Vetri – Philadelphia, PA
Everyone talks about Vetri, but not everyone would get Vetri.
Marc Vetri is a homegrown Philadelphia talent. He left Philadelphia in 1990 to spread his wings in Los Angeles. While living on the West Coast, he pushed, crawled, and clawed his way until finally getting the chance of a lifetime to work in the kitchen of the hottest restaurants of the time, Wolfgang Puck’s Granita in Malibu. While working beside Wolfgang Puck, Puck was able to slay one of Marc’s personal demons. To treat Marc with respect and just like a normal human being and shatter Marc’s perception of being lesser than everybody else because of his stutter. (Read story about Marc’s stutter, CLICK HERE) With this weight finally lighted off his back, Marc made his way to the other side of the Atlantic to be trained by some of Italy’s best chefs in Bergamo, Italy. Upon departing Italy with his new found confidence and unparalleled skills, Marc came back to Philadelphia opening Vetri and within two years Marc was named one of Food & Wine’s Ten Best New Chefs and in 2005, Marc won the James Beard Award for “Best Chef Mid-Atlantic.” Philadelphia always loves an underdog, but Marc has gone from contender to Philadelphia’s culinary champion. One success after another has popped up under his direction. Restaurants Osteria, Amis, Alla Spina, and upcoming openings of Osteria 2 at the Moorestown Mall and Pizzeria Vetri in the The Granary are under his watchful eye as well as two very successful cookbooks “Il Viaggio di Vetri” and “Rustic Italian Food”. With such success, the Vetri name may go down in history as Philadelphia’s largest and best contributor of culinary greatness.
Getting to Vetri has always been on my radar, but the time to go had just never seemed right. The food always intrigued me, but often I feel out of place in fancy establishments, and sometimes even I would wonder if the price you pay to eat there was really worth all the hype. Well after a year like my family has had, with the ups and downs of daily life while also experiencing the most breath taking moment I have ever experienced yet with my amazing son being born. My beautiful wife figured if I was not going to take us there, she would. Vetri was the culmination of a great birthday, and their is absolutely no one else I would have rather have gone and experienced this with than her. So a big thank you, and I love you and our little family. (Yes, that even means the crazy dog)
Now back to the first sentence of this article. I said everybody talks about Vetri, but not everyone would get Vetri. I say this, because I consider myself lucky and blessed to have been able to travel around the world experiencing so many different cultures, living outside the box, and eating so many strange and exotic things that sometimes Italian food gets overlooked easily. Vetri has woke me up from this problem and reminds me how beautiful Italian dining can be when done properly. Here is the catch to what I said. Vetri’s Italian is not to be mistaken for your grandmom’s fantastic Italian dishes with the gravy that simmered for days that everyone raved about on holidays, or those memorable Italian meals you ate in some South Philly restaurant. Vetri is Italian, and it is what Italy is all about in it’s purest form. Nothing massed produced here, everything meticulously prepared with only the freshest ingredients, the food being the most important aspect, flawless service, time in between courses to enjoy light conversion, and the excitement of what will come out of the kitchen next.
This review is more of a synopsis of what I experienced, and less of what each meal consisted of. The first reason for this is that while eating at Vetri, even I felt it a bothersome endeavor to take decent photographs of the food as I wanted to eat what was put down in front of me as soon as possible. Second, Vetri is not an establishment that people want to have a flash going off while they are eating. You go to Vetri to escape your daily life and enjoy a once in a lifetime meal. I understand and respect that, so with no flash the pictures came out extremely crappy. Third, the staff at Vetri advised me that they change about seventy percent of the menu every couple of months, so even if I took a decent picture of something, chances are you would not even see it if you went there. Finally, not only with the menu changing quite a bit, there is no set menu at Vetri! You do not order off the menu. They bring you what they want to bring you and you will like it or not. Now the chances of you not liking something there I would say are slim to none, but either way you are not in charge of your own destiny. It’s a chef’s tasting menu. So only the chef and waiters are aware of what you are getting before it is sat on you table. I enjoyed this aspect of it thoroughly, as having to think of what to order is sometimes more of a burden than you think, but here it worked seamlessly. This is the luxury of being open minded and willing to be pampered when you eat here. If you can not handle being told what you are going to eat, you should skip eating here, but you may miss out on one of the best meals you could ever have.
The dining area is very intimate. I think the room could use a little more character as it just seemed a little plain and stuffy for my taste and the music was a little too much at times, but I understand that nothing else except the food is the star of this place. Every part of the meal eaten at Vetri was a highlight reel. One of the standouts I must mention was the sweet onion crepe with white truffle. This dish is one of only about three dishes that are never removed from the kitchens rotation I was advised and is one of the staffs favorite items to eat and is easy to see why after eating it. The onion is cooked for about eight to ten hours and what comes out is one of the tastiest things I have ever had the privilege of eating. Yes you heard right, an onion cooked for eight to ten hours and all of this press to an ONION. Ladies and gentlemen it is that damn good. Now you must be thinking am I crazy, but the magic of Vetri is that unless you were there, you would not know, and that is why everyone talks about Vetri, but not everyone would get Vetri.
Is Vetri worth the price? Yes, but only to those who are not picky eaters. If you are a picky eater, do not waste your time or money here.
Is it the best Italian ever? I had somewhat similar eating experiences in Italy that just blew me away, but getting to Italy and back is a bit much for the average person and a little more expensive than just going to Vetri, but I will agree with GQ Magazine food critic Alan Richman and count Vetri as one of the
best restaurants in America.
Would I go back? In a heartbeat and I hope Mark Vetri comes up with some sort of food contest that he is going to cook at and have me be the judge.
Five out of Five Stars (Would have given more, but Five is the Max)
Below are the terrible pictures for those you just want to have a blurry peek of my time at Vetri.