Serrao was born in Filadelfia, Calabria. As professor of composition at the San Pietro a Maiella Conservatorio at Naples, over many years, he taught many famous Italian musicians, notably Giuseppe Martucci, Umberto Giordano, Leopoldo Mugnone, Michele Esposito, Francesco Cilea, Franco Alfano, Luigi Denza and Alessandro Longo.
He wrote five operas, of which Pergolesi was the most successful. His other compositions include both concert and sacred music. He died in Naples, aged 76.
- L'impostore, Opera semiseria (1850)
- Leonora dei Bardi, Opera seria (1853)
- Pergolesi, Melodramma semiserio in 3 acts (1857); libretto by Federico Quercia
- La Duchessa di Guisa, Melodramma in 4 acts (1865); libretto by Francesco Maria Piave
- Il Figliuol Prodigo, Opera in 4 acts (1868); libretto by Achille de Lauzières
- Chamber music
- Andante e Fuga for string quartet
- Elegia for violin (or cello) and piano
- Minuetto for harp or piano
- Requiem for mixed chorus and orchestra
- Gli Ortonesi in Sciò, Oratorio
- Arthur Eaglefield Hull, A Dictionary of Modern Music and Musicians (Dent, London 1924).