks (Rum Alexandra) John was describing why the flavors in the liquors and mixers worked so well together. It was an interesting conversation to slightly overhear. John has been in the business for a few years now and joined Brian at the StoneRose back in 2013. It’s rare in this business that staff members stay in one place that long. Brian has done a great job keeping really good people around him. In addition to John, Chef Will Langlois has been with Brian since day one. Chef Will, well, Chef Will is responsible for 2 of my favorite burgers of all time and I don’t want to shortchange anything he has created. Year after year it seemed the StoneRose would win the Conshy Cup at the Ambucs Restaurant Rally and that doesn’t happen without amazing food, a great sous chef and staff. Chef Will has been able to create a unique menu for Bar Sera that draws on local, very local products…
Earlier I brought up the name change and asked if anything else changed, and the menu was at the top of the list. This is my opinion, and I could be onto something here, this menu, when compared to Cerdo, this menu seems more likely to travel well. Consider placing a take out order if you don’t feel comfortable dining in yet, or on their back patio, which has some new cool features…. What I mean by the menu seems to travel better, I would place an order to go for a burger (an absolutely amazing burger by the way if I didn’t mention that yet) maybe a new “Detroit” Style pizza, where I’m not sure I was ordering something off of the share heavy menu that Cerdo had. Don’t get me wrong, I loved Cerdo, there was something special about sharing a cheese and meat plate with a small group of friends, however in the current climate, the new menu really makes sense as well as shows off products from the farm.
So, you may need to just go yourself and check out the drink menu, or we can share the website here in a minute…. on the “weird” side, you have an Apple Fresca, or a Beet Spritz compared to a couple drinks on the Not Weird side like Moka Manhattan or a Watermelon Collins…. and of course, it wouldn’t be a Pieri Hospitality Group restaurant without a carefully crafted wine selection.
I’m going to throw the website in right now so you can check it out https://barsera.com/
Overall, while it may seem like a bizarre time to change names, menus, overall style of the restaurant, it is also a perfect time to try new things out while still adjusting to life during the Covid crisis. The interior of the restaurant has tables properly spaced, not just abiding by the letter of the law, but also so that us as patrons can feel comfortable. I don’t think you’ll see Brian or the staff breaking out a tape measure to try to squeeze one more table in, so if you want to check out the new Bar Sera, give them a call and make a reservation, or consider taking something home. I know we are already looking forward to our next meal there and I can’t wait to be able to bring friends.
I tend to write exactly what is on my mind, and I have to mention this. My wife and I enjoyed every minute of our meal and time spent there. It was great to just talk to Brian, John, Alexandra, Chef Will. When my wife and I got married, we had a very small ceremony and meal at Trattoria Totaro, it was perfect. Months later we had a slightly larger gathering and we incorporated a few Conshohocken restaurants into the celebration and we worked closely with the above mentioned people as well as Maria and Christina. Our guests couldn’t have raved more about everything the Pieri Hospitality Group provided, not only the meals, the drinks, the service, everything, it was first class. And, in the current climate, for us to get a little time chatting with these people who we consider friends was exactly what we needed. If you haven’t eaten at a restaurant lately, I’m not forcing you. However, it was good for my mental health to be around an amazing group of people. Thank you.