Italian restaurant and wine bar Panorama, located inside of The Penn’s View Hotel at 14 North Front Street, has been an Old City stalwart since 1990. Twenty-six years is a long time for any business, let alone a restaurant.
Owner Luca Sena decided it was time to update the interior and revamp the concept. The extensive redesign by internationally acclaimed Marguerite Rodgers Interior Design was introduced in September. Sena’s vision creates a romantic, casually elegant, chic environment that feels appropriate for every day dining as well as special occasions.
The look and feel wasn’t the only thing refreshed and modernized; New Executive Chef Matthew Gentile was brought on board to overhaul the Italian menu. He interpreted Panorama’s stable of recipes, many of which had been in the Sena family for generations, and edited them with modern techniques, lighter ingredients and clean presentations.
After 26 years, Sena decided it was time for a reimagining of Panorama’s décor and menu, yet still preserve its past. He wanted it to be fresh, modern and relevant for the future. A polished ambiance and culinary experience to complement their industry-leading wine program.
Fun Fact: The wine program was recognized with a Guinness World Record for Largest Winekeeper; an award bestowed on its custom-designed cruvinet (wine dispensing system), which offers 120 wines by the glass. Impressive!
We recently had the honor to assay the spiffy new digs, nosh on a few new menu items, and meet the charming owner last Saturday evening.
The interior whispers “fine dining” in that it is guilelessly elegant; yet sophisticatedly comfortable. Urbane details such as the seating and lighting are tasteful, not stuffy; you will feel relaxed and welcome here. The servers are warm, friendly, and pragmatic; not at all uppity or obtrusive. We felt in good hands from the start.
The dinner menu is simple and easy to read; you won’t have a problem trying to figure out what you’d like to order.
The wine menu (not pictured), on the other hand, is rather lengthy and intimidating. They are a renowned wine bar after all; they rotate wines frequently. If you’re a wine novice, simply ask the experts on staff which wines to pair with your dinner selection. They will take good care of you, and not steer you wrong! Or for the adventurous, do your own personal wine tasting with one of their sommelier-picked wine flights – five 1.5 oz pours for just $24. Seems like the way to go if you’re into trying new wines!
Even though they are one of the premier wine bars in the city, they boast respectable cocktail and beer offerings for every preference, too. After pondering the specialty cocktail menu for a few moments, it was hard to make a selection. But I honed in on the wine-inspired Harvest Pear at the very top.
The Harvest Pear cocktail ($12) is a compatible combination of booze and wine — Skyy Bartlett Pear Vodka & Bacardi “OakHeart” Spiced Rum with refined Oloroso Sherry and bubbly Prosecco. It was light, crisp, and refreshing; yet provocative enough to stimulate the taste buds for the feast to come.
Lets face it, cheese boards are sexy. And Panorama’s does not disappoint. A delectable assortment of Italian cheeses (Taleggio, Gorgonzola Dolce, among others) with toast points, pear slices, truffle honey, wine-infused preserves and cinnamon pecans was quite tantalizing. We ate every last morsel!
How does one follow up an intensely sensual course such as that? With equally arousing fresh, homemade pasta, of course.
I opted for a half portion of the Fettucine Carbonara Vegetale ($12) with Smoked Portobello, Duck Egg, Parmigiano. This is pasta perfection in my eyes, and I fear I’m ruined for any other fresh pasta in the future. So simple, yet so much flavor. It’s the kind of pasta that sticks to your teeth a little, which I happen to love. The smoked portobello adds so much savory, meaty flavor to the dish. You won’t miss the meat. A perfect selection for ovo-lacto vegetarians, if you can look past the duck egg. 🙂
Hubby selected a half portion of the Pappardelle Cinghiale ($14) with Wild Boar Bolognese and Grated Scamorza Cheese. Scamorza is a chewier, tangier mozzarella-like cow’s milk cheese. Much like my dish, he remarked how perfectly prepared and cooked the pasta was; the sauce imparted so much umami flavor thanks to the succulent wild boar and Earthy scamorza. Truly satisfying deep flavor.
For his main course, hubby choose the Duck Breast ($32) with Goat Ricotta Polenta, Salt-Roasted Beets, and Huckleberry Mostarda. A visually stunning dish to be certain; so expertly executed. The duck was tender and juicy meaning they gave it just the right amount of time to rest before slicing into it for the presentation. Typically he flips over crispy duck breast, but said this is a new favorite way to serve it. The polenta was exquisitely creamy, the beats were flawlessly roasted and the huckleberry mostarda was like putting a ribbon on the plate; it added a piquant note that brought the whole dish together.
I normally do not eat or order veal, but I felt like it was a special night that warranted something different. I have to admit, though, that a big reason I did order the Veal ($28) was because it also included foie gras. I figure if I’m going to Hell for feasting on blasphemous fine dining items, I might as well go all the way. In addition to the foie gras, the dish was also served with perfectly roasted carrots and an abalone mushroom marsala sauce. Simply heavenly, period end. I feel very differently about veal after having this entree.
During our pasta and dinner courses, we had several glasses of various red wines (whose names escape me), and a California chardonnay I won’t soon forget. I am not a chardonnay drinker by any means; I never drink the stuff! However, when esteemed sommelier, Bill Eccelston, and his experienced wine professionals highly recommend a wine pairing for you, you simply put your trust and faith in their expertise.
My skepticism turned to surprise when I discovered I liked it, so much so that I drank the entire glass! Furthermore, it shocked me to discover that this very good white wine, Talbott 2014 Kali Hart Chardonnay, only gets 88 points in Wine Enthusiast. I’m not a wine connoissuer by any stretch, but I think it deserves more. Then again, what do I know? Obviously the wine experts at Panorama know what’s up! I’m definitely going to hunt this down at my local Total Wine because I liked it that much.
We were quite stuffed and really didn’t have the room for dessert, but when at a “nice” restaurant, I feel like we must end on a sweet note. So glad we opted for the Torta Cioccolata ($9). Basically, a tower of glorious chocolate and espresso!
A truly outstanding dinner experience from start to finish; gorgeous setting, romantic location, delicious food and superior service thanks to the wonderful Alexandra. A flawless dinner outing for sure. We’ll go as far to say it’s one of Top 5 favorite dining events of all time. Our sincere kudos to Luca, Bill, Alex, and the entire staff at Panorama. With such an impeccable operation, there’s no doubt they’ll be in business for 26 more years easily.
Special thanks to Gloss PR for making our visit happen. Our opinions are our own, of course. We genuinely encourage you to check out the newly revised Panorama on Front Street in Old City for yourselves. If what we had was any indication, we’re positive you won’t have a bad meal here. We guarantee you’ll be as charmed and delighted as we were. Don’t forget to tell them Philly Grub sent you!