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Vetri's Osteria


Vadouvan
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We went to Osteria for the NYE dinner. I kept waiting to have the time to make a proper post but I guess that's not to be.

So, short post it is: the dinner itself was outstanding but even more attentive, I have to say, was the service.

The menu was as follows:

stuzzichini

lombarda pizza

pizza al caviale (caviar)

antipasti

smoked swordfish bresaola with shaved fennel and winter citrus

housemade coppa salami with pear mostarda

scallops “alla piastra”

with foie gras and jerusalem artichoke crema

primi

tortelli di zucca with sage and butter

gemelli with calamari ragu, cardoons and parmigiano

passatelli in brodo with egg

secondi

bollito misto with accompaniments

oven roasted jurgielewicz farm duck

with apples and celery root puree

gratineed olive oil poached monkfish with lentils and romesco

dolci

la torta sbrisolona with cappuccino semifreddo

gelato al vin brulee with apple frittelle

baba al cioccolato with chestnut crema

piccola pasticceria

The pizza Lombarda, which I hadn't had before, was a particular hit. I think their crusts have improved quite a bit over the past months. The appetizer - we were genenrously given an extra, so we could sample all three - were all excellent but the best surprise for me came from the genuine and authentic coppa, made in-house. It compared favourably with the original article from Emilia.

As to the primi, we had the gemelli and the passatelli. The gemelli were particularly good, with notable calamari. The passatelli were a little firmer than I would've liked them, but they vanished fairly quickly.

To finish the meal, we had the bollito misto and the monkfish. The bollito was particularly good, although the sauces could've been a little more.. authentic, I suppose. The monkfish was OK but was overshadowed a bit by the quality of the previous calamari.

To finish, the sbrisolona was great, if a little less crumbly than what you'd get in Mantua, and the apple fritters were too, judging by the speed at which they vanished.

Now that philadining has posted pictures of the lardo pizza, I can sense a return visit approaching, though we wanted to try Cochon first...

[Edited to apologise for the lack of pictures: unfortunately my ability with a camera is such that I'd do a great disservice to the food were I to actually take pictures]

Edited by lfabio2007 (log)
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Enjoyed sitting at the kitchen bar. Plenty of seats at 5:30; the room didn't really start to get crowded until we were leaving. Yum. We'll totally be back. Had the Lombardo, a special of capon ravioli with raddiccio, the octopus, and the gellati and sorbetti and coffee for dessert. It's all been described and photographed here previously, so I'll resist the urge to describe it all again, except to say that the food was simply outstanding.

We loved our primary waitress. Good wine rec, easy to catch her eye, gracious and professional. We ordered the pizza and those ethereal ravioli and checked that it would be fine with her for us to wait to order something else until after we finished the pizza and pasta.

Nthing weird service and too many people buzzing about, though. (As an aside -- four staffpeople hovered around the reservations desk at all times.) After the pizza and ravioli, our dishes were cleared very promptly. Nice. But a few minutes later, another busboy came out and busily cleared breadplates, including the not-finished piece of bread, the olive oil, and the half-full breadbasket without asking and before we could open our mouths to protest. Another server came by a minute later and asked if he could clear our placemats, to which I goodnaturedly said no, to his surprise. To his credit, he whisked over a menu (but one menu, not two?) to us right away. Our primary waitress took over from there, thankfully.

The space is gorgeous, and while the address it is pretty far north, the vibe on the street is more quiet than creepy, and it's a quick walk from the Broad Street line. My friend had no trouble finding street parking close by. And we're already looking forward to sampling more of the menu!

Edited by serpentine (log)
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Lovely meal here late Saturday. Best dish was the pancetta pizza, recommended by our waiter in the eternal "pancetta vs. proscuitto" dilemma, and it was utterly delicious. Least successful was the gnocchi alla bava, which had... dare I say... too much cheese.

But oh, that pizza. I'll have another. Or two. Or more.

Cooking and writing and writing about cooking at the SIMMER blog

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  • 2 weeks later...

We were taken to Osteria for dinner last week, and I confess that for a good part of the year, I live in a rock and don't know what's going on in the outside world. I DID know that it is a Marc Vetri restaurant and for me, that was an accomplishment. So think of me as a clean slate, no expectations.

The pizza was the best pizza I've eaten in the U.S. Hands down. A perfect crust. We shared the sweetbread and hen of the woods mushroom pie. We seriously debated going back the next day to have the same thing for lunch. I've been having pizza withdrawal, and this completely satisfied me.

The wood roasted octopus that is pictured upthread was also completely delicious, perfect smoky flavor.

Fritto misto.....not so good. The batter to anchovy or vegetable ratio was off, far too much batter.

And the roast pig special with the crackling was outstanding.

The wines are crazy expensive! We started with a Campania white that I buy in Italy, at the COOP for about 8 euros, I believe it was $48 at Osteria. I'm just shocked at the wine prices in East Coast restaurants these days, they must have jumped 30 0r 40% in the past 9 months. I haven't been off the East Coast this trip so I can't speak for the rest of the US.

Overall it was one of the best, classic osteria style Italian meals that I've had in the States.

P.S. The service was well intentioned, but not completely on the mark, which is also the hallmark of an osteria. :laugh:

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  • 4 weeks later...

Our rocky relationship with Osteria continues... Called the restaurant just now to ask about their corkage policy. Their policy: no outside wine allowed, at all, no matter how much you're willing to pay.

How ridiculous. Jean-Georges offers corkage. Per Se offers corkage. Get over yourselves.

The explanation given was that the restaurant offers many unique wines, and that that's part of the experience. Well, again, Per Se has a great list, but they don't presume that a customer would never have a special bottle not on the list that he wants to try.

Furthermore, most of the stuff I've seen on the list is just from the local state stores, or SLO.

Our friends just got engaged, and I have a bottle of 2001 Feudi di San Gregorio Serpico that's I've been wanting to try for a while that I'd like to open.

Seriously considering cancelling our reservation for tonight...

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Anecdotally, a 7-top (myself included) dined at Eleven Madison Park this summer. We brought 10 bottles and purchased one bottle of champagne from their list. They charged us $200 corkage total, which I thought was quite reasonable. Furthermore, we had the sommelier's undivided attention throughout the evening. I thought that was amazing.

I can understand your frustration with Osteria; while I think the place is great it seems a bit silly not to offer corkage. While I respect their decision to do as they see fit, to have a policy like this set in stone seems like a case of cutting off one's nose to spite one's face. It just doesn't seem worth it for them to deny diners the opportunity. After all, how frequently are people bringing in their own wines? Presumably not enough to put a dent in their own sales.

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Ended up getting a $150 Lisini Brunello that was OK; hardly profound, and not really up to the occasion.

The food was great.

You know how I feel about Philly wine lists and BYO policies, so I won't quibble with your objection in general.

But we should be fair: Osteria, and the Vetri Empire, are hardly particular offenders in this. The vast majority of Philadelphia's licensed restaurants have, historically, not allowed corkage. To the extent that they do (and some surprising places now do), the crack in the fortress walls was the work of a decade of losing customers to BYOB restaurants - a pinch that Vetri and Benjamin clearly do not feel.

As to the list, it is a matter of law that they are required to purchase each and every bottle through the PLCB. Though that's less restraining than you might think: if something isn't currently listed, you can request it. But if they are in fact able to get it, it automatically becomes listed, so there's never going to be an item on a restaurant list that is not catalogued.

Generally speaking, the system can get you anything that is carried by an importer or distributor that will do business with the LCB.

Funniest case of wine-list tug-of-war I ever experienced was at Rangoon: an escalating bidding frenzy culminated in our offering to buy the most expensive bottle off his list list (as I recall, a $20 dollar non-vintage Cabernet), and letting him keep it, in exchange to being able to drink our own wine. We were turned down, since he couldn't figure out what scam we were trying to pull.

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Funniest case of wine-list tug-of-war I ever experienced was at Rangoon: an escalating bidding frenzy culminated in our offering to buy the most expensive bottle off his list list (as I recall, a $20 dollar non-vintage Cabernet), and letting him keep it, in exchange to being able to drink our own wine. We were turned down, since he couldn't figure out what scam we were trying to pull.

I made the same offer to the guy from Osteria I was speaking with on the phone and was also turned down. :huh:

I completely understand charging a corkage fee, and even a quite substantial one; but to refuse any amount of money for corkage (unless you're, say, Bern's Steakhouse, which has a cellar of ~ 2 million bottles) seems insulting to me.

What was particularly funny was that the policy that was repeatedly cited was "no outside food or drink allowed." As if wanting to pay corkage for a special bottle of wine not on their list is equivalent to wanting to bring in a cheeseburger from McDonald's for your main course.

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the other thing that is annoying about this is that their wine list can hardly be described as "unique" if they have to purchase everything through the plcb. i mean, everything they own is available to any resident of pa. what's so unique about that?

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the other thing that is annoying about this is that their wine list can hardly be described as "unique" if they have to purchase everything through the plcb. i mean, everything they own is available to any resident of pa. what's so unique about that?

Well, to that extent no wine list is "unique": unless you have a proprietary bottling, whatever is available to you is available to a given restaurant, provided they put in the effort to secure it. The wines available to Osteria have to be gotten through the PLCB, true, but a) the existing catalogue is quite extensive, and b) if the wine you want is not already on the SLO list, the odds are decent it can be special-ordered: it just needs to be carried by a merchant - importer or distributor - that the PLCB does business with, which covers a great deal of wine.

The only two real limitations to availability built into the system are that there is no way a new restaurant can get aged, upper-end wine (the whole auction and resale world is closed to the Pennsylvania hospitality industry); and of course small producers who only sell wine directly are also beyond reach. Those are real and intractable limits to any serious sommelier's ambitions, of course, but they most definitely do not preclude an otherwise unique list.

I'm not sure what standard you think the list would have to meet to qualify, but I feel Jeff Benjamin does quite a good job with theirs. As long as I don't think about markups, I can usually find something that makes me happy: something good, interesting, and in my price range. Which is more than I can say about a lot of lists, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

Edited by Capaneus (log)
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i see your point but, really prized small production wines from say piemonte, certainly burgundy, the loire, etc. are tightly allocated among select retailers and then allocated to their better customers.

when these type of wines show up on restaurant lists i don't mind paying the mark up and would consider the list unique.

i just scanned their wine list online and there are some good bottles on there, but nothing unique. which is how the list was described by the restaurant.

i know their hands are tied with pricing because of the ridicuolus plcb policies, but really the price of some of those bottles is a deal breaker for me. i'd probably drink beer.

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[snipped stuff I agree with]

i know their hands are tied with pricing because of the ridiculous plcb policies, but really the price of some of those bottles is a deal breaker for me. i'd probably drink beer.

Ah, that's where I'm not willing to cut them any slack: I have heard nothing whatever even remotely persuassive (sorry, Katie) from the many people in the Pa restaurant industry who have tried to convince me that 300% markups can be justified. Even if the prices they pay are higher than they should be, which they are.

And it absolutely amazes me that these people are unwilling to see how these lists' pricing affects the world's perception of their restaurants. Even though the national press has pointed it out often enough. Maybe they don't care, as long as the check averages stay up.

But if I want to drink wine when I eat Marc Vetri's food, those are the ground rules.

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...Ah, that's where I'm not willing to cut them any slack: I have heard nothing whatever even remotely persuassive (sorry, Katie) from the many people in the Pa restaurant industry who have tried to convince me that 300% markups can be justified. Even if the prices they pay are higher than they should be, which they are...

I've ceased trying to convince you. But I appreciate the backhanded shoutout nonetheless... :raz:

Katie M. Loeb
Booze Muse, Spiritual Advisor

Author: Shake, Stir, Pour:Fresh Homegrown Cocktails

Cheers!
Bartendrix,Intoxicologist, Beverage Consultant, Philadelphia, PA
Captain Liberty of the Good Varietals, Aphrodite of Alcohol

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We were taken to Osteria for dinner last week, and I confess that for a good part of the year, I live in a rock and don't know what's going on in the outside world. I DID know that it is a Marc Vetri restaurant and for me, that was an accomplishment.  So think of me as a clean slate, no expectations.

The pizza was the best pizza I've eaten in the U.S. Hands down. A perfect crust. We shared the sweetbread and hen of the woods mushroom pie. We seriously debated going back the next day to have the same thing for lunch. I've been having pizza withdrawal, and this completely satisfied me.

The wood roasted octopus that is pictured upthread was also completely delicious, perfect smoky flavor.

Fritto misto.....not so good. The batter to anchovy or vegetable ratio was off, far too much batter.

And the roast pig special with the crackling was outstanding.

The wines are crazy expensive! We started with a Campania white that I buy in Italy, at the COOP for about 8 euros, I believe it was $48 at Osteria. I'm just shocked at the wine prices in  East Coast restaurants these days, they must have jumped 30 0r 40% in the past 9 months.  I haven't been off the East Coast this trip so I can't speak for the rest of the US.

Overall it was one of the best, classic osteria style Italian meals that I've had in the States.

P.S. The service was well intentioned, but not completely on the mark, which is also the hallmark of an osteria.  :laugh:

I wonder to what extend the change in wine prices have been effected by the deteriorating dollar. An eight euro bottle of wine, just from an exchange rate perspective costs 12 dollars US, and thats not accounting for tax duty etc. I fear that as the dollar languishes, european wines will increasingly be very dear.

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Ultimately I have always contended that restaurants with Liquor licenses that allow BYO nights like Lacroix only do it as an act of desperation. Fact is it isn't about wine or wine education, it's about money, Osteria does have the luxury that it is very busy and obviously there is no financial incentive to have anyone bring thier own wine. I do find it a bit surprising that they will not even allow corkage for customers who have spent hundreds of dollars there but again, they make more money selling thier own wine and it really is thier choice.

Now I do have to agree with DAGordon that the stated reason "We dont allow outside food or wine" is a bit odd because it seeks to provide justification for not allowing corkage by actually trying to convey the fact that they get frequent requests from people asking to come to dinner at Osteria and bring thier own food.

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I opened my restaurant without a liquor license and added it about a year later. At that time we had to dissuade people from bringing their own. We told guests that the PA liquor laws prohibited restaurants with liquor licenses from allowing them to bring their own bottles. If they asked for more details we mumbled something about not being able to ferret out bottles purchased in NJ or PA.

For all I know, we may have been right. Or not. But we successfully transformed more guests than I thought we would from BYOB to not BYOB. Fortunately, back in the early 80's folks had no internet discussion forums to mull over such proclamations.

Holly Moore

"I eat, therefore I am."

HollyEats.Com

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  • 1 month later...

Bringing the thread back around to food, at least mostly. There may be a wine or two in there somewhere....

For the second consecutive Easter, I headed to Osteria for dinner. Aside from some shortcomings with the secondi (which seems to be a recurring issue) and, yes, with the wine pricing, it was a delicious meal. An extensive write-up, including photos and wine notes, can be found at:

Easter at Osteria Redux.

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  • 2 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...

Jeff Michaud will teach all how to make thin crust pizza next Wednesday from 5:45 - 7:45 at Fosters Homeware 399 Market St (215 925-0950). I might have gone except he wants $65 bucks, almost enough to eat at Osteria.

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  • 3 weeks later...
  • 6 months later...

I know you are all going to balk and say, "What, the Tarte Tatin's have never been to Osteria?"

Well, we hadn't.

So, tonight, early, we did. For the first time.

Sat at the bar bar.

Mr. Tarte Tatin was sick on cold medicine, so he didn't drink.

I had a very nice martini and then a cheap glass of rosso, which tasted high in alcohol, but once it blew off it was adequate.

We shared the famous margherita pizza. Great crust, good tasting mozzarella.

I had the salumi plate. He had the Octopus.

Then we shared the cinghiale pasta.

The bread was good, especially the fig bread.

Everything was good...

I think we need to go back and have a full meal, when himself is feeling a bit better...

The couple next to us had the pasta special with lots of alba truffles. The description sounded good, but the (probably well worth it) price of $100 for a small plate was the deterrent.

Philly Francophiles

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