Dining Review: Vetri Cucina – Philadelphia, PA

Dining Review: Vetri Cucina – Philadelphia, PA

January 2023

Dining Review: Vetri Cucina – Philadelphia, PA

Our exploration of the Philadelphia dining scene is significantly behind considering our proximity to the city. We definitely need to make a more deliberate effort – perhaps we need to plan a weekend or two – to adventure through this historic city and enjoy the amazing restaurants.

Our friends suggested an evening at Vetri to celebrate career milestones in the group so six of us ending up dressing up for the occasion and making our way into the city for one of the top dining experiences in Philly. Since its opening in 1998, Verti has been the recipient of many awards for their culinary talent and focus on Italian cuisine.

While the service was formal, the environment was actually more casual than I would have expected. Vetri is located in a row style housed and they really make do with the floor plan. We were seated downstairs where the kitchen is located so we got to peak at the action behind the scenes.

The menu is divided into several sections. There is the first section “Stuzzichini” that is an additional cost per item to the overall total price of the tasting menu so this part is optional. Then there are four courses that you select your preference from a list of four options – a starter, the pasta with the option to add an additional course of pasta, the entree, and finally dessert. At the time of our meal, the four courses totaled $165.

While our server Diana suggested using our group of six to our advantage by having the opportunity to pretty much try the entire menu, we collectively decided that the plates would most likely to too small to divide into six – and even if it was, everyone would then only get a fork full to enjoy. Instead we opted to order in pairs and then the pair would get to select the top two dishes to enjoy. Ironically, when we all ordered the three pairs ordered almost identically! 

We placed all our selections in with Diana and we were ready for a feast. For wine, we opted to for the wine pairing at $95 as the wine menu looked fantastic. What was nice is on the opposite side of the wine menu was a full list of the wines in the tasting program and each identified which dish it would be paired with so you could get an idea based on which dishes were selected the types of wines that would be paired. 

Diana was more of a tour guide through Italy than a server – she was excellent and very much elevated the experience. Each time she discussed a wine she could transport you. She delivered a massive amount of information in a conversational, unrehearsed way that was engaging and educational. The wines were paired exceptionally well featuring some of our favorite traveled places in Italy. The glass pours were generous and they were generous to refill when the wine amount no longer matched the amount of food on the plate. 

Amuse Bouche

Two items were brought to the table for the amuse bouche course. The plate placed at each setting was a squash soup with whipped robliano cheese and sumac. The presentation was meant to replicate sipping an espresso drink. If coffee tasted like this, I would be a coffee drinker. This squash soup was fantastic! The entire table took the smallest sips to savor all the flavors and all wished for more. The second amuse bouche was watermelon radish served with a balsamic crema. This one resembled more of a palette cleanser due to the radish but I enjoyed the balsamic crema and using the radish as a vehicle. toeat it.

Foie Gras Pastrami with Toasted Brioche and Mostarda

paired with

Donnafugata, Passito di Pantelleria 2019 “Ben Rye” Pantelleria

If you have read DESKRIB dining reviews, we know we are all in all the time when it comes to foie gras so this was a must for our meal. It was an extra cost but they did accommodate the portion with enough for everyone to have one. The foie gras was so creamy and concentrated with flavor. The richness made even the smallest bite enough to savor. We all nibbled our piece to make it last longer it was so delicious. Definitely worth the add on!

House-cured Salumi with Pretzel Grissini

We were brought a complimentary appetizer and it was a fun dish to try. There were different cuts of meat to try and each was super tasty. There was also pretzel sticks which were a fun accompaniment to the plate. Since there was enough for everyone to have one of everything on the board, this disappeared quite fast.

King Crab and Lobster with Sunchoke, Meyer Lemon and Poppy Piadina

paired with

Terenzuola, Colli di Luni Vermentino 2021 “Fosso di Corsano” Liguria

This seafood salad was high on our list to try from the first set of selections. I expected a bit more from this dish overall with the words king crab and lobster in the title but maybe that was a presentation thing. I was hoping for succulent seafood dish and while the seafood was fresh, the lemon was a bit overpowering. I think I was also a bit critical because of the price point of this – each dish is over $40 a plate – throw in a whole claw! I will say, the fried pieces of piadina were so darn good and I could have consumed and entire basket of them.

Sweet Onion Crepe with Truffle and Parmesan Fonduta

paired with

Francescho Boschis, Dogliani Superiore 2019 “Sori San Martino” Piedmont

It felt like a waste of a selection to go with this dish – it is just onions right? How can that justify its place on this expensive tasting menu? Well I will say we were all intrigued by the narration around this dish – it was explained that they start with 50 pounds of onions and reduce it until it is 5 pounds so it is super concentrated and rich – almost like eating chocolate. While it was hard to believe that description, it really was spot on. This dish was outstanding – not only were the onions delightful but the cheese and truffle sauce was lick the plate amazing. Everything complimented each other so well and it really worked. The entire table loved it as one of the favorites of the evening. I wish the portion was larger just to enjoy more! 

Ricotta Cavatelli with Veal Shank Ragu, Sweetbreads, and Celery

paired with

Gini, Soave Classico 2019 “Salvarenza” Veneto

Another item on a menu we cannot ignore is sweetbreads as we so rarely seem them. This dish was a surprising stand out so I am glad we went with our gut ordering it. The sauce was very flavorful and rich, while the cavatelli was perfectly prepared. We both could not scoop enough of this onto our forks and I will say this was a great portion size for the pasta dish. If this was the only pasta we had for the evening, I would have been happy with it as it stood on its own so well.

Tagliolini with Mushrooms

This was the pasta we both wanted to try and decided to add this for an additional cost to the tasting meal. And i have to say, I was surprised that it was just ok. It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t incredible, it was ok. Compared to the other pastas on the table, this one was more plain and one dimensional. We have had some fantastic mushroom pastas in our lives and this needed something more. I was certainly disappointed that this was an extra $25 for this dish and I would have been more disappointed if this was the only pasta in my tasting. 

Classic Split – Spinach Gnocchi with Ricotta Salata and Brown Butter

and Almond Tortellini with Truffle and Parmesan

paired with

Casteleder, Chardonnay 2017 “Burgum Novum” Alto Adige

This option was hard to ignore since you got two pastas for the price of one and the tortellini sounded particularly delicious. And indeed, it was – I wish we could have had an entire plate of this cause three tortellini was not enough. Kevin and I had to painstakingly divide these three tortellini evenly to make sure we both got our fair share! The second pasta was a spinach gnocchi but it reminded me more of a gnudi than gnocchi as it was dense with spinach. For me the clear winner was the tortellini but I know others at our table really enjoyed the spinach one as well. Overall, a great option for the pasta course.

Salt Baked Branzino with Brussels Sprouts and Black Truffle Butter Sauce

paired with

Cantina Terlan, Terlaner Riserva 2019 “Nova Domus” Alto Adige

Kevin and I both had a hard time selecting an entree and not for the reason we typically have – instead of not being able to narrow down choices because everything sounds amazing, we had the strange situation where nothing stood out. That’s not to say there were not good options, the choices were traditional dishes and we expected more creative options. That being said, Kevin selected the branzino and it did not disappoint. The preparation was done perfectly and the accompaniment of the black truffle butter sauce was delicious. There were a few brussels sprouts as well and these were charred and seasoned well. This dish was defintiely a hit for those that ordered it.

Dry Aged Suck Breast with Charred Orange, Mustard Greens, and Lentils

paired with

Planeta, Sicilia Noto Nero D’Avola 2018 “Santa Cecilla” Sicily

I chose the duck for my entree and I have to say it was unfortunately not my favorite duck that I have had. I was hoping for something a bit more creative but it was a basic duck presentation. Duck itself was plain and a bit chewy. Since the branzino was so well done, this left me wanting more. I will say pocket of mustard greens and lentils was quite good but it was an odd choice to pair with the duck.

Molten Pistachio Cake with Lemon Curd Gelato

paired with

Malvira, Brachetto NV “Birbet” Piedmont

This was a fan favorite of the table and many selected this as their favorite dish of the night. The pistachio cake was a warm souffle that exploded with a thick pistachio custard when you cut into it. Since it was warm, it paired nicely with the cold gelato and the lemon worked surprisingly well. Everyone who ordered this dessert could not stop raving about it!

Gianduja Chocolate Mousse with Hazelnuts and Passion Fruit

paired with

Scacciadiavoli, Montefalco Sagrantino Passito 2017 Umbria

I was the sole person of the group that ordered this dish and I was very pleased with the chocolate overload. The exterior chocolate shell was rich with a delicious mousse underneath. The passion fruit was a bit strange at first – I think something like raspberry would have been less strong on the palate but as I ate it, I got used to it as a component of the dish. I really enjoyed the dessert and I happily cleaned the plate. 

Chestnut Millefoglie with Flavors of Tiramisu

This dish was brought out complimentary so the table had the ability to try all the desserts. But it was a bit of a task for the six of us to tackle another dish as we were all so full! This was definitely a more subtle dessert showcasing the flavors of tiramisu and worked will as a millefoglie. The ice cream with the cookie crumble was especially tasty.

As our final item consumed at Vetri, a display of hand made mashmellows and chocolates. Most of the table was too full to try their share and were able to have them packed to go. I dug in and enjoyed my three treats – a sweet way to end the meal.

Overall, we had a wonderful time celebrating with our friends. Favorites at the table were the soup amuse bouche, foie gras appetizer, sweet onion crepe, and the pistachio dessert. In reflecting, Kevin and I found the price too high for the meal. We left full which was definitely a good sign but found Vetri was more an appreciate the technical culinary skill and not the most exciting tasting menu we have done. The service was impeccable – Diana is one of the best servers we have experienced and truly showcased a wonderful selection of wine – of which we felt was well worth the price.

If you are looking for something fresh and creative, I do not think this it it. Vetri is a solid establishment and perhaps is set on cruise control. But I think that is because of what I want out of a tasting menu – Vetri is classic and there is nothing wrong with that. Vetri had also been around for awhile and perhaps is comfortable coasting with certain menu choices. But for this price point, I really want to be wow’ed by every dish. Personally, you’ll find me at Her Place over and over again if I am in Philly.

Read all blog posts for exploring Philadelphia here!

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