Osteria Moorestown Mall – Moorestown, NJ
Marc Vetri has stoked a fire in the food media world. He has said that full fledged staffed “food critics” like Craig LaBan are no more important than “food bloggers” such as myself. Well I would like to thank Marc for thinking so highly of me, and apologize to Craig for dragging his profession down.
I have been a long time supporter of Marc Vetri. When I visited his flagship restaurant Vetri, it was one of the most transcendent food experiences I have ever experienced. I agreed with the high cost, the setting, and not having a set menu. Yes, yes, and yes, I would like more and anyone who said otherwise was just uneducated on what good food is.
Well it has been awhile since I visited Vetri or any of his other establishments. With good tastes floating around my head’s memory banks of his food, I decided to venture to his Osteria Moorestown Mall (OMM) location.
I have to say, I can not remember the last time I have visited the Moorestown Mall, let alone even thought about it. So with that in mind, I must commend those who thought about putting “high-end” cuisine at a mall to get me near one as I avoid them at all costs.
When I parked the car, the exterior of OMM is not all that exciting, and had second thoughts about my choice. Once inside though, OMM erases any notions that you are at or near a mall. The hostess was very friendly, coat check was handled promptly, and seated immediately upon arrival. The décor may be a little over the top, but I get where they are going with the theme, and the music and its volume level were right where they should be.
After seating though, it was like a rush for each employee to come over. Water filled, silverware put down, and then waitress comes over to hand an IPAD to me and give a ten minute dissertation about how to use it and what it is for. It is just to browse the drinks selection. It would have been a nice touch if I was able to see a different picture for all the cocktails listed as I was not familiar with most of them, but sadly it was the same generic picture when I clicked on the more info tab for each one. After ordering drinks and able to relax after the deluge of staff upon me, I ordered some pasta to start things out.
It was robiola francobolli “postage stamp ravioli” with royal trumpet mushrooms and thyme. Oh, Marc how I love your food. Once the food came out and with my first few bites, things started out just the way I remembered them. Tasty and delightful. The ravioli was so delicate, yet flavors exploded with every single forkful. It truly was a masterpiece. My mood would change quickly though. The train of staff and servers came out of the woodwork again. “How is the meal” was asked from four different employees within only a five minute period. Then a few minutes later the water is refilled and again asked how is it, followed by a “are you happy with everything” with the person standing next to me for almost a full two minutes after a yes reply. I felt like how the animals in the zoo must feel with everyone staring and yelling at them non-stop. I was able to allow such invasion of my privacy with such delicious morsels in front me, and was eagerly awaiting more with my next plate coming up.
I had the mozzarella in carrozza with olive oil poached pear tomatoes and capers. Once again after the plate was sat down and a few bites in, the staff and server parade of parades would occur again. This time it was not as easy to swallow as what I was served in my opinion was nothing more than two giant fried mozzarella sticks for twelve dollars. This may be an acceptable dish at a local pizza joint, but not somewhere you except to be a little more sophisticated. It was beyond greasy, entire dish lacked any sort of seasoning or flavor, and for the first time with Vetri, I felt priced gouged. Everyone is entitled to a mistake here or there, so I was hoping for a rebound on my main entrée.
The night concluded with various spit roasted pieces of a pig with roasted potatoes. Again I would be disappointed. The pork was well overcooked and burnt. They should not have even dared to serve this dish. To boot, it was tough, dry, chewy, and the only obvious flavor was salt. It was so salty it tasted like someone dropped an entire salt shaker on my meal. As if it was not bad enough, the potatoes were even dry and lacked any flavor at all. I could only muster my way through less than half of the dish. There was no need for a water refill as my tears filled the glass with how much I was looking forward to this meal after my past Vetri experiences to prove Marc right and the critics wrong. If I had only eating the first course served at OMM, everything would have been fine.
Times change as well as circumstances. Marc now oversees an empire. There is nothing wrong with this, but one person can only do so much. I have no doubt if Marc was in the kitchen, I probably would have been served one of the best meals of my life again. The problem is, he has to delegate the work now and trust others to uphold his name. At OMM they are currently slacking. Not only in the front of the house with the overbearing staff and pointless tablet fiasco, but kitchen personnel should take a long hard look in the mirror and realize their failures and the opportunity they have in front of themselves. Having the name Vetri on a resume carries a lot of potential. This will not always be the case if everyone does not start to pull their own weight and have Vetri’s name become mud. As it stands now, you may make out better eating at the mall’s food court instead of going to OMM. Marc may be right about a lot of things, but currently fighting the media is not where his attention needs to be. He may be one of the most talented chefs Philadelphia will ever have had the privilege to know and eat his meals, but if he does not get those under his command under control first, we may all lose focus on what the name Marc Vetri really meant to the culinary world.
One and Three-Fourth Stars out of Five