Thursday, July 7, 2011

Off the Map: It Was the Best of Times in Philadelphia...

Chef’s Pasta Tasting Menu – Vetri, Philadelphia, PA

Vodka has recently decided that she needs to go to Cleveland for two reasons: the proliferation of Polish food and the presence of Michael Symon.

After all, anyone who would pick pasta as his LAST SUPPER dish on Best Thing I Ever Ate is a person whose taste I trust.
Almost Worth Dying For
I have been eager to go to Vetri in Philly for the Chef’s Pasta Tasting Menu since the moment Michael Symon spoke of it on the show.  Never having met a pasta I didn’t like (don’t even get me started on how underrated Olive Garden is), I knew it would be up my alley in all but one way: the price tag.

Solution: talk Vetri up to my parents until they want to go just as much as I do.  Done.
Parental Payment System
Yes, Vetri is expensive -- $135 flat fee for the tasting menu, plus an additional $90 or $135 per person if you would like a wine pairing (which we do not).  But are you so overcome with glee and nourishment by the time the bill arrives that you don’t care about the plethora of numbers?  Absolutely.  (Particularly when your father is the one holding said bill).
And Particularly After Enough Glasses of This
At the risk of sounding like a shill, let me say upfront that everything at Vetri was nothing short of phenomenal. It was so good, in fact, that my mom kept proclaiming throughout the dinner, “I feel like I’m cheating on Jose Garces!”  (As you may recall, she has nothing short of a culinary obsession with Garces, and she was appeased to learn that Marc Vetri and Jose Garces are apparently friends).

Arriving at Vetri, we are handed glasses of prosecco, a crudité platter, and an appetizer sampler.  In typical fashion, I don’t really remember the specifics, but trust me when I say that it is all wonderful (barring the pickled apricots, which I did not try.  I have been refusing to try pickled anything but cucumbers since the Fatty Crab debacle).
The Dip = Diplicious
Cinnamon Smoked Meat? What Could Be Bad?
The menus appear, and the waitress explains the procedure: barring anything we really don’t want to eat (which for us include sweetbreads, goat, and octopus.  Call us wimps), the chef will make personalized menus for us of his choosing.  Emphasizing that we want to eat pasta above all else, we are left in the chef’s noble hands.  

For our first dish, we each receive the Whole Poached Foie Gras with Fennel (one caveat: if you go to Vetri with a group that you’re not afraid to share germs with, try to specify that you would each like a different dish for each course, so that you can try as much of the prolific menu as possible).  Presented as a soup, it can make just about anyone into a foie gras fan (not to mention the fact that my mom is insistent that Vetri has the most unique serving platters, so much so that I feared she was going to lick one clean and stick it in her pocketbook).
This Bowl May or May Not Have Gone Home in My Mom's Purse
Next comes a Sweet Onion Crepe with White Truffle and a Duck Salad with Apricots and Chanterelles (let it be known that if Vetri had not sent us home with our own personal menus, I would not remember a singular thing about the details of these dishes.  See the above weak description of the appetizers).
Onion Masquerading as a Scallop
Would You Like Quackers With That Duck?
The onion crepe is scrumptious; the duck salad nicely done (even for those of us who prefer their ducks warmed).

And then, the real fun begins: bring on the pasta.

In total, we sample the Spinach Gnocchi with Brown Butter, Almond Tortellini with Truffle Sauce, Duck Fazzoletti with Black Olives, and Rigatoni alla Bolognese with Chard.  And HOLY LOVE OF NOODLES where do I even start?  I believe a visual will tell the story better than I can:
These Are Called Spinach Balls in Less Refined Circles
Sometimes You Feel Like a Nut
Drowning in Cheesy Love
Are You Dying of Jealousy Yet?
Assuming your chin is now caked in drool, I would venture to say that the pasta at Vetri is the best I’ve had anywhere (and keep in mind that I refused to eat anything but pasta with butter, no parsley, for most of my youth.  I know my way around a noodle).  While comparable dishes from Scarpetta and Lincoln would come close to perfection, the variety and delectability of the pasta servings at Vetri take the proverbial crown.

They alone would be worth $135.

Also on our menus come Black Bass with Zucchini and Peas and Creekstone Dry Aged Ribeyes with Roasted Pepper and Celery Salad (and while both a lovely, the beef especially is ridiculously delicious).
Make Note of the Fork Design on the Plates
Enough to Turn the Most Steadfast Vegetarian Into a Carnivore
Followed by a Brief Palate Cleanser Interlude
By the time we get to the dessert course (Chocolate Polenta Souffle; Pistachio Flan with White Chocolate Gelato; Sicilian Cherry Cake with Cherry Gelato – all amazing), we are flummoxed by the unending miracles of food that keep appearing before us.
Bosom Buddies
White Chocolate Is the Real Chocolate of the Gods
Cheery Cherry Chums
Not to mention that we were sent a sampling of the house macarons before retrieving our own Vetri bags stuffed with both the night’s menu and mini-muffins for the morning.
Hello, Sugar Lips
Vetri, I fear you have ruined all other restaurants for me for the rest of my life with your immortal generosity of taste.
And the Goodie Bag Doesn't Hurt Either
At the end of the meal, the chef comes out to greet us (and whether this is because my mother has insisted on revealing my “top secret” Vodka blog identity or because we’re the only ones falling all over ourselves consuming his dishes is up for debate).  We leave Vetri satiated, extremely pleased, and in love with life.

In truth, it seems ironic that Michael Symon would choose Vetri as his Last Supper when, in reality, the pasta delights featured within its tiny, unassuming walls provide you so much goodness for which to live.

Vetri’s Chef’s Pasta Tasting Menu: 5 stars*

*Certifiable Best Thing We Ever Ate


  1. Agree with all, except....not to sample the spit-roasted goat whilst Marc built a genuine Italian spit in the back of the restaurant is a goat=no foodie

  2. Truth be told, it was Vodka's father who barred goat from the menu. Though neither Vodka nor Ginger claim to be foodies (evidenced by the aforementioned loyalty to Olive Garden). We just do a lot of eating :)

    Thanks for reading!

  3. I have heard about Vetri and have to say that I am quite jealous. I'll have to keep it in mind for a special occasion...or to also convince my parents to take me.